“American Gibraltar: Key West during World War II”
Florida Historical Quarterly 90 (2012): 393-425
This article describes the radical transformation of Key West, Florida, during World War II. Located on the southern frontier of the mainland United States, the island city of Key West held a unique position adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. During the earliest months of the war, German U-boats terrorized the shipping lanes around Key West, bringing the battlefront much closer to American soil than many people ever realized. As a result, the U.S. Navy dramatically expanded its presence on the island. When the war began, the Key West Naval Base occupied just 50 acres on the island. By the end of the war, it sprawled across more than 3,200 acres. That was not the only change. Thousands of people came to the island by land, sea, and air, and the island’s population tripled almost overnight. Not surprisingly, Key West experienced dramatic social and cultural changes, as well.