Intermission (6) – Fort MacDill, Tampa/St. Pete, FL

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(Tribune News Service) — John Murphy was shocked by his first glimpse of MacDill Field.

It was in late 1940, about four months before MacDill, formally known as Southeast Airbase, officially was activated on April 16, 1941. It was named in honor of Col. Leslie MacDill, a World War I veteran and aviation pioneer who died in a plane crash.

“When I got into the area the runway was still under construction, and so was the housing,” Murphy says. “My first quarters was in a tent in a place called Boomtown, where I slept in an Army cot. The tent was surrounded by palmetto branches, and when the wind blew, it sounded like rattlesnakes.”

Marching at MacDill

Marching at MacDill

Murphy, now 95 and living in Biloxi, Mississippi, was among the first to arrive at the base as it was carved from the scrub in the days before the U.S. entered World War II. Today, MacDill Air Force Base is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

A lot has changed over the years. MacDill went from training crews to fly B-17 Flying Fortress and B-26 Marauder bombers to B-29 Superfortresses, B-47 Stratojets and F-84, F-4 and F-16 fighters. It now is home to two wings that fly KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling jets.

MacDill, aerial view

MacDill, aerial view

The base has played a key role in U.S. military actions from World War II, the Korean War, the Cuban missile crisis, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the ongoing fight against jihadis in the Middle East and elsewhere.

In 1961, MacDill became home of U.S. Strike Command, which became U.S. Readiness Command and later, in 1987, U.S. Special Operations Command. Socom provides trained and equipped commandos and synchronizes the global war on terrorism.

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WWII bomb on St. Pete's beach

WWII bomb on St. Pete’s beach

ST. PETERSBURG (Tribune News Service) — A World War II era bomb that washed up on St. Pete Beach over the weekend could have been lurking beneath shallow coastal sand for years, a local military expert said.

At about 8:30 a.m. Sunday, a 4-foot cylinder M122 Photoflash Bomb, which appeared to have been submerged for some time, was found on the beach near the 22nd Avenue access point. The beach and 20 nearby homes were evacuated as Pinellas County deputies worked with a MacDill Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team to destroy the device.

Frank Correa, the historian for Largo’s Armed Forces History Museum, said finds like this are to be expected given the Tampa Bay region’s history with the war. Combat pilots trained at Drew Army Airfield, known today as Tampa International Airport, and MacDill Air Force Base, conducting training missions over the Gulf of Mexico.

Florida was home to several training sites during the war, in fact, and Correa said the photoflash bomb was likely dropped over the gulf and during the seven decades since then made its way inland.

“There’s no telling, that piece might have been here in the beach here for years,” he said.

WWII bomb

WWII bomb

A lot of duds were dropped, likely without the pilots even realizing it, Correa said. Hurricanes and other storms could have carried the unexploded bombs closer to shore over the years.

“Back then they didn’t recover any of that stuff,” he said.

Military aircraft came to MacDill in 1940 and pilots began dropping dummy bombs filled with sand for target practice, said Denny Cole, a history buff and a retired Air Force master sergeant. Soon afterward, though, they began using lethal weapons for practice in areas including today’s Fort DeSoto Park.

The photoflash bomb is just the latest aging explosive to turn up on Pinellas County shores recently. In October, an inert grenade was found by a man walking with a metal detector about 20 feet from the shore near the Sirata Beach Resort, 5300 Gulf Blvd.

Bomb exploded on site.

Bomb exploded on site.

Handling these explosives requires a joint effort among local law enforcement agencies, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said. The Sheriff’s Office received the initial call Sunday and contacted the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office for help from its bomb squad.

A berm was fashioned to protect the closest of three nearby sea turtle nests.

Barreda said the sheriff’s office gets calls from time to time about old military ordnance kept as souvenirs that turns up in basements, attics and garages.

“If there’s any question about what the nature of the device might be, the recommendation is to contact law enforcement,” Barreda said.

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©2015 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.)

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Training Humor – My army drill instructors license plate is HUP-2-3-4.

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Joseph Bohrer – Detroit, MI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-17 navigator

James Bradford – Toronto, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, pilot

11986973_1183822258300441_3544440820007753006_n.jpgfrom, Falling with Hale

For them all! !! Click to enlarge

Walter “Ed” Dial – Aztec, NM; US Army Air Corps, PTO

Edward Gardner – Pompano, FL; US Navy, WWII, USS Niblack

Walter Hanson – Lauderdale-By-the-Sea, FL; US Merchant Marine, WWII

Edward Martini – Pompano, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 188th/11th Airborne Div.

John Munn – St. Augustine, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Korea, Captain, pilot

John Newlan – Palm Beach, FL; USMC, Korea, demolitions

George Ory – Baker, LA; US Army, WWII, ETO, Quartermaster Corps

Edward Shaw – Stoneboro, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Korea

Michael Visconti – Coconut Creek, FL; US Navy, WWII, USS Wisconsin

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on April 27, 2016, in Home Front, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 91 Comments.

  1. I lived just down the road from MacDill for a bit in 2014. Great place for an aviation enthusiast to live!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I grew up in the Tampa Bay Area and spent a lot of summer days at Ft Desoto one of my favorite spots.

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  3. When I was young, bombs and grenades were still laying around, especially on the shores, and in the forests. Have seen myself a lot of them, and know many tragic cases of young boys killed playing with the explosives. The war is still going on…

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  4. Hmmmm contact law enforcement and then run. Not necessarily in that order. 🙂

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  5. Years ago we were on a walk en found a bom.The army was coming to destroid themI think they wil find , more bombs..

