Florida's strategic location
made the state vital for national defense. Planes and ships from Florida's bases helped protect the sea lanes in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean. The state was thus viewed as an important first line of defense for the southern United States, the Caribbean Basin, and the Panama Canal.
During the war years, military installations in Florida increased from eight to more than 170. For the Army, Camp Blanding near Starke became one of the largest training bases in the southeastern United States, while Camp Gordon Johnston at Carrabelle served as a major amphibious training center.
Army Air Force bases included Valparaiso's Eglin Field, Drew and MacDill airfields at Tampa, Dale Mabry Field at Tallahassee, Buckingham and Page Airfields at Fort Myers, Panama City's Tyndall Army Airfield, and Army Airfields at Avon Park, Boca Raton, Homestead, Sarasota, and Venice.
Civilian contractors trained 14,000 cadet pilots, including many from Great Britain, at Lakeland and Avon Park from 1940 to 1945.
Major naval bases or naval air stations were established or expanded at Daytona Beach, Deland, Fort Lauderdale, Green Cove Springs, Jacksonville, Key West, Melbourne, Miami, Pensacola, Richmond, Sanford, and Vero Beach. At Fort Pierce, some 150,000 Navy, Marine Corps, and Army personnel passed through the amphibious training. Even the Coast Guard and its female auxiliary, the SPARS, established a training center in St. Augustine.