Seventy years ago today—on 7 November 1944—47,977,063 Americans voted in the Presidential Election. For those serving away from home, it was possible to vote in elections. The first step was for the service person to apply for a state ballot before September 1, 1944. If the state ballot had not arrived by October 1, which was the case more often than not, the service member received a shortened Federal ballot (containing only President, Vice President and Congressmen), given that the state in which the service member qualified to vote in had passed legislation to authorize use of the shortened Federal ballot. Not surprisingly, given all of these restrictions, in the end, only 85,000 Federal ballots were sent to those serving overseas. Thomas Dewey, the challenger, had hoped to become the first president born in the Twentieth Century, but President Franklin Roosevelt won by 3,285,567 votes and remained in office for a fourth term.
We have several pieces related to the 1944 election. One of the most unique is a newspaper, hand-drawn and hand-lettered by American POWs in Stalag Luft IV in Gross Tychow, Pomerania, which tells of the results of the election in the POW camp. The headline reads “Straw Vote gives FDR the Lager.”
Gift of the Family of Willard Charles Miller, 2012.388
The article (in the center column of the spread) reads:
On the seventh, some of our enterprising friends in the Lager decided to tale a “Gallop” pole & attempt to find who we would elect as President of the U.S. Our opinions probably being a typical cross section of Amer. sentiment during this history making epoch. It might be pertinent to some here & now that they Keystone State (PA.) forwarded ballots to her Kreigies in Germany, & we got the info therefrom. After taking the vote which we feel will materialize into a true forecast of the actual election returns if & when we receive them from the homeland We discovered not to our amazement that the now President Franklin D. Roosevelt carried the pseudo vote by a veritable landslide. Roosevelt & Truman polled 1810 votes against Dewey & Brickers’ 277. Evidently, we had some (only a few thank the good powers that be) would be “hooch peddlers” in our midst for the Prohibition count tallied to 62 pledges.
The Socialist Party collected only 13 votes and believe it or not, we seem to have one man who expects to work when her returns as he indicated by voting for the Labor Party!!!
Looks as if somebody is expecting to return to the “Land of milk and bonuses”!!
Well, cheer up gang, maybe we’ll be home in time for 1948’s voting. Whoknows?
Many of those serving during WWII, did vote for the first time in 1948, as many who were fighting were not old enough to vote. The voting age was finally lowered to eighteen in 1972, hastened by the “old enough to fight, old enough to vote” cries during the Vietnam War. Legislation is still being enacted and expanded to protect the rights of overseas citizens, uniformed service members, and their eligible family members to vote in Federal elections. In 2009, the United States Congress expanded the 1986 Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Voting Act (UOCAVA) by enacting the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act to provide greater protection for these rights.
See here for a previous post on the War Ballot of 1944. The ballot was received on December 5, 1944, nearly a full month after the election!
Seventy years ago this week, on 11 October 1944, Vice Presidential candidate Harry S. Truman visited Higgins Industries. Truman’s running mate, Franklin D. Roosevelt, had visited the company two years earlier on 29 September 1942 during his whistle-stop tour of production facilities across the country. Truman was the guest of Andrew Higgins at a luncheon at the Roosevelt Hotel. Higgins called Senator Truman’s visit to New Orleans and to Higgins Aircraft a “perfectly happy occasion.” The visit was pictured in the Higgins newspaper, Higgins Worker issuefrom 20 October 1944.
Today is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. In recognition of those who suffered as POWs in WWII, we would like to highlight a special recent addition to the Museum’s collection and the wonderful connections that the donation of this material set into motion.
We are contacted daily by families of those who served in WWII with questions about artifacts in their possession. In May 2014, Phyllis Parr reached out to the Museum about an artifact from her father’s service.
Phyllis’ father, Phil “Bo” Perabo was from Tupelo, Mississippi and served as a pilot in both the Battle of the Atlantic and in the Pacific. Perabo flew off of the Bogue, the Card and the Bennington. Perabo was captured after bailing out on a mission to Japan, after swimming eight hours to reach the shore. He was taken to Ofuna POW camp where he was reunited with his childhood friend Dave “Son” Puckett, also an aviator who had been captured months earlier.
While at Ofuna—which has received recent news attention because it also became home to Olympic runner Louis Zamperini whose story is told in the bestselling book Unbroken, soon to be a major motion picture—just after liberation, Perabo compiled a roster of all of those confined there, having each man sign in his own hand, his name, unit, and hometown. The roster lists 135 men, predominantly Naval aviators.
Phyllis said about the roster, “My family and I have always believed that the roster does not belong to us alone but to all the families of the men who were at Ofuna.” This led to some citizen archivist work. Phyllis sent out over twenty letters to any former prisoners or their descendants that she could track down. In her letter she told about her dad, about the Ofuna roster and her plans to donate the item to The National WWII Museum. Several people responded to the letter— some with their own stories of their father’s experiences.
On August 8th, having learned of the roster and its placement at the Museum, we received a visit from three grandsons of the late Ofuna POW Forrest E. McCormick. Forrest E. McCormick was a flier in the VF-17 Squadron based on the USS Hornet. It was a miracle, McCormick survived to make it to the Ofuna camp. He had bailed out over a Japanese beach having been shot and having broken his arm at the elbow. A village doctor saved him from villagers bent on beating him to death. After the ordeal in Ofuna his grandson Evan McCormick wrote, “his left arm was 3 inches shorter than his right the rest of his life and instead of the 6, 3’’ height he went to war as, he stood around 6 ft the rest of his life… The happy ending to all this is that he made it back, had four kids, and lived a good life.” It was a profound experience, and seeing the roster was the highlight of the McCormick brothers’ trip.
Phil Perabo passed away on May 18, 2014, just three days after his daughter and I visited and spoke about his experiences. We are grateful to him and to his daughter for documenting his experience and for sharing that documentation with the Museum and others.
The McCormick brothers
Curator Kim Guise and the McCormick brothers
Phil and lifelong friend Dave Puckett, Jr.
Phil Perabo, Jr.
Telegram about Phil Perabo
The Ofuna roster
Images: Gift of the Perabo Family, 2014 and Courtesy of the McCormick Family
The Prima brothers from New Orleans, Leon and Louis, were featured in the 8 September 1944 issue of The Higgins Worker, when Louis traveled through New Orleans on tour. Louis Prima had gained success in the 1930s as jazz vocalist, trumpeter and bandleader. During the war, Louis continued to enjoy popularity, despite the overt Italian themes in his music (his hit “Angelina (Waitress at the Pizzeria)” was released in 1944). His older brother, Leon Prima, also a musician of some note, was employed at Higgins Industries as a mill worker.
Flag at Manzanar, 3 July 1942. Photo by Dorothea Lange.
Dorothea Lange died on 11 October 1965. Today would have been her 119th birthday. Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, Lange became one of the pioneers of documentary photography. Some of her most well-known work was set in the American West, including her photographs during the Great Depression and WWII.
In March 1942, Dorothea Lange—already a well-known photographer—was one of several hired by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) to photograph the removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast documenting their transportation into “assembly centers” and then more permanent “relocation centers.” In 1942 and 1943, Lange traveled hundreds of miles, attempting to follow individuals through the experience, spotlighting families and shooting over 800 images of this sad chapter of American history. Ultimately, Lange was required to turn over every negative to the WRA and her photographs were marked “Impounded” and remained unseen for decades.
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.”
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.
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.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the December 1943 edition of the Higgins Industries publication, The Eureka News Bulletin.
Gift of Edward R. Williams Sr., 0000.048
Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world - why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today - so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.