Introduction Training Florida Home Front Floridian Service Impact on Florida
Florida on the Eve of War
Pearl Harbor and its Impact
Military Training in Florida
Aviation
Land Warfare
Amphibious
WAAC Training at Daytona Beach
The German Submarine Threat
Civil Defense & Patrols
Rationing & Government Effort
Scrap, Gardens & Kids' Activities
War Bonds & Women's Roles
Homegrown Armor: The Alligator
National Guard & State Guard
United States Army
Navy & Marines
Coast Guard
Army Air Force
Women on Duty
African Americans
War Heroes
War's Impact on Florida
Citrus Goes to War
Industry and War Products
Tourism During the War Years
The War Ends
How WWII Changed the State

The German Submarine Threat off Florida's Coast
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At the outbreak of war, the navy Department had just a handful of ships and planes to defend the entire coast from Maine to Texas. This small force proved totally inadequate to deal with the U-boat offensive launched against America by German submarines. Over the first seven months of 1942, the Germans sank nearly 400 vessels, including more than thirty-five ships off Florida.

The most dramatic sinking in Florida waters took place the night of April 10, 1942, when U-123 torpedoed the tanker Gulfamerica off Jacksonville Beach. The resulting fiery explosion was clearly seen onshore and curious crowds gathered to view the ship's destruction and looked on in shock as the German submarine surfaced and fired its deck gun at the tanker. In response to the Gulfamerica sinking, in which nineteen crew members were lost, Governor Spessard Holland ordered a blackout of lights that could be seen at sea and might silhouette passing ships.

The number of sinkings declined dramatically in the fall of 1942 due to increased escort and anti-submarine patrols by ships and blimps of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, as well as by Civil Air Patrol aircraft and private vessels. The continued presence of U-boats in Florida waters was confirmed, however, by the shooting down of an American military blimp by a German submarine in waters off the Florida Keys in July 1943.

German Saboteurs in Florida:

Florida became the scene of a bizarre plot in June 1942 when four saboteurs came ashore from German submarine U-584 near Ponte Vedra Beach. They buried boxes of explosives and other equipment in the dunes for future use. The men then boarded a bus for Jacksonville, before splitting into two groups that traveled to New York and Chicago. The agents were to join with four other saboteurs, who had landed on New York's Long Island, and then planned to bomb key railroads, bridges and factories producing goods for the war. Fortunately, one of the New York band had misgivings about his mission and surrendered them to the FBI. By June 27 all of the men had been apprehended. A military court later tried the eight Germans and found them guilty of spying. Six of the spies, including all of the Florida group, were executed.

Florida Remembers WWII
German submarine photographed off the Florida coast -- This photo is believed to have been shot from a Florida Civil Air Patrol plane. -- (Homan & Reilly Designs)
 German submarine photographed off the Florida coast
This photo is believed to have been shot from a Florida Civil Air Patrol plane.
(Homan & Reilly Designs)
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