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  6. My comment intended for MacDill somehow sneaked off to MacKall. How, I have no idea. It read thus:
    I was speculating that MacDill must have attracted many quaint nicknames over the years. Strangely, I can’t find any, but I did come across a story that a colonel there had banned chairs for posture reasons, although the true motivation was said to have been to counter the ‘Chair Force’ nickname. *giggle* That’s what I would call standing orders!

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  7. I like the drill instructor’s license plate. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Fie ca lumina Învierii Mântuitorului să vă inunde casa și să vă aducă numai armonie, fericire și multă iubire. Paște fericit!
    Holy feast of the Resurrection bring you the four divine mysteries: trust, light, love, hope. Happy Easter!

    Resurrection to flood the house and bring you only harmony, happiness and much love. Happy Easter !

    Like

  9. Years ago, when Don was EOD, he’d have been called out for the un-exploded bombs. Scary thought about one being buried in the sand on the beach. McDill is the closest military base to where I live…interesting to learn about what it was like back in the beginning 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Never fail to find something interesting in your posts gp, little pieces of Military history are resurrected and add another piece to the jig saw of World War 2,MacDill air-force base being one of them, it’s also interesting to see how these bases evolved and became incorporated in latter conflicts.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • By locating some local history, I inadvertently sparked a few memories for people who lived on or near the base. I’m going to have to do more research for the next Intermission period between 1944-45. I’m glad to call you one of my friends, Ian.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I was curious as to whether anything like that was found in Oregon, and found this in a Google search. Never knew about these fire balloons.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_balloon

    Like

  12. We moved to northeast Tampa from the Netherlands in 1967. My dad retired at MacDill in 1968. I spent a lot of time on that base as a kid. Our house was just past one end of the remaining pieces of tarmac from another WWII bomber training base, Hillsborough Army Airfield, just a block or two north of Busch Gardens. All that remains of that airfield is an X-shaped piece of the flightline, visible from the air. I always heard about the airfield, and thought it was cool to play around that area while imagining the bombers flying overhead. Unfortunately, all but that X-shaped portion is buried under Tampa’s rapid growth.

    Like

    • Thanks for adding your story – The sharing is fantastic! It’s a shame, but that growth in population is over-running all our old landmarks. Before moving here full-time 46 years ago, my trip down was when I was 5 – I’ve seen too many changes!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. There’s tons of this stuff laying around, certainly over here in the UK and on the European continent.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. GP, very interesting post.. Bomb leftovers, I never thought about here in the US linked to WWII. Reading comments, there’s more to the story. Hope there’s an added post some day. 💛 Elizabeth

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  15. The postcard is absolutely beautiful. Thanks for such an interesting article.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. GP – My late husband had a house in Tampa, and since he was retired military, MacDill was our medical center. We also enjoyed their Open Houses each year and tours of the airfield. I have many fond memories of the base.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Interesting and can really see how you would have to take care with the unexploded bombs. Smiling at the humor section especially “Wish you were here (instead of me) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. As Chris White says, the UK has its fair share of unexploded devices appearing on a regular basis. Glad to see that they protected the turtles too!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Thanks for posting this. I’m forwarding to my dad. He was in the Air Force and our family was stationed at MacDill from 1959-1961.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. A little off topic, but you might be interested. I was sorting through some old things last night, and found two poster stamps similar to this. My dad was a stamp collector, but when I sorted through and dispersed his collection, I missed these. They’ve been living in a box, and I don’t want them. If you would like them, I’d be happy to send them on to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. John Murphy’s description of rattlesnake-like sounds, from waving palmetto leaves brought back memories of a Padre Island tent camping trip. Incidentally, beach towels on a nearby clothesline were torn to shreds by palmetto saw tooth stems.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Disposal teams still get calls about civil war ordinance.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Several years ago, I toured London. One of the stops was St. Paul’s Cathedral. The tour guide told us tourists about a bomb that dropped very near the structure but failed to detonate. It took a few days to dig around it. A military engineer with the Royal Services is credited with defusing it. If the bomb would have exploded, the Cathedral would have been wiped out. It’s quite a story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to hear it had a good ending. Those bombs are still showing up around the world and after all that time, they tend to become unreliable. Your Royal engineer was quite brave.

      Like

    • He received the George Cross for defusing it too.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Well yes but lots of bombs were defused by many. It’s just when you defuse one in that place you get the GC. 🙂 I’ve been to St Paul’s and must say I adore it and am very glad he got the job done. King George V created the George Cross during the war, it is the highest gallantry award that civilians can be awarded. The King saw the growing need for such an award for civilians due to the Blitz. There were two guys actually, well actually a team, Lt Robert Davies GC and Sapper George Wyllie GC were part of the team. Like many George Cross recipients they were ironically military. St Paul’s was hit twice by bombs in addition to this incident. I am always moved by the St Paul’s Survives photo taken during the Blitz with smoke and devastation surrounding St Paul’s while it remains towering in the centre-untouched.

          Liked by 2 people

  24. If I ever found one it would be just a quick look …

    But here’s something: when The Spouse and I were exploring sands and bush at the coast of the Kaipara Harbour (Woodhill Forest, not far from Helensville, from memory) I found first one and then another (two all up) of what looked to be the rusting hulks of very small amphibious vehicles.

    No camera at the time (not that I remember anyway) (certainly never since found any snaps). Painted in a sort of jungle-green, very military looking (NZ used khaki in WW2 and a while after, I think) and obviously pretty old.
    Completely out of place, unexpected—I’ve often wondered if they were left overs from the American presence here in WW2; but let me reiterate that they were tiny. Enough left of them to tell us that they were real, not toys or modern sports things. Big enough for one person plus a few packages.

    Like

  25. Unexploded bombs are scarey … still get found sometimes in London when digging new tunnels for the underground train system. All the best. Kris.

    Liked by 1 person

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