Floridians was found in the Gallup polls of the time to be one of the most interventionist of states. During the preceding years there had been a tremendous expansion of Florida's military facilities. Before the war was over Florida would host more than forty important military installations. During World War II, the Florida tourist industry demonstrated its adaptability. Dec. 7, 1941 found the Florida tourist industry preparing for its biggest year.
But with the war came cancellations to resorts all over the state. This would be a problem since Florida drew sixty per cent of its peacetime income from tourism. Floridians immediately began to attack their problem. Florida's businesses insisted that rest an relaxation was necessary for war workers and began to market themselves accordingly. In this they had not only the support of railroads like the Atlantic Coast Line, which advertised that "Civilians need furloughs too," but also many federal officials.
Meanwhile Florida hotel men and the Florida Hotel Commission were busy negotiating with the United States government. The result was that eventually over 500 of the large resort hotels were leased to the military for use as barracks, hospitals, or convalescent homes. Military families also made their way south to fill up the vacant accommodations. Some obstacles did exist to be overcome. Then Governor Holland was able to get two more trains put on Florida runs. The State Chamber of Commerce attacked the "impossible to get a room" rumor by publicizing lists of rooms available in resort areas.
Only forty per cent of hotel space had been taken over by the military. However, the War Mobilization Director ordered that lucrative horse racing be suspended as of Jan. third. During the summer of 1943 the entire situation changed. As troops moved overseas, and more permanent installations were completed, the Air Force took advantage of the thirty-day cancellation clause in their hotel leases to move out of 206 of 434 hotels they had occupied. But by this time the race tracks were open again and Florida hotels again were booked to capacity with tourists from the north.
Transportation back north was another matter entirely. Rail facilities were totally inadequate and many auto drivers had difficulty getting gas to take them back home. But these matters were corrected by Winter 1943-44. And after the war the tourist industry was set for its greatest year in history. Florida's citrus industry also went to war.
Florida's production went on to surpass that of California's. Floridians increased the production of jams and marmalade's, expanded the canned fruit industry, and began the large scale processing of concentrated juice. This was key in that concentrate was subsidized by the government and shipped in less space than did whole fruit. Practically the entire British supply of vitamin C came from Florida concentrates.