U.S. Workers on Pacific Isle

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U.S. Workers on Pacific Isle


Brief but unique account from 1943, about a contractor named M.R. "Slim" Gooding, who worked on Palmyra's initial Navy construction projects. It describes a desk he built for his wife, and had shipped back to his home in Gooding, Idaho, along with some other gifts for his children.

It also mentions the "Palmyran Circle", a publication put together by men stationed on the atoll, and describes its contents. The photo is especially unique, in that it shows a group of civilian works, rather than the traditional military photographs taken and shared at the time.




Twin Falls Times-News




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Caption: Here’s an unusual photo-first of its kind to be printed in Idaho. It shows a group of American workers on Palmyra Island in the Pacific. They wore their tropical helmets, and you can see tropical trees and foliage in the background. M.R. (Slim) Burden, Gooding, is a worker on the island.

By Letha W. Tester
Gooding, Feb. 28 - Mrs. M.R. Burden is proud possessor of a beautiful desk she has just received from her husband, “Slim,” a carpenter on Palmyra Island. The desk, apparently made of native wood of the island for no one here can identify it, has a 32 one-inch-square by about 39-inch-long pieces to make the top, with light and dark wood alternating.

The drawers to the right and below have lovely modernistic pullers made of a brightly polished and waxed bit of copper piping about four inches in length. The remainder of the desk is composed of slightly larger, alternating light and dark, pieces of wood. The desk is a beautiful piece of furniture, one to bring a glow of pride in ownership to any feminine heart. The fact that it was made by her husband on the tropical island, however, adds a great deal more to the value of the desk to Mrs. Burden.

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Included in the shipment with the desk were three coconut crabs of different color mounted on a polished piece of wood. These were to each of the three burden children, and have been proudly displayed at school to their classmates. There was a box of beautiful, polished sea shells and a “native” hat for junior.

Mr. Burden left Boise April 18 of last year to go with the Morris and Knudsen company. Since that time he has sent home each month “The Palmyran Circle,” weekly newspaper published by defense workers on the island. Each issue contains a different article concerning the tropical islands.

“Palmyra is the most typical, luxuriant and picturesque atoll under the American flag. It has had a varied and interesting history, culminating now in plans to make it a safe and ample base for American seaplanes. We hope that the process of preparing and occupying this base does not rob the island of its natural charm and scientific value."

…These and many other vivid descriptions of the tropical isle are to be found in the circle, along with want ads, news brevities about arrivals on the islands and movie advertisements. Most all the latest movies are shown there, with one every day.



“U.S. Workers on Pacific Isle,” Palmyra Archive, accessed November 29, 2020, http://palmyraarchive.org/items/show/264.


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