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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Tampa in Hillsborough County, Florida — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

The War Years

WWII Makes the Army Air Forces and MacDill Grow Up Fast

 
 
The War Years Marker image. Click for full size.
By AGS Media, July 30, 2010
1. The War Years Marker
Inscription. As MacDill Field's first runways were being completed in 1941, only 8,500 men were enlisted in the Army Air Corps. But by the end of World War II in 1945, over 2.5 million Americans had joined the newly renamed Army Air Forces. The demands of war pushed MacDill to quickly become the largest air base in the southeastern United States. The base was responsible for combat training of pilots and crews for the B-17, B-18, B-26, B-29, and B-50 bombers.

German POWs Held at MacDill Field
During the last year of World War II, MacDill was home to about 500 Nazi prisoners of war. The prisoners worked in the kitchen, in the laundry room, and as automotive mechanics. Throughout the war, over 10.000 German POWs were quietly housed in 27 different military facilities in the state of Florida.

One a Day in Tampa Bay!
The Martin B-26 Marauder was the first American bomber in the Pacific and one of the most celebrated Allied aircraft. It was small, fast, and carried a large payload of bombs. Because the B-26 demanded skillful piloting, MacDill experienced an unusually large number of take-off crashes, thus earning the plane nicknames such as "The Widowmaker" and "One a Day in Tampa Bay." Despite its reputation, the B-26 actually had the lowest combat loss ratio of any WWII aircraft.

Hollywood Shoots at MacDill
During
The War Years Marker image. Click for full size.
By AGS Media, July 30, 2010
2. The War Years Marker
the war, scenes for two motion pictures were shot at MacDill. Spencer Tracy's, "A Guy Named Joe," and Jimmy Stewart's, "Strategic Air Command," both took advantage of Florida's year-round good weather and MacDill's photogenic military aircraft.

WACs Unit at MacDill in '43
A large contingent of the newly created Women's Air Corps was stationed at MacDill. The WACs were the first women other than nurses to serve within the ranks of the United States Army.

Then
Lisbon Avenue, Vera Avenue, Southeast Air Base
Now
MacDill Avenue, Dale Mabry Highway, MacDill AFB

Tampa's Other World War II Airfields
1942: Drew Field → Today: Tampa International Airport
1942: Hillsborough Army Air Field → Today: Busch Gardens
 
Location. 27° 56.722′ N, 82° 27.521′ W. Marker is in Tampa, Florida, in Hillsborough County. Marker is on North Ashley Drive north of East Whiting Street, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. The marker is installed at MacDill Park on the Riverwalk, in downtown Tampa. Marker is at or near this postal address: 100 North Ashley Drive, Tampa FL 33602, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. History in the Air (here, next to this marker); Tampa Goes to War
MacDill Park on the Riverwalk image. Click for full size.
By AGS Media, July 30, 2010
3. MacDill Park on the Riverwalk
Looking through the red steel sculpture Big Max towards the marker, Ashley Drive, and the 100 North Tampa office tower
(here, next to this marker); In the Beginning... (a few steps from this marker); Tampa Salutes MacDill AFB (a few steps from this marker); Today at MacDill AFB (within shouting distance of this marker); Technology Power Diversity (within shouting distance of this marker); Tampa Bay and MacDill (within shouting distance of this marker); MacDill: 1950 to 2000 (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Tampa.
 
More about this marker. The marker is one of several located in the park. It is along the sidewalk, facing the street.
 
Regarding The War Years. Hillsborough Army Air Field was later named Henderson Air Field, prior to its being closed. Sections of its runways remained largely intact for several decades, and allegedly were used for drag-racing by local youth in the 50's. The last remaining structure from the old airfield has since 1973 housed Mel's Hot Dogs, a popular local eatery.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker.
Drawing In Space: The Peninsula Project image. Click for full size.
By AGS Media, July 30, 2010
4. Drawing In Space: The Peninsula Project
This plate, in the ground near the historical marker, describes Big Max, the red steel sculpture by John Henry located in MacDill Park. The plate includes a number to call for recorded information about the piece: 850.238.3002.
(The "stop #" to enter when calling is 7.)
To discover how MacDill Air Force Base came to be and its roles through the decades, study each marker in the order shown.
 
Also see . . .  Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Florida, Northern Tampa area. Website with several aerial and other photos of the Hillsborough/Henderson Army Air Field (Submitted on August 7, 2010, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida.) 
 
Categories. MilitaryWar, World II
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 7, 2010, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida. This page has been viewed 779 times since then and 25 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on August 7, 2010, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida.   4. submitted on August 8, 2010, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.
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