The Second World War
marked the emergence of Florida as a modern, influential state. The conflict spurred economic development and led to a postwar population surge. The twenty-ninth most populous state in 1940, Florida now ranks fourth behind California, Texas, and New York.
The war brought increased development and prosperity to both rural and urban areas and hastened the demands of women and minority groups for greater economic and political opportunities. Black Floridians, who had fought for the "Double V" of victory over both fascism and racism during World War II, later played a major role in the civil rights movement. Women, afforded more opportunities during the war, also pushed for equal rights at home and in the work force.
While many of the bases established during the war were deactivated at the end of the conflict, the military maintained facilities at a number of locations. Many military airfields were transferred to local government control and became civilian airports, some of which are still in operation today.
During the latter stages of World War II and in the immediate postwar years, the testing of an American version of the German V-1 rocket, known as the JB-2, took place at airfields in the Florida panhandle. In 1950, a hybrid V-2 rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral, now an important site of the nation's space program.
Many veterans who had trained in Florida returned to live in the state after the war. The GI-Bill brought affordable higher education to ex-service personnel and contributed to the rapid postwar expansion of Florida's higher education system. With peacetime prosperity, Florida's tourist industry also continued to expand.
World War II changed Florida by setting the stage for the rapid modernization that transformed a rural, agricultural state into a modern, dynamic one. Floridians today can look back with pride on the accomplishments and sacrifices made during World War II, and look forward to the dramatic challenges and opportunities facing the state in the future.