Polk County commemorates its history during World War I

BARTOW – Thursday marked a significant anniversary: it was 100 years ago when the United States officially declared war on Germany and entered World War I. President Woodrow Wilson called a

Polk County history

Polk County, Florida, is rich in history, and the Historical Association will soon unveil a new exhibit on the role its residents played in World War I.

special joint session of Congress to “formally accept the status of belligerent which has thus been thrust upon it.”
On Thursday, the Polk County History Center, the Polk County Historical Association, the Polk County Veterans Council and the Polk County Historical Commission announced plans to commemorate the 100th anniversary of America’s involvement in World War I by honoring men and women of Polk County who served in “The Great War.”
The war that started in the summer of 1914 in Europe was one the United States officially entered on April 6, 1917. Later this summer, the Polk County Historical Association will present a glimpse into residents of this county were impacted a century ago.
When the Historical Association holds its annual meeting on June 15 at the Bartow Civic Center. there will be a special program on Polk County in World War I, and then on Nov. 11, the Polk County History Center will open a new exhibit featuring biographical profiles of Polk residents who served in World War I. Continue reading

Orlando veteran’s park pays lasting tribute to fallen soldiers.

Orlando Veteran’s Memorial Park represents a quiet oasis in a major metropolitan area. (Photo by Dave Raith.)

ORLANDO – It’s a quiet oasis in a major metropolitan area — and a very sobering spot as well.
The natural beauty offered there is instantly inviting. There are moss trees all around, and along the lake are pedestrian sidewalks and bike paths. A bit further from the lake is a gazebo to relax in.
It’s a public park where the pictruesque splendor of Lake Baldwin is appealing for an afternoon walk on a mild winter day. But this section of Baldwin Park offers area residents and visitors alike something else: a reflection of the nation’s past, and a tribute to those who made possible the freedom to walk through this park in the first place.
“To those who died, honor and eternal rest,” the monument notes. “To those still missing, remembrance and hope. To those who returned, gratitude and peace.”
There are eight monuments along that pedestrian sidewalk, in a section of the City Beautiful known as Orlando Veteran’s Memorial Park. Dedicated on Dec. 7, 2007 by Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orlando Veterans’ Memorial Park was created on four acres of land on the north shore of Lake Baldwin, on the border of Orlando and Winter Park.
It is connected to the Lake Baldwin Park trail. Located at 2380 Lake Baldwin Lane, the park hours are from 5 a.m. until sunset daily.
It remains a tribute to not only local veterans, but also to this nation’s history of perseverance in the face of conflict. Continue reading

Military museum looks back at Florida’s unique role in WWII.

The traveling exhibit, “Humanity Beyond Barbed Wire: Hitler’s Soldiers in the Sunshine State,” is now at the Museum of Military History.

FOUR CORNERS – It comes as a real eye-opener for many families, Rob Dent noted, as they learn something remarkable about Florida’s role in the Second World War.
While the Sunshine State did provide a lot of soldiers to fight in the war in Europe, Florida also provided something else: prisoner of war camps for soldiers allied with the Nazi effort.
“It’s very interesting, because the biggest response we get is people saying ‘I had no idea we had prisoner of war camps here in Florida,’ “ said Dent, the director of communications for the Museum of Military History in Four Corners.
“There was a total of just over 40 POW camps here in Florida,” Dent said. “But there were multiple states – Georgia, the Carolinas, and all the way up to the Midwest – with POW camps, and typically they put those camps in rural areas. Although we are no longer considered a rural area — especially Orlando — at that time, the government wanted them away from concentrated populations.”
The prisoners, he added, did not just sit in those camps. They were used in a unique way: to assist Florida’s leading economic engine at the time, which wasn’t tourism or theme parks.
“At that time, there were thousands of prisoners, and they were used for agricultural purposes because so many Florida residents were in the war effort,” Dent noted. “So the prisoners harvested fruit and vegetables. It’s quite an interesting story.”
It’s a history chronicled in a traveling exhibit, “Humanity Beyond Barbed Wire: Hitler’s Soldiers in the Sunshine State,” which is now at the Museum of Military History, located at 5210 W. Irlo Bronson Highway (U.S. 192) in Four Corners. Continue reading

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