Seabees At Ease

Downtime in the Pacific Theater of WWII

Black and white photograph of Ed Keegan at Anse Vata beach, New Caledonia, 1943–1945.

Ed Keegan at Anse Vata beach, New Caledonia, 1943–1945.

Ed Keegan at Anse Vata beach, New Caledonia, 1943–1945.

As a sailor in the US Navy’s 78th Construction Battalion (aka the Seabees) during World War II, Natale (Nat) Bellantoni lived and worked on various islands, facing jungle heat, tropical diseases, insects, snakes, and monsoon rains. Throughout this journey across the Pacific Ocean, Nat and his fellow Seabees served their country by building the bases needed to reach and defeat Japan, but there was more to life in the Pacific theater. While battles could feel eternal and construction projects never ending, even during a war there was always downtime.

For Nat, sketching and painting his surroundings was a cathartic way to get through these quiet spells. He also spent time with his buddies, taking photographs and caring for locally acquired pets. On New Caledonia, far from the front lines, the Seabees participated in R & R activities and enjoyed liberty—free time to tour the capital of Nouméa and explore the hinterlands. These moments of peace did not divorce these servicemen from the reality of being in a theater of war, but instead helped them survive this challenging period of their lives with a sense of normalcy and home.

Artists In War

Black and white photograph of Nat Bellantoni drawing Cathedral Square at his desk, 1944.

Nat Bellantoni drawing Cathedral Square at his desk, by Edwin Keegan, 1944.

Nat Bellantoni drawing Cathedral Square at his desk, by Edwin Keegan, 1944.

Whenever there are wars, there are soldiers documenting their experiences through visual media. Whether painting, sketching, or whittling, artists in active duty create some of the most evocative records of warfare. In World War II, the Navy even established the Combat Art Program to officially document all phases of the war. But many artists of the war did not serve in that program or in any official capacity. They would keep and draw in pocket sketchbooks, paint on the noses of aircraft, or compose watercolors while on liberty.

Nose art on two B-25 bomber aircraft, n.d.

Nose art on two B-25 bomber aircraft, n.d.

When Nat Bellantoni decided to use his skills in drafting, sketching, architecture, and photography in service with the Seabees, he knew that the best way to manage the narrative of his life and to cope with the ups and downs of his feelings was to create images—visual records that spoke of what he felt, as well as what he saw. His personal archive is filled with this material and reveals the life of an artist interrupted.

Nat Bellantoni's sketchbooks, 1943-1945. Digital Record

Chapel Art

With a variety of skills recently honed at the Massachusetts School of Art—and being from Boston’s Italian Catholic community—Nat contributed many artistic details to the chapels used by the 78th Seabees. Above is an interior photograph of a chapel, which shows a painting by Nat above the altar. At right is Nat with a stained-glass window he created for the Lorengau Memorial Chapel on Manus Island in the Admiralty group. This was a particularly unique piece, since proper materials were inaccessible. Nat ingeniously took cello-glass screen from a wrecked Quonset hut and painted on it with oil paint (thinned to transparency) over a lacquer base in order to skillfully create a four-color design.

Nat Bellantoni holding his stained-glass window for the Lorengau Memorial Chapel, Manus Island, 1944.

Photograph of Nat Bellantoni's two pocket sketchbooks, one closed and one open to the first illustration of Landing Ship Tanks, arranged with a separated sketch, 1943-1945.

Nat Bellantoni's sketchbooks, 1943-1945. Digital Record

Nat Bellantoni's sketchbooks, 1943-1945. Digital Record

Black and white photograph of Nat Bellantoni holding the stained-glass window he made for the Lorengau Memorial Chapel, Manus Island, 1944.

Nat Bellantoni holding his stained-glass window for the Lorengau Memorial Chapel, Manus Island, 1944.

Nat Bellantoni holding his stained-glass window for the Lorengau Memorial Chapel, Manus Island, 1944.

Black and white photograph of Edwin Keegan taken by Natale Bellantoni, no date.

Ed Keegan, by Natale Bellantoni, n.d.
Of the hundreds of photographs in Nat's archive, very few are identified as having been taken by him. This is one of those unique finds, a candid snapshot by him of good friend and battalion photographer Edwin Keegan.

Ed Keegan, by Natale Bellantoni, n.d.
Of the hundreds of photographs in Nat's archive, very few are identified as having been taken by him. This is one of those unique finds, a candid snapshot by him of good friend and battalion photographer Edwin Keegan.

