By Marcy Shortuse Photos from historical archives
In 1941 Gasparilla Island was in full operational World War II mode, with residents taking turns standing
on rooftops to watch for enemy submarines in the Gulf of Mexico and Boca Grande Pass, and air raid
sirens were all too common. When the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred, though, it spurred civic
leaders and our government to put even more drastic security measures in place, after realizing the
necessity of being prepared for such an event to happen again somewhere else. Many able-bodied men
from every town were off fighting the war, but the few that remained were called to action to become
volunteer firefighters and form makeshift fire brigades.
On December 17, 1941 a group of island residents signed a state document that read, “We the
undersigned citizens of Boca Grande, Florida do hereby enlist in the Service as Firemen under the authority
of the Local Defense Council of Lee County, and do hereby agree to serve to the best of our ability and
in the interest of public welfare, also to work for the establishment of a permanent fire department in the
Their names were Wiley Crews, Joe Harrison, Bill U. Hunter, George W. Knight, Paul Dozier, Pershing
Thompson, Louie Lanzl, C. Don Van Vleet, Dick Kuhl, Homer Addison, Trib Thornton, S.B. Parkton, Leon
Williams, A.W. Willis and O.L. Crumbley. They became the first firefighters on the island of Gasparilla.
September/October 2018 GASPARILLA ISLAND 29