Military annually brings $5.2 billion to Okaloosa County

Published: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 06:49 PM.

World War II’s beginning in Europe accelerated Eglin’s importance and strengthened its relationship with the county seat. More than $1.25 million was spent, prior to America's entry in the war, to enhance Eglin's mission as an aerial gunnery school, the book states.

War expands Eglin's role

In post-Pearl Harbor days, the Doolittle Raiders rehearsed at Eglin Field for the first U.S. attack on the Japanese homeland. Their mission buoyed the nation’s spirits and fostered regional pride in the local base's role.

By then, Eglin armament experts were in the formative years of the base's mission, testing America's armaments. Among early experiments in guided missile technology, they reverse-engineered a captured German V1 flying bomb and enhanced it with Yankee expertise. One of those early weapons hangs from the Air Force Armament Museum’s ceiling at Eglin Air Force Base.

Economic impact begins

Recognizing the field's personnel would have local impact, a downtown Crestview building boom began, as "five new brick business houses" were constructed downtown before war came to America, according to the book.

When Eglin soldiers and airmen received weekend leave, their sights frequently turned north to Crestview. Main Street watering holes, eateries and movie houses swarmed with young men in khaki every weekend. Those who celebrated too much became well acquainted with the Hilton Hotel, present-day Desi's Restaurant, which rented cheap dormitory accommodations to soldiers who missed the last bus back to Eglin Field.

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