The Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale
was still under construction when the first 16 student pilots and 17 TBM Avengers
arrived at the base, in 1942. During this time, the Bachelor Officers Quarters (BOQ) had not been built yet. The Junior Officers were boarded in local hotels, mostly small family-run establishments in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Communications Officer William J. Hopwood
remembers: "At the time I arrived in October of 1942, the BOQ were not ready and they put us up in a small Hotel on Andrews Avenue, which was owned by a man and wife who were Free French refugees. We used to sit around the lobby at night, listening to the Free French short-wave broadcasts from Radio Brazzavile in French Equatorial Africa."When the base was completed, it included an Administration Building, a Senior BOQ, Junior
BOQ, a Ship's Service Building, Theater, Kitchens, Cafeteria, Service Store, Writing Room, and Recreation Hall, Barber Shop, the Sick Bay or medical Building, Radio Transmitter Building, Control Tower, Brig, Link Trainer Building
, Hangar Buildings, Sewage Disposal Plant and Barracks for enlisted personnel. A vast complex of more than 200 buildings of which the majority were built of wood. Local Causeway Lumber Co. supplied most or all of the lumber. Wood floors were cut from the Florida Easter White Pine/Dade County Pine (which is extinct now in South Florida).Upon graduation, many would stay at this base or move onto other military sites. From 1942 to 1944 the base would have trained 1,686 American and British pilots and thousands more of air-crewmen. At peak utilization in April 1945, less than six months before the war was over, there were over 200 aircraft stationed. At the end of war, the base was decommissioned October 1, 1946, exactly four years after its commissioning. The NASFL Museum is the only building remaining from that complex.
Copyright © NAS Fort Lauderdale Museum
Click on image to go to the Member Spotlight main page.
New Spotlights of WWII veterans were created. Check them out to read on their story:Allan McElhiney - USNR, WWII
& KoreaDavid Epstein - USNR, WWII Parachute RiggerWilliam J. Hopwood - Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale WWII - Communications OfficerSgt. Paul Bradley - US Army
WWIIFor March and April we will feature WWII
NASFL Instructor David White who participated in the search for Flight 19
, and Jack Cawley, USNR WWII who was also stationed at this base working at the Wing Shop.
William J. Hopwood, NAS Communications Officer 1942-44
NAS Fort Lauderdale Central Office Xmas Party, circa 1943.
We received several e-mails and a great visit to the Museum, from NASFL Communications Officer William J. Hopwood. It was an honor and a pleasure to see him again and to learn more about life at NASFL during WWII. The following are passages of his e-mails to Allan McElhiney, President of the NASFL Museum:Monday, June 27:
"I am a long time member of the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Historical Association and was Communications Officer at NAS Fort Lauderdale when it opened in 1942, and until 1944. I was at one of the NASFLHA lunches on Jan 5, 1996 when I delivered a short speech about what the NAS was like in those wartime years and brought some official Navy photographs I had acquired, at least one of which I remember was on display at the luncheon. It was a photo of Captain Pratt holding an early AM inspection of NAS officers and this photo was of a small group of us from the administrative staff and I was one of them in the photo. I don't remember all the names but think I may have written some of them on the back of the photo. As one of those who was at NASFL during the war, I know I speak for all of us who were there then to say how much we appreciate what Al McElhiney and all of you great volunteers have done to preserve the history of NAS Fort Lauderdale. It played a very active part in our national heritage and thanks to you folks it will not be forgotten. Many thanks, William J. (Bill) Hopwood, CDR USNR (Ret.)"Tuesday, June 28:
Commander Hopwood remembers:
Sunday, July 10:
- "The first C.O. was Commander (later Captain) Donald E. Wilcox who was transferred out around late 1943. At the time I arrived in October of 1942, the Bachelor Officers Quarters (BOQ) were not ready and they put us up in a small Hotel on Andrews Ave. which was owned by a man and wife who were Free French refugees. We used to sit around the lobby at night and listen to the Free French short wave broadcasts from Radio Brazzavile in French Equatorial Africa.
- Commander Wilcox was relieved as C.O by Captain Pratt. Commander Joe Taylor was, I believe, the first Operations Officer and he was in charge of flight training. Lt. Marshall Myler started the first station newspaper, The Avenger, and after the war I knew him in Miami where he ran an advertising/public relations business. Joe Stiret was Personnel Officer. Major Prine (USMC) was in charge of the Marine Detachment. Lt Burton Wheeler (I forget his title) ran the Payroll department. More of the names come back to me when I think hard enough. Those were busy days.
- The student aviators came and went, so I didn't know many of them but I got to know a number of the flight instructors, some of whom had just come from the early days of the Pacific war and had had first-hand combat experience. CDR Joe Taylor was one who later went back to the Pacific and was, I believe, one of those who was on the carrier Franklin when she was set on fire and badly damaged by the Japanese late in the war. I think I was still there when former President George H.W. Bush went through training and I may have seen or met him but he was just another student then and nobody would have dreamed they were talking with someone who would later be President of the U.S.
- NAS Fort Lauderdale Central Office Xmas Party - 1943 Photograph: I can remember a few names of those in the (group) photo and will try to identify those I remember, by location as best I can."
Sitting, front row:
2nd from left, Lt. John Rogers, aide to C.O.
3rd from left, Capt. J.L. Pratt, C.O.
6th from left, Dolores Frame, clerical dept.
Kneeling, second row:
Far right, Mary Bond, clerical and teletype operator, Communications Dept.
Standing, 3rd row:
2nd from left, Joe Steiert, Personnel Officer
3rd from left, Lt. Stoddard (with black tie).
Standing, 4th row:
With head framed in middle doorway, Lt(jg) Edward Talbott, Communications.
Tall man with head touching hanging decoration, Lt. CDR Mac Tharp, Executive Ofcr.
Next to Lt. CDR Tharp (cheek to cheek) Ens. Knolyn Hatch and Lt. William Hopwood, Communications.
"Hi Allan: Thanks so much for your nice message. I want to thank you and your team for welcoming me and my friends last Saturday. We had a wonderful time. Seeing the museum really made my day, my month, my year. You folks have done such a great job. I really marvel at how you and your team of volunteers have managed to do everything you have to keep the history of NAS alive. I guess you and I can both say that WWII was the high point of our lives, and to visit the Museum and see all that you folks have accomplished made me feel young again. I hope many more who served at NAS during the war will have the same opportunity to visit as I did. I'm sure they will feel the same.
I want to particularly thank Dr. Bloom for showing me around as thoroughly as he did. And thanks also to the Commander who was there (Karl Bork, naval aviator who served in Vietnam), for their time and for encouraging the young man who was with me to pursue his dream of being a Naval Aviator. In doing so he was also helping the lady who drove me up from Miami (the young man's mother) to feel more at ease about the possibility of her son having a military flying career. Allan, it was wonderful to see you again after 15 years, and also to meet your daughter. And I want to express especial appreciation to you for giving me the copy of that fine book Dr. and Mrs. Bloom wrote about how you started the historical association and over the years have created what has become such a tribute to everybody who had anything to do with NAS Fort Lauderdale in WWII.
Without your efforts I believe NAS would probably have long-ago been relegated to the dust-bin of history. But the accomplishments of you and your team has not let that happen. Now the museum will be a major part of the history of South Florida for the foreseeable future. That's really good news. Thanks again for a wonderful visit."Bill Hopwood