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Worker Wednesday: Secretary’s Day

From the March 1943 issue of the Eureka News Bulletin. Gift of Walter Brunken, 2000.026.018

From the March 1943 issue of the Eureka News Bulletin. Gift of Walter Brunken, 2000.026.018

From the staff of Higgins Industries 70 years ago and from The National WWII Museum today, Happy Secretary/Administrative Professional’s Day.

SciTech Tuesday: 70th Anniversary of First Combat Helicopter Rescue

Lt. Harman (standing left) with ground crew in front of the Sikorsky YR-4B in January 1945. Image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force Museum.

Lt. Harman (standing left) with ground crew in front of the Sikorsky YR-4B in January 1945. Image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force Museum.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the first recorded helicopter rescue by the U.S Military. U.S. Army Lieutenant Carter Harman dramatically rescued a downed pilot and three wounded British soldiers from the jungles of Burma in the Sikorsky R-4 “Hoverfly.” The high altitude and humidity lowered the capacity of the helicopter to one passenger, forcing Lt. Harman to make four trips to rescue the stranded men.

The Sikorsky YR-4B was constructed of welded steel tubes with a fabric-covered body. Built of plywood ribs also in a fabric-covering, the main rotor stretched to a diameter of 38 feet. The helicopter accommodated a pilot and passenger and a maximum weight load of 2535 pounds. The Hoverfly had a maximum range of 220 miles, cruising speed of 65 mph and an altitude ceiling of 8,000 feet.

Helicopters use rotors to supply the aircraft with lift and thrust, allowing it to navigate forward, backward, and side-to-side. The ability to take off and land vertically allows helicopters the flexibility to reach congested or remote areas. Helicopter rotor blades are curved on top, just like the fixed wings of an airplane. As the rotor turns, air flows faster on top and slower on the bottom creating low pressure above and high pressure below. This lifts the aircraft as the rotor turns.

Post by Annie Tête, STEM Education Coordinator

Ansel Adams 1902-1984

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Ansel Adams. The acclaimed nature photographer, born in San Francisco in 1902, died on 22 April 1984. Adams was active during WWII and some of his work is featured in our current special exhibit, From Barbed Wire to Battlefields: Japanese American Experiences in WWII.

Birds on wire, evening, Manzanar Relocation Center by Ansel Adams. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Birds on wire, evening, Manzanar Relocation Center by Ansel Adams. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

During the fall of 1943, Ansel Adams shot over 200 images in Manzanar Relocation Center. Many of these images were published in 1944 in the book Born Free and Equal. The images are all courtesy of the Library of Congress and the entire series can be viewed here in their online catalog. When Adams offered his Manzanar series to the Library of Congress in 1965, he commented on the collection of images  in a letter: “The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair [sic] by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment….All in all, I think this Manzanar Collection is an important historical document, and I trust it can be put to good use.”

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise. 

70th Anniversary: PT-305 Arrives in the Mediterranean


PT-305 being loaded for transport in Norfolk, Virginia. Courtesy of 305 crew member Jim Nerison.


Seventy years ago, on 21 April 1944, PT-305 arrived in the Mediterranean. Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 22, or RON22, was transported to the combat theater aboard the USS Merrimack. According to the deck log of PT-305, she was kept on board the Merrimack for several days, anchored in the port of Mers El Kébir in Algeria until 25 April. Lt. W.B. Borsdorff wrote: “1825: Put over side into water by U.S. Army and moored portside to alongside USS Merrimack.”

Crew member, torpedo man Jim Nerison remembered:

The squadron spent about three months in Miami, Florida for shake down and training.  The training included all aspects for which the boats were designed:  torpedo firing, gunnery practice, speed trials and boat handling maneuvers.

 In preparation for over-seas duty the boats were dry-docked, freshly painted, and all systems were checked out thoroughly.