Black and white photograph of photographer Edwin Keegan holding a lifesaver that has the text "78th US Naval Constr. Battn." written on it, and holding his camera in the other hand, no date.

Ed Keegan, n.d.
The lighthearted and artistic nature of Nat and his buddies is evident in this playful composition, which was clearly not part of the official war documentation effort. But what it does reveal is the type of camera used by battalion photographer Edwin Keegan: a Graflex Speed Graphic 4x5 large-format camera. This type of camera was used extensively by the US military in World War II.

Ed Keegan, n.d.
The lighthearted and artistic nature of Nat and his buddies is evident in this playful composition, which was clearly not part of the official war documentation effort. But what it does reveal is the type of camera used by battalion photographer Edwin Keegan: a Graflex Speed Graphic 4x5 large-format camera. This type of camera was used extensively by the US military in World War II.

Black and white photograph of the photograph development baths set up in the 78th's darkroom at New Caledonia, 1945.

Photograph development baths, New Caledonia, 1945.
At each new camp, Nat and his photographer and draftsman buddies had to set up a new studio for their work. Included would be bunks, desks, drafting tables, and a darkroom to develop photographs.

Photograph development baths, New Caledonia, 1945.
At each new camp, Nat and his photographer and draftsman buddies had to set up a new studio for their work. Included would be bunks, desks, drafting tables, and a darkroom to develop photographs.

Black and white photograph of Edwin Keegan taken by Natale Bellantoni, no date.

Ed Keegan, by Natale Bellantoni, n.d.
Of the hundreds of photographs in Nat's archive, very few are identified as having been taken by him. This is one of those unique finds, a candid snapshot by him of good friend and battalion photographer Edwin Keegan.

Ed Keegan, by Natale Bellantoni, n.d.
Of the hundreds of photographs in Nat's archive, very few are identified as having been taken by him. This is one of those unique finds, a candid snapshot by him of good friend and battalion photographer Edwin Keegan.

Black and white photograph of photographer Edwin Keegan holding a lifesaver that has the text "78th US Naval Constr. Battn." written on it, and holding his camera in the other hand, no date.

Ed Keegan, n.d.
The lighthearted and artistic nature of Nat and his buddies is evident in this playful composition, which was clearly not part of the official war documentation effort. But what it does reveal is the type of camera used by battalion photographer Edwin Keegan: a Graflex Speed Graphic 4x5 large-format camera. This type of camera was used extensively by the US military in World War II.

Ed Keegan, n.d.
The lighthearted and artistic nature of Nat and his buddies is evident in this playful composition, which was clearly not part of the official war documentation effort. But what it does reveal is the type of camera used by battalion photographer Edwin Keegan: a Graflex Speed Graphic 4x5 large-format camera. This type of camera was used extensively by the US military in World War II.

Black and white photograph of the photograph development baths set up in the 78th's darkroom at New Caledonia, 1945.

Photograph development baths, New Caledonia, 1945.
At each new camp, Nat and his photographer and draftsman buddies had to set up a new studio for their work. Included would be bunks, desks, drafting tables, and a darkroom to develop photographs.

Photograph development baths, New Caledonia, 1945.
At each new camp, Nat and his photographer and draftsman buddies had to set up a new studio for their work. Included would be bunks, desks, drafting tables, and a darkroom to develop photographs.

Creative Photography in the Field

Part of the fun Nat had during downtime was manipulating photographs. For the image below, a landscape photograph was used as the backdrop for a cutout of a frog. Photographs of three Seabees were cut out and placed into a makeshift landscape of real twigs, fern leaves, and other foliage. A photograph of the staged miniature scene was then taken. While this creation is on the fantastical side, at right is a more straightforward photo manipulation project romantically created by Nat in which his fiancée, Irene, appears to be on the beach with him. 

Nat and Irene 'together' on the beach, 1944–1945.

Black and white photomontage of Nat Bellantoni and his fiancee 'together' on a beach, 1944-1945.

Nat and Irene 'together' on the beach, 1944–1945.

Nat and Irene 'together' on the beach, 1944–1945.

Bambi & Moon Bear

Mascots of the 78th Battalion

Black and white photograph of Father Kofflin receiving a kiss from Bambi, 1945.

Father Kofflin receiving a kiss from Bambi, 1945.

