Archivist Attic – WWII and the Voting Seabees

World War II made it harder for people to do things, such as find fresh food, buy gasoline and get new clothes. Things were even harder to get if you were in the Seabees, where even cigarettes were rationed. But one thing that every commander tried to provide Seabees was the ability to exercise their right to vote.

A 1945 voting broadsheet with information and instructions.

A 1945 voting broadsheet with information and instructions.

Broadsheets were set up in various locations advertising that the Navy would “bring you timely information on elections” and instructions on how to get the necessary information needed to vote.

A memo, circa 1944, instructing the 7th Naval Construction Battalion on the proper distribution of voting cards.

A memo, circa 1944, instructing the 7th Naval Construction Battalion on the proper distribution of voting cards.

After a Seabee was signed up to vote, they voted using voting cards. Instructions were given to the voting officer, who distributed to the rest of the battalion. Making sure that it was as easy to vote as possible was his job.

A voting area created out of a tent, October 3, 1944.

A voting area created out of a tent, October 3, 1944.

Once everyone had their voting cards, they needed a place to vote. Using Seabee ingenuity, they made voting places and booths.

Special instructions on the censorship of voting ballots,  Hawaiian Area, Naval Construction Brigades, October 3, 1944.

Special instructions on the censorship of voting ballots, Hawaiian Area, Naval Construction Brigades, October 3, 1944.

Voting was taken so seriously that special instructions were sent out making sure that “ballots shall not be censored.” This insured that the normal protocol for censoring mail would not be applied to the ballots. These measures made it as easy as possible for our service men and women to vote in various elections even as the world was engaging in World War II.

Meet the Archivist: Ingi House

Meet the Archivist: Ingi House

Ingi House is originally from Kansas where she got her B.A. in history from the University of Kansas and M.L.S. from Emporia State University. After working for the Dole Institute of Politics she moved to the East Coast. In Washington D.C. she worked at the National Archives and Records Administration and then at the Defense Acquisition University where she became a Certified Archivist. Her continued enjoyment of military history led her to switching coasts and coming to work for the Seabee Museum where she is collection manager for the archives and records manager liaison.

 

 

Curator’s Corner- Seabees in the Aleutian Islands and Alaskan Ivory

April 2016 Photo 1

Native Alaskan walrus ivory carvings of a seal and walrus (U.S. Navy Seabee Museum Collection)

The Aleutian Islands Campaign (June 1942- August 1943) has unfortunately become known as the “Forgotten War” during World War II. In June 1942, six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Imperial Japan seized the remote islands of Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. This was the only instance when Imperial Japan claimed U.S. soil during the war in the Pacific. The maneuver was possibly designed to divert U.S. forces during Japan’s attack on Midway Island (June 4-7, 1942) in the central Pacific. It was also seen as a serious probe of American defenses, a move to prevent the United States from invading the Japanese homeland through the Aleutian Islands. In May 1943, with no help from the difficult weather and terrain, U.S. and Canadian troops retook Attu and three months later reclaimed Kiska.

 

April 2016 photo 2

Map of the Aleutian Islands and Imperial Japan’s advancement (Courtesy of http://www.history.army.mil)

The Aleutian Islands are a chain of 14 large volcanic islands and 55 smaller islands which separate the Bering Sea to the north from the Pacific Ocean. They extend about 1,100 miles from the tip of the Alaska Peninsula to Attu Island. It was believed that whoever controlled the Aleutian Islands would have a flanking position on the whole ocean.

April 2016 photo 3

Seabee camp on Adak Island (Courtesy of LIFE magazine)

Seabees, including those of the 12th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) arrived in the Aleutian Islands in late June 1942, and began working on a number of projects for the U.S. Navy, Army, and Marine Corps building advanced bases on Adak, Amchitka, and other key islands in the Aleutian chain in a climate of never ceasing fog over the islands. The projects included operating floating dry docks, logging, construction of camp facilities, roads, navy airfields, and sewer and utility systems. While activity in the North Pacific was minimal, the flanking arm of Seabee-built bases pointing toward Japan served as a real threat to Imperial Japanese forces throughout the remainder of the war.

April 2016 Photo 4

Snow-packed runway on Attu Island built by the Seabees (CEC Bulletin, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

Commander Bart W. Gillespie was the officer-in-command of the 12th NCB and was assigned to the Seabees early in the war. He was sent to Alaska where he directed the construction of two advance bases under the most difficult weather conditions and terrain. His command widened to the Fourth Regiment and later the Sixth where he was promoted to Captain. As a Californian, graduate of Stanford, and veteran of World War I, Captain Gillespie qualified for his assignment both as an engineer and expert oil man. He was hailed as an exemplary officer by his colleagues.

While stationed in Alaska, Captain Gillespie acquired a vast collection of native Alaskan arts and crafts which he generously donated to the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum. Many of these items include hand woven baleen baskets, scrimshaw, and ivory carvings.

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Alaskan ivory carvings reflect practices and techniques that have been part of Alaskan culture for generations. They are the most popular crafts produced by Native Alaskans who hunted walrus for meat and utilize the skins and tusks for clothing and crafts. The term “ivory” is used for any animal tusk or tooth used as a material for carving. Only Alaska Natives are allowed to possess unworked ivory, which can only be sold after it is handcrafted.

The ivory carvings often portray animals and shows unique craftsmanship. These exceptionally detailed and elegant Native-carved walrus ivory pieces are still admired as works of art in their own right today. Visit the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum to see the many other pieces of art collected by the Seabees.

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Meet the Curator: Robyn King “Meet the Curator: Robyn King is pursuing her master’s degree in Museum Studies and Nonprofit Management through Johns Hopkins University. She earned her Bachelors in History and Anthropology from the State University of New York at Oneonta. She has experience working at state museums, historic sites, the National Park Service, and most recently the Navy. She is an expert in collection management, and has worked closely with both natural and cultural collections. Robyn loves all museums and sharing her love of history. When she is not working, she is volunteering her time with the National Peace Corps Association, as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from West Africa.”