When my father, Norman Hartman was ten, the world was at war. In
Europe, World War II raged and Germans were the enemy. There was more going on during that time in South Florida than I realized.
|Historic Hartman House circa 1930s|
Posing on the front stoop is my father, Norman Hartman,
and his big sister, Marjorie Ann
In the summer months when it was hottest in
, Delray Beach and his siblings would sleep on the second floor front porch of the house they grew up in to catch whatever sea breeze might still be moving. More than once, they heard a boom and, turning east toward the sound over the ocean, would see the sky lighting up in bright yellows and oranges. It wasn’t fireworks. The flaming sky was a sign that a German U-boat had torpedoed another ship trying to make its way up or down the coast. The neighbor a couple of doors down, Sam Ogren, Jr., and others would run for their boats and race out into the ocean to pick up survivors. Sam actually received a commendation for his rescue work during the war. My Uncle Allen remembers survivors huddled in my Great-Uncle Lloyd Benson’s kitchen at his dairy farm near where Briny Breezes is now located. The day after an explosion, my father and his brother Warren would hike over to the beach to pour through the debris that came ashore—mattresses, wood, odd bits of belongings and once, even the wing of a plane. Norman
Germans actually controlled the Atlantic Ocean for the first years of the war and caused quite an interruption to shipping along the entire east coast of the
. The big ships that couldn’t make it down the United States Intracoastal Waterway had no choice but to take their chances on the open sea. Airplanes flew numerous missions up and down the coast trying to spot German submarines. There’s a great book by Michael Gannon named “Operation Drumbeat” which details the German military action of the same name. Operation Drumbeat was meant to cause major trouble and it was highly successful for a while.
Because my great-grandfather, Fred Hartman, was a German immigrant, the FBI came calling. My dad remembers the children being shooed out of the house by his mother while the interview with “Grosspapa” was conducted. The FBI wanted to make sure that even though he had relatives and family in
, Grosspapa would contact the FBI if he were ever contacted by a saboteur, even if it were a family member. Germany
There was a huge military base in
, part of which is now the campus of Boca Raton . Instructors at the base were teaching the brand new field of radar. My grandparents rented rooms to several officers and their wives, some of whom came back year after year after the war to rent a room, vacation in Florida Atlantic University and visit with the family. My dad’s favorite was named Gordon “Gordy” Apple. Although it’s claimed that Norman and Warren tormented Gordy and teased him unmercifully, it was Gordy who took the two young boys to the garage at the back of the house and worked with them to build a working radio. Delray Beach