Father Kofflin receiving a kiss from Bambi, 1945.

There have been famous mascots for military units throughout warfare. In the American Civil War, Old Abe was the beloved bald eagle mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment. In World War I, Rags (a mixed-breed terrier) was the canine mascot of the US 1st Infantry Division. 

Nat feeding Moon Bear, by Edwin Keegan, 1944. Inscribed by Nat to his fiancée Irene: Ora e sempre con amore! (Now and always with love!).

The men of the 78th Seabees also picked up local pets as mascots. On the Island of Ponam, in the Admiralty group, a local curiosity was found by James Wilson and Charles Tunnel—an Admiralty Island cuscus (a species of marsupial). It was given to Bruce Hulett of Company C and adopted as their beloved mascot Moon Bear.

Black and white photograph of Ed Keegan feeding Moon Bear, 1944.

Ed Keegan feeding Moon Bear, 1944.

Ed Keegan feeding Moon Bear, 1944.

During the battalion’s second tour of New Caledonia, in early 1945, Paul H. Bean found an orphaned Rusa deer fawn in the northern woods of the island. The men named it Bambi and instantly adopted it as their mascot. 

Two black and white photographs next to each other showing Bambi with her caretakers (Paul Bean at left and Bill Wile at right), 1945.

Bambi with her caretakers (Paul Bean at left and Bill Wile at right), 1945.

Bambi with her caretakers (Paul Bean at left and Bill Wile at right), 1945.

Bean cared for Bambi until he left for stateside leave, at which time William Wile adopted the “chow-hound.” Nat drew an oversize portrait of Bambi, which he hung in the studio he shared with photographer Ed Keegan—who is seen happily feeding the fawn milk with a modified beer bottle in the photograph below.

Ed Keegan with Bambi, 1945.

Ed Keegan with Bambi, 1945.

Nat's portrait of Bambi hanging above a bunk and Ed's desk, New Caledonia, 1945.

Black and white photograph of Nat Bellantoni feeding the cuscus Moon Bear on his shoulder, taken by Edwin Keegan, 1944, inscribed at the bottom by Nat to his fiancée Irene: Ora e sempre con amore! (Now and always with love!).

Nat feeding Moon Bear, by Edwin Keegan, 1944. Inscribed by Nat to his fiancée Irene: Ora e sempre con amore! (Now and always with love!).

Nat feeding Moon Bear, by Edwin Keegan, 1944. Inscribed by Nat to his fiancée Irene: Ora e sempre con amore! (Now and always with love!).

Black and white photograph of Nat's portrait of Bambi hanging above a bunk and Ed's desk, New Caledonia, 1945.

Nat's portrait of Bambi hanging above a bunk and Ed's desk, New Caledonia, 1945.

Nat's portrait of Bambi hanging above a bunk and Ed's desk, New Caledonia, 1945.

Black and white photograph of a dog wearing sunglasses, no date.

Dog, n.d.
While it is unknown if this pup was adopted by men of the 78th, this charming snap was sent home for Irene to see.

Dog, n.d.
While it is unknown if this pup was adopted by men of the 78th, this charming snap was sent home for Irene to see.

Black and white photograph of a cat, no date.

Cat, n.d.

Cat, n.d.

Black and white close-up photograph of a frog, by Edwin Keegan, no date.

Frog, by Edwin Keegan, n.d.

Frog, by Edwin Keegan, n.d.

Black and white photograph of a dog wearing sunglasses, no date.

Dog, n.d.
While it is unknown if this pup was adopted by men of the 78th, this charming snap was sent home for Irene to see.

Dog, n.d.
While it is unknown if this pup was adopted by men of the 78th, this charming snap was sent home for Irene to see.

Black and white photograph of a cat, no date.

Cat, n.d.

Cat, n.d.

Black and white close-up photograph of a frog, by Edwin Keegan, no date.

Frog, by Edwin Keegan, n.d.

Frog, by Edwin Keegan, n.d.

Far from the Front

Recreation on New Caledonia

Black and white photograph of swimmers at the Dumbea beach swimming hole, New Caledonia, 1945.

Dumbéa Swimming Hole, New Caledonia, 1945.

Dumbéa Swimming Hole, New Caledonia, 1945.

After a twelve-month period of continuous duty near the front lines, the 78th were relieved to be assigned to the relative safety of New Caledonia in December 1944. Billeted in Quonset huts in the shadow of Mont Dore, they performed mainly routine duties, which gave them almost unlimited time for liberty.  