 To avoid the rough water off of Cape Hatteras, we once again took the intracoastal waterways north to Norfolk.  PT 305 and three other boats were placed in cradles on the deck of a navy tanker.  The tanker joined a large convoy of other ships for an Atlantic crossing; then through the Straits of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean Sea.  The tanker anchored in the harbor at Oran, Algeria on the north shore of Africa.

 There was only one crane in Oran with the capability to pick up a 70+-ton PT boat so we had to wait two weeks to be off loaded into the water.  We took the boats from Oran, stopped in Algiers to re-fuel, and then on to Bizerte in Tunisia. 

Click here to learn more about PT-305 and her restoration here at The National WWII Museum.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

Easter 1944

All images from the Collection of The National WWII Museum

Italy in April 1944 was anything but pastoral. The Battle for Anzio was in full swing and would continue for another month, resulting in 7,000 Allied casualties and 36,000 wounded. Easter masses celebrated in the cathedrals in Italy and in the field were a brief relief.

Meanwhile in the Pacific, Allied servicemen were nearly halfway through the first phase of the Bougainville Campaign, which would stretch through November and then continue until nearly the end of the war.

See the Italian images and more at the Digital Collections of the National WWII Museum.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

Free Student Webinar: Japanese American Experiences in WWII

To commemorate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month in May, the Museum will be hosting a free student webinar in relation to our latest special exhibit: From Barbed Wire to Battlefields: Japanese American Experiences in WWII. During the program, students will learn about the forced incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans in remote camps for the duration of WWII, especially focused on the experiences of Nisei students who abruptly became prisoners at a young age.

Images from the 1944 Resume yearbook from Rohwer Center High School

Images from the 1944 Resume yearbook from Rohwer Center High School

Brian Komei Dempster

Brian Komei Dempster

Students will have the opportunity to interact with curator Kim Guise, as she showcases some of her favorite artifacts from the exhibit.  Viewers will examine a camp high school yearbook and images of school, social and home life for the young Nisei prisoners.  They’ll also meet poet, professor and editor Brian Komei Dempster, who helps former camp prisoners record and compose their incarceration and resettlement stories. Dempster also uses this time period as creative inspiration, and just released his debut poetry anthology, Topaz, reflecting on his own family’s incarceration experiences.  He will share a selection of his poems, and the meaning behind these poignant pieces tied to his family’s history.

At the end of the program, the Museum and Dempster will introduce a poetry prompt for student viewers, to craft their own creative piece based on what they learned in the program. The theme of the prompt will be based upon Japanese Americans leaving behind prized family possessions before their forced removal, and the uncertainty and sadness of loss. Select student poems will be featured on the Museum’s blog!

Students will be able to ask questions of both presenters during the program. Teachers will receive curriculum materials after registration, including a lesson plan with a selection of stories from camp prisoners and Dempster’s poetry. Space is limited for the May 9th program at 12:00PM CT, so register today!

Memphis Belle Premieres

Memphis Belle

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

On this day 70 years ago, Paramount Pictures, in conjunction with the First Motion Picture Unit, released The Memphis Belle:  A Story of a Flying Fortress.  Directed by legendary Hollywood perfectionist William Wyler while the director was serving in the United States Army Air Forces and shot in striking 16mm technicolor, The Memphis Belle for the first time brought actual combat-shot aerial battle footage to audiences at home in the United States.

Though the film alleged to document the 25th and final mission of the crew of the B-17 in its title, filming between January and May of 1943 was actually conducted aboard a number of different Flying Fortresses of the 8th Air Force.  Employing revolutionary filming techniques which included cameras mounted in the plane’s nose, tail, right waist and radio hatch positions, the results of Wyler’s work clearly showed both the dangers and heroism of America’s daylight bombers.

Despite the great risks associated with bomber missions, for the entire duration of the filming, Wyler and his crew personally oversaw the project aboard and alongside the B-17 crews; Wyler himself would lose much of his hearing due to the concussive explosions of anti-aircraft flak.

