New airports were going up all along the coasts as civilian pilot training programs began to crank out new pilots for a war that would surely be won or lost in the air.

In the middle of all this, Lantana Airport, then just another military auxiliary field, was born.

The Civil Air Patrol used the airport to patrol for U-boats off the Florida coast, and gained fame as the home base of Zack Mosley, the cartoonist who until 1973 wrote the cartoon column, Smilin' Jack." All of the characters in his comic strip were real people at the Lantana Airport.

 

 

1940s

The concept of Palm Beach County Park Airport started in the late 1930's when it became obvious that aircraft maneuvers, as a result of agreements between the U.S. and other allies to be, would be saturating the available sizable airports. The Office of Defense Preparedness, along with very influential local aviation interests, quickly targeted the airport's present location because the property was owned by a small group who had already considered dedicating the property for serving the public. The western portion of the entire 800-plus acre site was deeded to the county (previously by the State of Florida with provisions) prohibiting any sale of the property along with other limiting factors.

 

A large Palm Beach philanthropic, aviation-oriented family donated a portion of the land as did the John Prince family, who were among the early settlers of the immediate area of John Prince served on the County Commission in the early history of the County. Both of these parties attached certain limiting provisions to their donations to protect the future of the site. Service to the community was the guiding factor.

An agreement between the county and the U.S. Government was concluded, whereby the county undertook the responsibility of dredging the swamp slough area immediately west of the ridge, a north/south sand dune of considerable age and length. The entire airport site was very low and required intensive dredging from what is known as Lake Osborne.

The U.S. Government built the airport, including a parallel taxiway and considerable ramp area, for $199,000. The airport immediately became known as Lantana Airport because of the proximity of the town of Lantana and Lantana Road paralleling the south border. The first airplane to land on the paved area (August 20, 1941) was a student of Morrison Field, starting the designed role as a reliever airport. It is no surprise that this project moved swiftly as the county engineer was a pilot, aircraft owner and avid supporter of aviation projects.

The fixed base operator at Morrison Field, Palm Beach Nero Corporation, along with other necessary service facilities furnished by Gulf Oil Corp, quickly erected a large hanger and installed wells and septic systems. Because of the fierce submarine activities along Florida's coast prior to Pearl Harbor, an aviation home guard unit had been formed. This immediately moved to Lantana from Morrison Field. On Dec,1, 1941, six days prior to Pearl Harbor, the Civil Air Patrol an auxiliary to the Air Corps, was formed, The War Department directed the three experimental bases be set up, Lantana being the only one in Florida.

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