Black and white photograph of a military Camp with Quonset huts in the shadow of Mont Dore, 1945.

Camp with Quonset huts in the shadow of Mont Dore, 1945.

Camp with Quonset huts in the shadow of Mont Dore, 1945.

Black and white photograph of men diving into the water at a swimming hole on New Caledonia, 1945.

Swimming Hole, New Caledonia, 1945.

Swimming Hole, New Caledonia, 1945.

Black and white photogrpah of men of the 78th Seabees taking a swimming class, New Caledonia, 1945.

Swimming Class, New Caledonia, 1945.

Swimming Class, New Caledonia, 1945.

Black and white photograph of a Seabee falling over while water skiing, while two others watch on the back of a motor boat, 1945.

Water Skiing, New Caledonia, 1945.

Water Skiing, New Caledonia, 1945.

Black and white photograph of men diving into the water at a swimming hole on New Caledonia, 1945.

Swimming Hole, New Caledonia, 1945.

Swimming Hole, New Caledonia, 1945.

Black and white photogrpah of men of the 78th Seabees taking a swimming class, New Caledonia, 1945.

Swimming Class, New Caledonia, 1945.

Swimming Class, New Caledonia, 1945.

Black and white photograph of a Seabee falling over while water skiing, while two others watch on the back of a motor boat, 1945.

Water Skiing, New Caledonia, 1945.

Water Skiing, New Caledonia, 1945.

Touring the capital of Nouméa and visiting the surrounding farms and monasteries of the indigenous people and descendants of French colonists were just part of their fun. Photographs in Nat’s archive reveal swimming at the beach in Dumbéa, participating in the 78th’s baseball club, engaging in rifle practice, creating a victory garden, and building their third battalion chapel.

Saint Joseph's Cathedral, Nouméa, New Caledonia, 1943–1945.

Black and white photograph of Seabee Al Perron looking at a monument in Noumea, New Caledonia, December 1944.

Al Perron, December 1944.

Al Perron, December 1944.


Black and white photograph of two Seabees exploring a city street on New Caledonia, 1944.

Seabees exploring New Caledonia, 1944.

Seabees exploring New Caledonia, 1944.

These people were swell to us - all sisters the little old lady in the center spoke Italian very well!! Downing & Jim, Noumea, New Caledonia [Note on back], 1945.

Black and white photograph of the front of Saint Joseph's Cathedral, Nouméa, New Caledonia, 1943–1945.

Saint Joseph's Cathedral, Nouméa, New Caledonia, 1943–1945.

Saint Joseph's Cathedral, Nouméa, New Caledonia, 1943–1945.

Black and white photograph of two Seabees, Downing and Jim, with three local "little old ladies" in Noumea, New Caledonia, 1945.

These people were swell to us - all sisters the little old lady in the center spoke Italian very well!! Downing & Jim, Noumea, New Caledonia [Note on back], 1945.

These people were swell to us - all sisters the little old lady in the center spoke Italian very well!! Downing & Jim, Noumea, New Caledonia [Note on back], 1945.

Black and white photograph of the dedication of Kofflin Field Recreation Area, New Caledonia, 1945.

Comdr. Cameron (left) congratulates Chaplain Koffiin at dedication of field in honor of his fine work. 1945.

Comdr. Cameron (left) congratulates Chaplain Koffiin at dedication of field in honor of his fine work. 1945.

Black and white photograph of the 78th Baseball Club members sitting on bleachers, New Caledonia, 1945.

78th Baseball Club — SoPac and National League champions, New Caledonia, 1945.
“Winners of the SoPac league, victors over the National league champions and semi-finalists in the fight for the New Caledonia baseball title is the fine record achieved by the 78th Battalion team while stationed at New Caledonia in early 1945.” –The 78th’s Battalion Log, page 77.

78th Baseball Club — SoPac and National League champions, New Caledonia, 1945.
“Winners of the SoPac league, victors over the National league champions and semi-finalists in the fight for the New Caledonia baseball title is the fine record achieved by the 78th Battalion team while stationed at New Caledonia in early 1945.” –The 78th’s Battalion Log, page 77.

Black and white photograph of members of the 78th Seabees playing baseball on Ponam Island in 1944, with "Rube" Daniels striking out.

"Rube" Daniels strikes out, Ponam, 1944.

