Eglin Air Force Base: Florida Family History
by Mike Miller
(Mount Dora, Florida)
Lt Colonel Fred I. (Fritz) Eglin
Genealogy and family history have always interested me.
It wasn't until a few years ago that I realized my family has a link with Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle.
Eglin is one of the largest Air Force bases in the world; maybe it's the largest, I haven't researched that yet. It contains something like 500,000 acres around Valparaiso, Florida and Fort Walton Beach on the Gulf of Mexico.
The Army Air Corps started putting the land together in 1931 that eventually became this huge base. They were looking for a bombing and gunnery range to serve their aircraft out of Maxwell Field, Alabama.
There were very few people in those days living along the Gulf coast near Valparaiso, Florida and it seemed like a great place for bombing and shooting without putting any people in harm's way. So they created the Valparaiso Bombing And Gunnery Base.
In 1937, the base was renamed Eglin Field to honor Lt. Col. Frederick I. Eglin, an Army Air Corps pilot who was killed on January 1, 1937 in a plane crash.
The base has played important roles in our national defense, including becoming the site for the training of World War Two pilots.
It was also one of the key bases that helped Lt Col Jimmy Doolittle prepare his B-25 crews for the bombing raid over Tokyo early in World War Two. It has supported America during five wars.
The family history goes back to Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, in 1908. My grandfather, Ed Miller, was on the Wabash football team and played as "Indian" Miller, a tribute to his part Miami Indian heritage.
His best friend on that Wabash team was Fred "Fritz" Eglin. When my father was born in 1912, he was named Fritz in honor of my grandfather's old college buddy.
And now you know the rest of the story.
In a way, the circle was completed when I took my U.S. Navy survival training course in the swamps of Eglin Air Force Base in the 1960s.