Both critically and popularly acclaimed at the time, The Memphis Belle proved a huge hit and today is preserved for its cultural significance within the National Film Registry.  Click below to watch The Memphis Belle:  A Story of a Flying Fortress in its entirety.

This post by Collin Makamson, Family Programs & Outreach Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum

National History Day State Contest Results: National Finalists Selected

On Saturday, April 12, 250 middle and high school students from all across Louisiana arrived at The National WWII Museum for the National History Day State Contest. Months of research and planning went into these students’ projects which were conducted on historical topics of their own choosing. Many of the students selected their topics in the fall and then spent much of the spring conducting research online, in libraries and at historical sites and archives. With the option to create either an exhibit, a documentary, a performance, a website or a documentary, students could display their research in the way they deemed most effective.

The theme of the Contest was “Rights and Responsibilities in History,” and to address this theme, many students chose topics focused on civil rights issues, labor struggles and the history of gun control. Each student’s project was reviewed by a panel of judges, and students were granted 15 minutes to answer questions related to their research process.

The top 2 entries in each category were selected to represent Louisiana at the National History Day Contest to be held at the University of Maryland from June 15-19, 2014.

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Worker Wednesday: Childcare



This week, April 6-12, 2014 is the Week of the Young Child™, an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). In conjunction, this week’s Worker Wednesday touches on childcare in WWII.

April 1944 marked the end of the Higgins Industries publication, The Eureka News Bulletin and the rise of the new Higgins publication, The Higgins Worker. The new publication was more like a newspaper than a magazine—printed on newsprint, shorter in format and available to employees every Friday. The topics were current and concerned matters of everyday employee life, like childcare.

The need for womanpower during WWII brought to the forefront the issue of what to do with the kids while mom is at work. For the first time, there were more married women than single women in the workforce, some of them mothers. Childcare centers were opened around the nation. Federal subsidies from the Federal Works Administration provided extra support for communities, employers and families in need of childcare. Families paid fees which were capped at 50 cents per day in 1943 and 75 cents in July 1945. Some of them, including the one at Higgins Industries, even operated 24 hours a day, for mothers working evening and night shifts. The daycare at Higgins, opened 70 years ago this week, was located in Shipyard Homes, a public housing project established in 1943 to house employees and their families. In July 1944, there were a peak 3,102 federally-subsidized child care centers, enrolling 130,000 children. The center at the mammoth Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, California could accommodate over 1,000 children. At the end of the war, many of the subsidized childcare facilities were closed under the assumption that the need was no longer there. California, the state with the most children enrolled in childcare, mounted the loudest protest against withdrawal of funding and some funds continued to flow into the program through early 1946. By July 1946, less than 1/3 of the wartime centers remained open.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

SciTech Tuesday: Birthday of Melvin Calvin, Biochemist

Today marks the birthday of Melvin Calvin, the biochemist for whom the eponymous photosynthesis cycle familiar to many biology students is named. Calvin was a fearless scientist known for his insatiable curiosity and skill in posing meaningful questions. While he was a chemist by education and training, Calvin boldly delved into new fields including carcinogenesis, the synthesis of biofuels, lunar geology and the development of synthetic membranes.

Dr. Calvin’s diverse interests and endless curiosity led him to the University of California’s Radiation Laboratory directed by Ernest Lawrence. Using the 60-inch cyclotron and new isotopes produced from Hanford and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, Calvin led the effort to find medical and biochemical applications for the radioactive byproducts of the Manhattan Project.

Calvin used radioactive carbon-14 to trace the path of carbon during photosynthesis. Plants use sunlight in combination with carbon dioxide and water to make sugar and oxygen. Using the carbon-14 isotope, Calvin mapped the entire chemical process of photosynthesis now known as the Calvin cycle. Most significant in this research was the discovery that sunlight activates chlorophyll, the green pigment in all plants and the site of photosynthesis, rather than carbon dioxide. For his work Dr. Calvin earned the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1961.

Post by Annie Tête, STEM Education Coordinator