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West Virginian in the South Pacific: A Seebee in the New Hebrides

Posted by Jessica Tapia.
April 15th, 2015

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

The West Virginia and Regional History Center recently acquired a collection of photographs shot by West Virginian Marshall L. Williamson, a member of the US Navy Medical Corps assigned to the 57th Naval Construction Battalion.  Trained in Gulfport, Mississippi in February of 1943, they were deployed in March and April to Espiritu Santo, the largest island in the New Hebrides.  This island served as the location for a supply and support base during WWII, but it’s also the fabled island featured in James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, which was later memorialized in the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific.  On evidence of these photographs, Williamson took an active interest in the sights around him when based at Espiritu Santo, including not only scenes of his life as a naval medic, but also of the native people and landscape, some of which we include in this blog. 

Williamson, on right, with his buddies on Espirito Santo, January 25, 1944. He notes on the back of this photo that the pouch on his side is a first aid kit.

Williamson, on right, with his buddies on Espirito Santo, January 25, 1944.
He notes on the back of this photo that the pouch on his side is a first aid kit.

Medical Corps Motorpool, 57th Naval Construction Battalion, December 27, 1943. Williamson is on the right.

Medical Corps Motorpool, 57th Naval Construction Battalion, December 27, 1943.
Williamson is on the right.

Naval Base, New Hebrides. The camera was tilted when this photograph was shot.

Naval Base, New Hebrides.
The camera was tilted when this photograph was shot.

Coconut Grove, New Hebrides.

Coconut Grove, New Hebrides.

Native Chiefs, New Hebrides.

Native Chiefs, New Hebrides.

Native Dwelling, New Hebrides.

Native Dwellings, New Hebrides.

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