"Rube" Daniels strikes out, Ponam, 1944.

Black and white photograph showing Ed Keegan from behind photographing a Seabee looking across Magenta Bay to Mont Dore, New Caledonia, 1943–1945.

Ed Keegan photographing a Seabee looking across Magenta Bay to Mont Dore, New Caledonia, 1943–1945.
After returning to New Caledonia in December 1944, many of the 78th spent five days on unrestricted liberty. Nat and his buddies took a five day sight-seeing tour outside of the Noumea district to explore the rest of the island. This included visiting the villages of Houaliou, Kone, LaFoa and Bourail. There are many photos in Nat’s collection of the activities they got up to and the people they met along the way.

Ed Keegan photographing a Seabee looking across Magenta Bay to Mont Dore, New Caledonia, 1943–1945.
After returning to New Caledonia in December 1944, many of the 78th spent five days on unrestricted liberty. Nat and his buddies took a five day sight-seeing tour outside of the Noumea district to explore the rest of the island. This included visiting the villages of Houaliou, Kone, LaFoa and Bourail. There are many photos in Nat’s collection of the activities they got up to and the people they met along the way.

Black and white photograph of Seabee Al Perron showing in a natural waterfall on New Caledonia, 1944-1945.

Al couldn't turn this shower off!! [Note on back] 1944–1945.

Al couldn't turn this shower off!! [Note on back] 1944–1945.

Black and white photograph of Ed Keegan riding a mule on New Caledonia, 1944-1945.

Ed said "The mule had a mind of its own." [Note on back] 1944–1945.

Ed said "The mule had a mind of its own." [Note on back] 1944–1945.

Black and white photograph showing four young Kanak people in a wagon pulled by two Indian cows being led by another Kanak man, 1944.

Up the island, New Caledonia [Note on back], 1944.
This photograph is one of many featuring the indigenous Kanak people of the island. Nat and his fellow Seabees were clearly fascinated by them but Nat’s archive is limited to the Seabee perspective of how the Kanak felt about this surge in Americans on the island: happy to meet them and hospitable.

Up the island, New Caledonia [Note on back], 1944.
This photograph is one of many featuring the indigenous Kanak people of the island. Nat and his fellow Seabees were clearly fascinated by them but Nat’s archive is limited to the Seabee perspective of how the Kanak felt about this surge in Americans on the island: happy to meet them and hospitable.

Black and white photograph of two Caldoches people seated in front of their summer home towards the north of New Caledonia, 1944.

Summer home up the island. These people live in Noumea, New Caledonia [note on back], 1944.
There are also over a dozen photos of Caldoches, the native born descendants of French colonists on the island. Nat wrote to Irene of meeting these folks and their unique monasteries and chapels he found in the hinterlands.

Summer home up the island. These people live in Noumea, New Caledonia [note on back], 1944.
There are also over a dozen photos of Caldoches, the native born descendants of French colonists on the island. Nat wrote to Irene of meeting these folks and their unique monasteries and chapels he found in the hinterlands.

Black and white photograph of five seabees standing in front of the Mont D'Ore Chapel, New Caledonia, 1945.

Mont Dore Chapel, New Caledonia, 1945.
This is the third battalion chapel the 78th built during the war. Behind the chapel, the battalion managed a large Victory Garden with a specially rigged wood barrier that routed stream water into troughs for irrigation.

Mont Dore Chapel, New Caledonia, 1945.
This is the third battalion chapel the 78th built during the war. Behind the chapel, the battalion managed a large Victory Garden with a specially rigged wood barrier that routed stream water into troughs for irrigation.

Black and white photograph of Martha O'Driscoll singing at a USO show in New Caledonia, 1945.

Martha O'Driscoll, 1945.
An American film actress from 1937 until 1947, Martha O’Driscoll toured with Errol Flynn and other entertainers in the USO in the early 1940s. She performed for the troops in the Aleutians in 1943 and the South Pacific in 1945.

Martha O'Driscoll, 1945.
An American film actress from 1937 until 1947, Martha O’Driscoll toured with Errol Flynn and other entertainers in the USO in the early 1940s. She performed for the troops in the Aleutians in 1943 and the South Pacific in 1945.

Black and white photograph of a stage and empty bleachers where USO shows would perform for the troops on Okinawa, 1945.

