The Biscayne Times

Jul 23rd
Miami During World War II PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paul S. George, Special to the BT   
January 2017

A view of our past from the archives of HistoryMiami

GPix_PictureStory_1-17reater Miami was awash in military-related activities throughout World War II. The area’s climate, its flat terrain, and a plethora of waterways made it an ideal venue for military bases, training programs, and other war-related activities.

From the Army Air Force “takeover” of south Miami Beach to the Navy’s blimp reconnaissance base in deep south Dade County, the military imprint on the area was profound. Its reach also extended to the Miami River, where the Miami Shipbuilding Company and Merrill-Stevens, among other boatyards, bustled with shipbuilding and ship conversion activities, all in the cause of the Allied effort to defeat the Axis powers.

Even smaller boating facilities, like Hardie’s boatyard near NW 22nd Avenue, were busy with military-related activities.

Merrill-Stevens was primarily involved in converting hundreds of pleasure crafts into a fleet of naval support vessels. Ten blocks downriver from Merrill-Stevens, or immediately east of the SW 2nd Avenue Bridge on the waterway’s south bank, was Fogel’s Boatyard. It was owned by the Buhler family, who changed the company’s name to the Miami Shipbuilding Corporation in 1940.

One year earlier, in 1939, the firm received one of the first government contracts to design prototype patrol torpedo (PT) boats for the U.S. Navy. PT boats were torpedo-armed, fast-attack craft used with good results in World War II.

The Miami Shipbuilding Corporation built the PT-1 and PT-2 experimental boats, seen here racing through the waters of Biscayne Bay on practice runs.

Surprisingly, these boats, 58 feet long, were constructed from plywood. They did not see combat.

The company later built dozens of 63-foot aircraft rescue boats that were employed in the war effort. Both the Miami Shipbuilding Corporation and Merrill-Stevens were also involved in repair work on PT boats and other small military craft that had been damaged in combat.

The U.S. was proud of its moniker -- the Arsenal of Democracy -- for its great industrial and manufacturing contributions to the war effort. Miami and the boatyards along its namesake river could also feel proud that they played a significant role in that contribution.


Paul George is historian at HistoryMiami. To order a copy of this photo, please contact HistoryMiami archives manager Dawn Hugh at 305-375-1623, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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