Avon Park Army Airfield
Avon Park Air Force Range
29 South Boulevard
Avon Park Air Force Range, Florida 33825-5700
(863) 452-4199, ext. 5
This site is located in the central region of the state.
Avon Park Air Force Range is located ten miles east of the City of Avon Park on CR 64. From the intersection of US 27 and SR 64, travel east to where the road ends at the Range.
This site is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Described at one time as the largest bombing range in the world, The Avon Park General Bombing and Gunnery Range officially opened in March 1942 on 107,059 acres of swamp and scrub. Acquisition of 111,165 acres in February 1943 in Okeechobee County increased the site to approximately 352 square miles of territory.
Originally a sub-base of MacDill Field, Tampa, this site became a base in October 1942. In November 1943 this facility became Avon Park Army Airfield, a fully integrated air base, providing transition training in combat aircraft, bombing and gunnery skills.
The military population peaked at 10,000, a dramatic contrast with the 3,000 population of Avon Park in 1942. In addition, these figures do not include support civilians, military families, nor staff and students at the civilian Lodwick Military Aviation Academy in Avon Park. With the resultant housing shortage, military personnel took up residence in resort facilities and towns as far away as Lake Wales and Wauchula. The Pinecrest Lakes Club near Avon Park, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, made sixty double rooms available to officers and their families. Likewise, these great numbers of military personnel led to sometimes contentious relations with the town fathers. Records show that servicemen were sometimes charged higher prices than those paid by locals. Accordingly, base commanders were known to restrict military traffic to town in an effort to stimulate economic pressure on the shopkeepers.
Training for crews of B-17 Flying Fortress and B-26 Marauders took place on a wide range of simulated target opportunities. Targets at the Avon Park Range included a mock 555-acre town on the shore of Lake Arbuckle, a large floating water target on Lake Kissimmee, and an eight-mile railroad bombardment target. Later in the war the School of Applied Tactics from Orlando, Florida constructed a special incendiary target for use.
Avon Park Army Airfield went on inactive status in September 1945 and was assigned to MacDill Field. Reactivated as Avon Park Air Force Range, multiple military functions occur at this site. Numerous WWII period structures remain and some continue in use by base personnel. In 1957 the Avon Park Correctional Institution was established at this site and correctional staff man the main gate of the facility. Public access to the Avon Park AFR is temporarily suspended due to the heightened security requirements for Department of Defense installations. Further updates can be obtained by calling 863-452-4119, ext 5.
In April 1993, the Florida Highlands Chapter of the Air Force Association erected a three-blade propeller memorial next to the base headquarters building in tribute to the many military personnel to have served at this facility.