World War 2

Dublin Core

Title

World War 2

Subject

The Naval occupation of Palmyra, beginning in 1939 and officially ending in 1947, was without a doubt the most significant period of activity and physical change the atoll had seen to that point in its history, and has seen since.

This lonely group of 52, uninhabited islets, were transformed into a fully outfitted Navy refueling base, made up of now only 25 islets interconnected by roads, complete with a 6,000 foot runway, and capable of housing and feeding over 3,000 service members.

While much of the materials and structures from that time are completely gone, swallowed by the ocean and vegetation, remnants remain to remind visitors just how significant the changes were and how important Palmyra was to the war effort.

The materials in this collection showcase that history, and the men and women who were a part of it. We hope you enjoy their stories and images!

Creator

Jesse Johnson

Rights

Public Domain (unless otherwise specified)

Collection Items

Raising of Old Glory on Palmyra after Shelling
From back of photo:

A Navy communique received here reported "Palmyra Island was shelled by an enemy submarine", but it added that "there were no casualties." Palmyra lies almost as far south of Honolulu as Wake Island to the westward. This…

Movie Lists for Island Theatre
These lists inventory the available films to be shown in the island theatre for soldiers and officers to watch in their off hours. These 2 scans represent a small excerpt of the dozens of pages listing movies shown during the active wartime…

This video shows footage from the initial dredging efforts and runway construction started in 1939 on Palmyra, in preparation for the naval base.

History of US Army on Palmyra
A detailed report of the United States Army's presence on Palmyra, starting in 1943. Special attention is given to the number of assigned, their rank and file, as well as specific weapons installations, and the conditions of the Atoll..

Island after a Storm
Photo taken after the stationed personnel were almost evacuated because of a severe storm.

Text of Caption on back of photo:

Island outpost almost abandoned in storm
Palmyra Island — The Navy department in Washington said January 5th that…

Matchbook from the USS William Ward Burrows
Rare official Navy matchbook from the USS William Ward Burrows, a transport ship used throughout the Pacific during WW2. It features a small map on the back, showing Palmyra as a location.

Wartime Aerial Survey (2 of 2)
This group of photographs (the second of 2 collections) was taken during World War 2, after primary construction of the facilities on the islands were finished. You can see the various buildings and aircraft stored there, as well as the stark…

Wartime Aerial Survey (1 of 2)
This group of photographs (the first of 2 collections) was taken during World War 2, when primary construction of the facilities on the islands were nearly finished. Many are already in use, and much of the main island looks to be occupied. You can…

Inventory of Naval Facilities During WW2 Occupation
This document gives an extensive inventory of the facilities and staff during the naval occupation of World War 2. This includes everything from vehicles, to fuel, to leisure sports equipment, to small fire arms.

This inventory was taken near the…

Naval Construction Drawings
These sketches show the proposed locations for various buildings and structures around the atoll, mostly on Cooper Island where the main operations were located. Various memos around this same time describe the minor changes made as these sketches…

First Naval Aerial Survery
These images are from the initial Naval aerial survey done of Palmyra in 1935, in preparation for a potential naval base to secure US territories in the Pacific. Construction of the base wouldn't begin until 1939. The photos are especially unique…

Early Naval Construction
These photos represent the earliest known images of the first construction efforts by the Navy in the early 1940's. They show the early tent structures, some of which became permanent residences, but many of which were replaced by the barracks and…

Pre-Naval Construction Aerials
These rare aerial photos show Palmyra prior to the massive construction projects of the Seabees (Marine Construction Brigades) starting in 1939. You can clearly see the various lagoons and reef outlines, with the islets thickly covered in foliage,…

James L. Breckenridge Portrait
This portrait of US Marine James L Breckenridge has little information, and was found while combing through the National Archives online records. Besides the name and date, we don't know much else, only that he was on Palmyra at that time, likely as…

76th Naval Construction Battalion Yearbook
This excerpt features content specifically related to Palmyra, from the larger yearbook of activities and personnel in the 76th CBMU. These few photos and anecdotes offer a great view into life before the larger conflict in the Pacific entered full…

James J. Kee Collection
Marine Scout Bombing Squadron's were bomber groups who flew strafing missions all over the Pacific, and were responsible for some of the most daring bomber raids in the the war. This collection of photos comes from 1943, when the the VMSB was…

Memoirs of Marine Corporal Roland Champagne
Marine Corporal Champagne lived and worked on Palmyra from October of 1942 to October of 1943, during World War 2, serving primarily as a typist and clerk, though he performed other duties, as described in this excerpt from his unpublished memoirs. …

Driver's License issued on Palmyra
This rare document was donated by the son of Corporal Roland Champagne, who was stationed on Palmyra from 1942 to 1943. He served as a clerk, but also received his drivers permit while on the atoll, so he could make deliveries around the…

Roland Champlagne Collection
These photos were taken by Corporal Roland Champlagne while he was stationed on Palmyra, during World War 2. They have been wonderfully preserved by his son, Carl, who generously shared them with us. Interestingly, there is some overlap between this…

Excerpt from Air Pilot Manual of the Pacific Islands
This book was published throughout World War 2, and gave pilots general overviews of friendly island facilities throughout the Pacific, and instructions for landing on them.

Unfortunately the scan is lower quality, but the text and images are…
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