Stage, Okinawa, 1945.
The USO, United Services Organizations, put on 420,000 performances for American troops during World War II. The camps built throughout the Pacific had stages (such as this one) where both troops themselves and famous stars would perform to keep morale up. Performers varied from big names like Bob Hope to lesser known acts. But famed matter little to the service men and women who watched the shows and were temporarily transported away from the realities of war around them.

Stage, Okinawa, 1945.
The USO, United Services Organizations, put on 420,000 performances for American troops during World War II. The camps built throughout the Pacific had stages (such as this one) where both troops themselves and famous stars would perform to keep morale up. Performers varied from big names like Bob Hope to lesser known acts. But famed matter little to the service men and women who watched the shows and were temporarily transported away from the realities of war around them.

Black and white photograph of four USO performers on stage in New Caledonia, three men dressed as women and one woman at the microphone, all from the "Fun for Your Money" ensemble, 1945.

Comic Sid "Don't-bend-da-soot!" Gould (left) performs as part of the Fun for Your Money ensemble, New Caledonia, 1945.

Comic Sid "Don't-bend-da-soot!" Gould (left) performs as part of the Fun for Your Money ensemble, New Caledonia, 1945.

Black and white photograph of a woman doing a split in front members of the Neptunes playing their saxophones, 1945.

The Neptunes perform behind a member of O'Driscoll Troupe, 1945.

The Neptunes perform behind a member of O'Driscoll Troupe, 1945.

Black and white photograph of the dedication of Kofflin Field Recreation Area, New Caledonia, 1945.

Comdr. Cameron (left) congratulates Chaplain Koffiin at dedication of field in honor of his fine work. 1945.

Comdr. Cameron (left) congratulates Chaplain Koffiin at dedication of field in honor of his fine work. 1945.

Black and white photograph of the 78th Baseball Club members sitting on bleachers, New Caledonia, 1945.

78th Baseball Club — SoPac and National League champions, New Caledonia, 1945.
“Winners of the SoPac league, victors over the National league champions and semi-finalists in the fight for the New Caledonia baseball title is the fine record achieved by the 78th Battalion team while stationed at New Caledonia in early 1945.” –The 78th’s Battalion Log, page 77.

78th Baseball Club — SoPac and National League champions, New Caledonia, 1945.
“Winners of the SoPac league, victors over the National league champions and semi-finalists in the fight for the New Caledonia baseball title is the fine record achieved by the 78th Battalion team while stationed at New Caledonia in early 1945.” –The 78th’s Battalion Log, page 77.

Black and white photograph of members of the 78th Seabees playing baseball on Ponam Island in 1944, with "Rube" Daniels striking out.

"Rube" Daniels strikes out, Ponam, 1944.

"Rube" Daniels strikes out, Ponam, 1944.

Black and white photograph showing Ed Keegan from behind photographing a Seabee looking across Magenta Bay to Mont Dore, New Caledonia, 1943–1945.

Ed Keegan photographing a Seabee looking across Magenta Bay to Mont Dore, New Caledonia, 1943–1945.
After returning to New Caledonia in December 1944, many of the 78th spent five days on unrestricted liberty. Nat and his buddies took a five day sight-seeing tour outside of the Noumea district to explore the rest of the island. This included visiting the villages of Houaliou, Kone, LaFoa and Bourail. There are many photos in Nat’s collection of the activities they got up to and the people they met along the way.

Ed Keegan photographing a Seabee looking across Magenta Bay to Mont Dore, New Caledonia, 1943–1945.
After returning to New Caledonia in December 1944, many of the 78th spent five days on unrestricted liberty. Nat and his buddies took a five day sight-seeing tour outside of the Noumea district to explore the rest of the island. This included visiting the villages of Houaliou, Kone, LaFoa and Bourail. There are many photos in Nat’s collection of the activities they got up to and the people they met along the way.

Black and white photograph of Seabee Al Perron showing in a natural waterfall on New Caledonia, 1944-1945.

Al couldn't turn this shower off!! [Note on back] 1944–1945.

Al couldn't turn this shower off!! [Note on back] 1944–1945.

Black and white photograph of Ed Keegan riding a mule on New Caledonia, 1944-1945.

Ed said "The mule had a mind of its own." [Note on back] 1944–1945.

Ed said "The mule had a mind of its own." [Note on back] 1944–1945.

Black and white photograph showing four young Kanak people in a wagon pulled by two Indian cows being led by another Kanak man, 1944.

