Hometown Boys from Florida: Information and Statistics about WWI Service Members
Florida provided over 42,000 to the U.S. armed services during World War I. Of these, 1,134 gave their lives. More than 13,000 African-American soldiers served from Florida, over 30 percent of the troops raised. The 31st Division (National Guard) drew troops and units from Florida. The 81st Division drew many of its selected servicemen from Florida. The 81st Division defended the St. Die Sector in the Vosges, and then attacked to seize Moranville, Grimaucourt and Abaucourt in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The 81st Division is generally credited with introducing shoulder patches to U.S. divisions in World War I.
Florida hosted five military flight schools, a major encampment at Black Point near Jacksonville, and a major naval base at Pensacola. Largely agricultural, Florida was an important source for fruits, vegetables and other crops that could not readily be raised elsewhere. Castor beans were planted in Florida, as the extracted oil was needed in airplane engines. Floridians readily supported the war effort as volunteers or in official capacities. Women served as secretaries or volunteered as nurses at home and overseas. Ruth Bryan Owen, for example, served as a voluntary aid detachment war nurse in far off Cairo during the Egypt-Palestine Campaign.
Editor's Note: This ongoing series will feature information and statistics about World War I service members from every state. You can also find this information in our new Chateau-Thierry Visitor Center that will be opening later this year.