Small Town, Big Secrets: Inside the Boca Raton Army Air Field during World War II

“Radar Won the war, the bomb ended it.” 

Edward “Taffy” Bowen, L.A. Dubridge and I.I. Rabi examine the cavity magnetron.

During the fall of 1940, Edward “Taffy” Bowen, considered one of Britain’s top defense pioneers, traveled to Washington, D.C., in a covert operation known as the Tizard Mission. His goal:  to convice the U.S. government to assist in the development of a highly classified technological device Britain considered its most closely guarded secret—the resonate cavity magnetron. With this new device, aircraft would be able to distinguish rising U-boat periscopes from waves on the darkest of nights, or identify enemy aircraft through heavy cloud cover–vital components to winning the war.

Agreeing to assist Britain in her efforts, the U.S. opened a top-secret research and development laboratory on the campus of the Massachusettes Institute of Technology, known as the Rad Lab.  Here, the device was perfected. But to use the device effectively, it needed to be installed and tested in military aircraft.

The year 1942 proved to be a pivotal one for the small town of Boca Raton, Florida. The upscale Boca Raton Club (now the Boca Raton Resort and Club) became the training facility for the Army Air Corps Technical School of Radar. The facility also housed an Officer’s Candidate School and accepted black cadets, many of whomwent on to become part of the famed Tuskeegee Airmen.

In addition, at the urging of Boca Raton’s mayor, J.C. Mitchell, the Army Air Corps agreed land west of Boca Raton would make the ideal location for a new top-secret facility to  educate troops in the installation, use and maintenance of this war-worthy device–airborne radar.

“Bravo to Sally Ling for telling the stories, some which have never previously been told, about Boca Raton Army Air Field. She has captured the human drama as well as the important contribution the base played during World War II. The early bombing campaign over Europe was less than effective due to overcast winter conditions encountered on most missions. By 1944, the advancement of radar bombing, that was perfected on the flight line and classrooms of BRAAF turned the tide in the skies over Germany and Japan. The enhanced radar bombing accuracy shortened the war and saved the lives of countless aircrews.”

                                             Walter E. Houghton
                                             Aviation Historian & Pilot Deputy Director,
                                             Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport



4 Responses to Small Town, Big Secrets: Inside the Boca Raton Army Air Field during World War II

  1. Cynthia L. Hadsell says:

    Hello, Ms Detective!
    Our father was a radar instructor at Boca Raton. I would like to purchase several copies of your book — as soon as I can get the link to work! I’m also trying to find out the current status of any historical exhibit about radar school and will contact the historical society. Very pleased to find your website and eager to read your book. Great that you have done all this important research.

    • Bill Everson says:

      I just noticed the msg from Cynthia Hadsell. I believe her father was Glen. My father, Elmer W [Mike] Everson was also an instructor there. They were promoted to captain on the same day. Please send this to her. I would like to share information.

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