Up the island, New Caledonia [Note on back], 1944.
This photograph is one of many featuring the indigenous Kanak people of the island. Nat and his fellow Seabees were clearly fascinated by them but Nat’s archive is limited to the Seabee perspective of how the Kanak felt about this surge in Americans on the island: happy to meet them and hospitable.

Up the island, New Caledonia [Note on back], 1944.
This photograph is one of many featuring the indigenous Kanak people of the island. Nat and his fellow Seabees were clearly fascinated by them but Nat’s archive is limited to the Seabee perspective of how the Kanak felt about this surge in Americans on the island: happy to meet them and hospitable.

Black and white photograph of two Caldoches people seated in front of their summer home towards the north of New Caledonia, 1944.

Summer home up the island. These people live in Noumea, New Caledonia [note on back], 1944.
There are also over a dozen photos of Caldoches, the native born descendants of French colonists on the island. Nat wrote to Irene of meeting these folks and their unique monasteries and chapels he found in the hinterlands.

Summer home up the island. These people live in Noumea, New Caledonia [note on back], 1944.
There are also over a dozen photos of Caldoches, the native born descendants of French colonists on the island. Nat wrote to Irene of meeting these folks and their unique monasteries and chapels he found in the hinterlands.

Black and white photograph of five seabees standing in front of the Mont D'Ore Chapel, New Caledonia, 1945.

Mont Dore Chapel, New Caledonia, 1945.
This is the third battalion chapel the 78th built during the war. Behind the chapel, the battalion managed a large Victory Garden with a specially rigged wood barrier that routed stream water into troughs for irrigation.

Mont Dore Chapel, New Caledonia, 1945.
This is the third battalion chapel the 78th built during the war. Behind the chapel, the battalion managed a large Victory Garden with a specially rigged wood barrier that routed stream water into troughs for irrigation.

Black and white photograph of Martha O'Driscoll singing at a USO show in New Caledonia, 1945.

Martha O'Driscoll, 1945.
An American film actress from 1937 until 1947, Martha O’Driscoll toured with Errol Flynn and other entertainers in the USO in the early 1940s. She performed for the troops in the Aleutians in 1943 and the South Pacific in 1945.

Martha O'Driscoll, 1945.
An American film actress from 1937 until 1947, Martha O’Driscoll toured with Errol Flynn and other entertainers in the USO in the early 1940s. She performed for the troops in the Aleutians in 1943 and the South Pacific in 1945.

Black and white photograph of a stage and empty bleachers where USO shows would perform for the troops on Okinawa, 1945.

Stage, Okinawa, 1945.
The USO, United Services Organizations, put on 420,000 performances for American troops during World War II. The camps built throughout the Pacific had stages (such as this one) where both troops themselves and famous stars would perform to keep morale up. Performers varied from big names like Bob Hope to lesser known acts. But famed matter little to the service men and women who watched the shows and were temporarily transported away from the realities of war around them.

Stage, Okinawa, 1945.
The USO, United Services Organizations, put on 420,000 performances for American troops during World War II. The camps built throughout the Pacific had stages (such as this one) where both troops themselves and famous stars would perform to keep morale up. Performers varied from big names like Bob Hope to lesser known acts. But famed matter little to the service men and women who watched the shows and were temporarily transported away from the realities of war around them.

Black and white photograph of four USO performers on stage in New Caledonia, three men dressed as women and one woman at the microphone, all from the "Fun for Your Money" ensemble, 1945.

Comic Sid "Don't-bend-da-soot!" Gould (left) performs as part of the Fun for Your Money ensemble, New Caledonia, 1945.

Comic Sid "Don't-bend-da-soot!" Gould (left) performs as part of the Fun for Your Money ensemble, New Caledonia, 1945.

Black and white photograph of a woman doing a split in front members of the Neptunes playing their saxophones, 1945.

The Neptunes perform behind a member of O'Driscoll Troupe, 1945.

The Neptunes perform behind a member of O'Driscoll Troupe, 1945.

They knew the good times would not last forever. By June, the men of the 78th were aboard the USS J. Franklin Bell, on their way to building a base of operations to launch the invasion of Japan.

Black and white photograph of nine Seabees lined up for a toast, New Caledonia, 1944–1945.

Seabees lined up for a toast, New Caledonia, 1944–1945.

Seabees lined up for a toast, New Caledonia, 1944–1945.

Seabees Sightseeing

Touring Okinawa After V-J Day