How A Military General Helped Walt Disney Do The Impossible

Potter

Walt Disney never took no for an answer. He always found a way to make things happen or would find someone to help him. He once said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

A New Park

In 1955, he opened Disneyland in Los Angeles County, which was not too difficult. The family-friendly theme park was built on land that was an orange grove and did not present too many problems.

However, building a park in Florida was a different story. He needed an area with a lot of space for all of his attractions.

There was one massive hiccup in his plan. The area was basically a swamp. It also had zero infrastructure, which is vital to any building project, especially the Magic Kingdom.

Disney needed to put in everything, water, sewage, and power, and it all needed to go into some pretty difficult terrain.

Disney tapped William “Joe” Potter for the project.

Potter’s Background

Potter graduated from West Point in 1928 and became a Lieutenant with the First Engineers in Washington, D.C. He worked the Nicaragua Canal survey from 1929 until 1932.

He went on to get his degree in Civil Engineering from MIT through the Army. In 1937, he became a professor of military science at Ohio State University and taught until 1940.

He worked at the Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers during WWII in Europe. He helped with the logistical planning for the landing at Normandy.

He also worked on the Red Ball Express moving men and materials across Western Europe. After that, he was appointed the governor of the Panama Canal Zone.

Potter retired in 1960 as a Major General. But he wasn’t one to sit on his hands, becoming the executive vice president of the World’s Fair in 1964. He was tasked with overseeing the building of 26 state attractions and a $17 million U.S. pavilion.

Landing A New Gig

There he met Disney, who hired him on the spot. Admiral Joe Fowler and Potter oversaw the entire project building out all of the infrastructure needed for the Magic Kingdom.

When Walt Disney died in 1966, he worked with Roy, completing it in 1971 and covering 300 acres of swampland and forest.

He kept as much of the natural setting as possible while making the park a family-friendly site. The ferry on the Seven Seas Lagoon is named after him.

Sources: 1, 2

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