WW II Military Bases & Gender Disc./Dec 1997


Query From Mary-Ellen Kelm kelmm@unbc.ca 28 Nov 1997

A graduate student of mine has the following question: Has anyone come across literature or studies about the social ramifications of building fairly large military installations in small rural towns in North America during the Second World War? She is specifically looking for people's concerns regarding morality issues and gender relations. Thanks in advance.

Responses:

From Susan Gail Miller sgm2a@frank.mtsu.edu 01 Dec 1997

Some large military bases have the texts of "town meetings" held to calm the fears of local residents in regard to military men and their recreational pursuits after hours. There are also many studies done by the Dept. of Defense and in the case of the Coast Guard, Dept. of Transportation, in regard to the effects their arrival will have on the local economy, churches and other support services. I am not sure where to find them all,but I have seen such reports in regard to Elizabeth City, North Carolina (CG), and Homestead AFB, in Florida.

From Gene Moser MinervaCen@aol.com 01 Dec 1997

I believe that this is at least mentioned in the official U.S. Army history of WW II. I know that Blackstone, Virginia (touching then Camp Pickett, a division-sized training camp), still has a few stories about Blackstone/Pickett during WW II. There is still physical evidence of the buildings right outside and close to the camp gate. I think that the fact that a large number of these installations were in the south might also be a consideration.

From Linda Kealey lkealey@morgan.ucs.mun.ca 01 Dec 1997

...might find an article by sociologist Cecilia Benoit helpful on the impact of WW II on women. ..."Urbanizing Women Military Fashion: The Case of the Stephenville Women," in _Their Lives and Times: Women in Newfoundland and Labrador, A Collage_ by Carmelita McGrath, Barbara Neis and Marilyn Porter, eds., (St. John's: Killick Press, 1995), 113-27. I believe Benoit is teaching at U Vic in Sociology; Stephenville was a US military base. Hope this helps....

From Beth Bailey blbailey@unm.edu 01 Dec 1997

Your student might find a book on WWI useful as a guide to approaching WWII: Nancy Bristow's _Making Men Moral_. Another slightly off-base possibility is Allan Brandt's _No Magic Bullet_, about VD--there's a great deal of use there. A graduate student in history at Berkeley, Philip Soffer, gave an excellent paper on WWII bases/morality/gender at the 1997 American Historical Association meeting in NY. And I discuss the ways that military censors monitored relations between servicemen and local women in WWII Hawaii in _The First Strange Place_.

From Connie Reeves Lewisreeve@aol.com 02 Dec 1997

Call the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland, 410- 326-2042. You could also try Patuxent River Naval Air Station, 301- 342-3000(base info). I'm sure they have a base historian. If not, ask for the library and talk to a librarian.

Patuxent River Naval Air Station was built in WWII, as were two other facilities. One was the Solomons Amphibious Training Base, which existed on the peninsula where my home now stands. Young wives sometimes lived in hotels in Solomons while their husbands were in training. Some townspeople accepted the women and some resented them. The Patuxent River NAS had a huge effect on this area, transforming a rural area and providing it with its largest employer. I'm sure many women found their first work opportunities there. Pax River (as we call it) is still the largest employer.

From Margaret Salm Ww2wac@aol.com 04 Dec 1997

So far, no one has mentioned that this country was barely easing out of the depression of the 1930s, and that so many bases were built in rural areas, especially in the south, because the price of land was so cheap. A great number of camps built in the south helped to ease the poverty. I have a friend whose father helped build Camp Forrest, TN and was paid the large sum of $2 per day. Hey, for a rural community that was money. Having been born and raised in the south, I remember all those camps being built around us. Some still exist today, like Ft. Campbell, which is partly in Kentucky, but mostly in TN. The south was not the only rural area to have camps though. The west got its share.

As to gender. Remember that before WWII only the poor joined the Army and it was only the war that changed the attitude of the public to daughters dating soldiers. Also, the military could have better control if the camps were in rural areas. Naturally, there would eventually be camp followers.

None of the above is based on research, just my own thinking about it. ...

From Francie Smith francies@ou.edu 05 Dec 1997

I, too, know precious little specifically. However, Glasgow AFB was built outside of Glasgow, Montana. My father...then transferred to the Army Air Corp, and then to the USAF, was born and raised in Glasgow.

I remember once as a teenager visiting Glasgow and meeting my cousins for the first time. They were intrigued with us. Here we were, brats, and they were allowed to actually talk to us! It seems the community was so concerned about the bad influences military children would have upon their own precious daughters and sons that they segregated them in high school: the military kids went to one session and the townies to another. Of course, the townies went to school in the morning as sports were in the afternoon. We, I guess, were one of the few exceptions, probably because my grandfather and uncle were the town doctors.

If that level of concern existed for the town's children, I imagine there were other frequent instances of discrimination as well.

From Kriste Lindenmeyer kal644@tntech.edu 05 Dec 1997

The U.S. Children's Bureau was very worried about the impact of military bases on juvenile delinquency (especially among females) in the years immediately before and during the Second World War. Good examples are the following Bureau reports:

"Controlling Juvenile Delinquency: A Community Program" Children's Bureau pub. no. 301. Washington, D.C. GPO, 1943.

"Community Action for Children in Wartime." CB pub. no. 295, 1943.

Perhaps most interestingly, although the Bureau feared, as did most Americans according to public opinion polls at the time, that juvenile delinquency would rise during the war years, the agency concluded in 1949 that this was a mistaken assumption.

The CB also used the war to broaden the Social Security Act's Title V Maternal and Child Health program. The Emergency Maternal and Infant Care effort funded pre-natal, maternal, post-natal, and infant care for the wives of U.S. enlisted men. The CB advocated the EMIC as a means to raise military morale-- not a women's or children's health program (but the CB actually hoped that EMIC would plant the seeds for a national maternal and child health insurance program after the war). The CB devised the program when military-base commanders complained that young service men were bringing their even younger, and pregnant wives to the expanding posts. The commanders felt that the situation hurt military morale.

I've tried to talk about these issues, and concerns about rising child labor rates in Chapter 8 of my book, _A Right To Childhood": The U.S. Children's Bureau and Child Welfare, 1912-1946_.

I'd also recommend looking at the first chapter of James Gilbert's _Cycle of Outrage: America's Reaction to Juvenile Delinquency in the 1950s_. Gilbert shows that "public hysteria" about female sexual impropriety began during the war. Estelle Friedman and John D'Emilio also mention the shifts in sexual attitudes and experience on the home front in _Intimate Matters_.

The 20th century's highest teen pregnancy rates are in the late 1940s, 1950s, and 60s--along with the twentieth century's lowest average age of first marriage (18). I think that both are a legacy of greater mobility and improved economic opportunity for young people sparked during the war.