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Eighty years ago in December 1941, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Congress declared war on the Empire of Japan, Italy, and Nazi Germany. This action followed the December 7 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Hawaii, which was a day, the president said, that will live in infamy.

Years before entering the war, the United States prepared to defend democracy, and Florida was at the forefront. Floridians stepped onto the national stage to serve their country in military and diplomatic positions. New facilities for land and naval military operations were developed in the state, and men and women throughout the nation came to Florida to train. These mobilization efforts forever changed the state—economically, socially, and politically.

Visit the Florida Historic Capitol Museum to learn more about Florida’s historic Rendezvous with Destiny. Developed in partnership with Camp Blanding Museum and The Institute on World War II and the Human Experience at Florida State University, this exhibit and programming share the stories of the pre-war period and entrance into World War II from the perspective of those who experienced it—the Floridians defending America on the front lines and back home.

Featured Items

Photo of Jackie Cochran’s 1930s aviatior helmet

Jackie Cochran’s Helmet

This helmet belonged to Pensacola native and aviator Jacqueline Cochran. It was used during the 1930s and 40s while she was recruiting women for British and American flight duty.

Courtesy of National WWII WASP Museum

Photo of a set of playing cards that features various airplane models

Spotter Playing Cards

Many aircraft warning observers, who spotted and reported on air activity, used a deck of cards that featured various airplane models.

Courtesy of George Cressman

Photo of aged yearbook page full of young, female army recruits

WAC-WAAC Yearbook

Women’s Army Corps recruits at Tyndall Air Force Base created this unofficial yearbook that traced a group of women service members even beyond their time in the military.

Courtesy of Tyndall Air Force Base

Photo of steel army helmet painted green with an orange strap, slightly dented and scratched but in otherwise good condition

M1 Helmet and MacDill Field Florida publication

The US Army designed the manganese steel M1 helmet and started production in April 1941. Over 22 million of these helmets were produced during World War II.

Courtesy of Camp Blanding Museum

MacDill Field was built in 1939 near Tampa and was critical in defending the Gulf of Mexico against Nazi U-boat attacks on merchant ships.

Courtesy of Tampa Bay History Center

Exhibit Programs and Events

Exhibit Opening Lecture
The Failure of Containment and the Coming of the Pacific War with featured speaker Dr. Sidney Pash
December 7, 2021—Reception at 5:30 p.m., talk begins at 6:00 p.m.

Join us at the Florida Historic Capitol Museum as we officially open the new temporary exhibit Rendezvous with Destiny: Florida and WWII. Hear from Dr. Sidney Pash, professor of history at Fayetteville State University, who will discuss American-Japanese relations from 1937 to 1941. Marking the eightieth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dr. Pash will shed light on the ultimately failed American attempt to peacefully contain Japanese expansion following the start of the Sino-Japanese War in July 1937.

Coffee Tour–Rendezvous with Destiny: Florida and WWII
January 13, 2022—From 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Funding for the following programs was provided through a grant from Florida Humanities with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in these programs do not necessarily represent those of Florida Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The American Soldier in World War II with featured speaker Dr. Ed Gitre
February 3, 2022—Reception at 5:30 p.m., talk begins at 6:00 p.m.

The 31st Infantry Division: The Florida National Guard, Race, and World War II in the Pacific with featured speaker Dr. Christopher Rein
February 24, 2022—Reception at 5:30 p.m., talk begins at 6:00 p.m.

Film Screening and Discussion
“Invisible Warriors: African American Women in World War II” with comments from Director and Historian Professor Gregory S. Cooke; moderated by Dr. Kimberley Brown-Pellum
March 15, 2022—6:00 p.m. (Hybrid or Virtual TBD)

Exhibit Partners