Effective air power was an essential part of the US war effort during World War II. And building and maintaining that air power required massive bases and a huge work force, especially with many soldiers over seas in combat. In 1941 to help meet these needs, a Naval Air Base was created in Corpus Christi, Texas. The base covered 20,000 acres and had 800 instructors taking in classes of 300 new cadets every month. Completed only three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the base became a crucial source for planes and aviators. During the course of World War II more than 35,000 aviators earned their wings there. In fact, George Bush graduated from the base in 1943 at the age of 19, the youngest-ever naval aviator at the time.
During World War II, the government actively recruited women for work in factories and bases to help build the weapons and vehicles needed for victory. The base at Corpus Christi was no exception and many women worked side by side with men to help build and maintain the planes.
The Library of Congress has a collection of photos by Howard R. Hollem, an American photographer with the Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information. He spent much of August 1942 on the Naval Air Base in Corpus Christi, Texas. The images he captured depict the daily working life of women and men on the base and provide insight into what it was like.
The following pictures are all from Howard R. Hollem and we have used his original captions to provide the context from when they were taken.
Mrs. Virginia Davis, a riveter in the assembly and repair department of the Naval air base, supervises Chas. Potter, a NYA trainee from Michigan, Corpus Christi, Texas. After eight weeks of training he will go into civil service. Should he be inducted or enlist in the armed service, he will be valuable to mechanised units of the Army or Navy.
Learning to work a cutting machine, these two NYA employees receive training to fit them for important work, Corpus Christi, Texas. After eight weeks they will be eligible for civil service jobs at the Naval Air Base.
Answering the nation's need for womanpower, Mrs. Virginia Davis made arrangement for the care of her two children during the day and joined her husband at work in the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas. Both are employed under Civil Service in the Assembly and repair department. Mrs. Davis' training will enable her to take the place of her husband should he be called by the armed service.
Working inside the nose of a PBY, Elmer J. Pace is learning the construction of Navy planes, Corpus Christi, Texas. As an NYA trainee at the Naval Air Base, he gets practical experience. After about eight weeks, he will go into civil service as a sheet metal worker.
Women are contributing their skills to the nation's needs by keeping our country's planes in top-notch fighting condition, Corpus Christi, Texas. Wife of a disabled World War I veteran, Mrs. Cora Ann Bowen (left) works as a cowler at the Naval Air Base. Mrs. Eloise J. Ellis is a senior supervisor in the Assembly and Repairs department.
Bowen and Olsen, a riveter and her supervisor, in the Assembly and Repair Dept. at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas.
With a woman's determination, Lorena Craig takes over a man-size job, Corpus Christi, Texas. Before she came to work at the Naval air base she was a department store girl. Now she is a cowler under civil service.
Assembly and Repairs Dept. mechanic Mary Josephine Farley works on a Wright Whirlwind motor, Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas.
Oyida Peaks riveting as part of her NYA training to become a mechanic at the Naval Air Base, in the Assembly and Repair Department, Corpus Christi, Texas.
Pearl Harbor widows have gone into war work to carry on the fight with a personal vengeance, Corpus Christi, Texas. Mrs. Virginia Young (right) whose husband was one of the first casualties of World War II, is a supervisor in the Assembly and Repairs Department of the Naval Air Base. Her job is to find convenient and comfortable living quarters for women workers from out of the state, like Ethel Mann, who operates an electric drill.
It's an intricate operation - installing a 30-calibre machine gun in a Navy PBY plane, but not too tricky for Jesse Rhodes Waller, Corpus Christi, Texas. He's a Georgia man who's been in the Navy 5-1/2 years. At the Naval Air Base he sees that the flying ships are kept in tip-top shape. Waller is an aviation ordnance mate.
Jesse Rhodes Waller, A.O.M., third class, tries out a 30-calibre machine gun he has just installed in a Navy plane, Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas.
He's like to use that gun on the Axis. After seven years in the Navy, J.D. Estes is considered an old sea salt by his mates at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas.
After seven years in the Navy, J.D. Estes is considered an old sea salt by his mates at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas.
Mrs. Eloise J. Ellis has been appointed by civil service to be senior supervisor in the Assembly and Repairs Department at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas. She buoys up feminine morale in her department by arranging suitable living conditions for out-of-state employees and by helping them with their personal problems.
Sailor at the Naval Air Base wears the new type protective clothing and gas mask designed for use in chemical warfare, Corpus Christi, Texas. These uniforms are lighter than the old type.
Mrs. Eloise J. Ellis, senior supervisor in the Assembly and Repairs Dept. of the Naval Air Base, talking with one of the men, Corpus Christi, Texas.
Women from all fields have joined the production army, Corpus Christi, Texas. Miss Grace Weaver, a civil service worker at the Naval Air Base, and a school teacher before the war, is doing her part for victory along with her brother who is a flying instructor in the Army. Miss Weaver paints the American insignia on repaired Navy plane wings.
Feeding an SNC advanced training plane its essential supply of gasoline is done by sailor mechanics at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas. Standing on the wing is Floyd Helphrey who came from Iowa to join the Navy early in the year. At right is W. Gardner of Illinois who used to be a crane operator.
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