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A stop in New Orleans

sunny 95 °F

Hi Y'all;

The destination today is but 1 1/2 hrs. west of Biloxi in Slidell, LA just north of New Orleans.

Before leaving I wanted to visit 2 museums here. One is the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum in Biloxi (pronounced, Ba luck see) and the second located in Gulfport about 20 miles west, the US Navy Seabee Heritage Center.

Reflecting on my Biloxi visit I found the area to be a 'sleeper', one that I never considered visiting but am now glad that I did. Hurricane Katrina's damage got the news coverage in New Orleans but the Mississippi coast was extremely devastated by the storm, as well. It has taken years to recover from Katrina but it is now, once again a popular destination, one that I would return to visit. The area has remaining vestiges of the 'Old South' with the friendliness of the people, with an up-to-date twist of the prosperity generated by tourism, the dozen casinos, and the Air Base. As recently as 1960 the Black people were not allowed to walk on the beaches then reserved for Whites only. A plaque denotes the Black protest to allow beachwalking. Amazing!

The Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum was well worth the time spent. It chronicled the harvest of the abundant marine food of shrimp and oysters beginning in the 1700's. Biloxi was founded in 1699 by French explorers. Displayed were examples of boats used in harvesting these sea creatures. Sailing vessels were built with only a 6" draft allowing the fishermen to get into shallow waters. Also shown were the development of nets and then the progression to mechanical power in the boats allowing greater control beyond wind power. Illustrated were the intense labor requirements to clean the shrimp and oysters, and the child labor used in the packing houses. Days would begin at 0400 with families including children being required to contribute. The children would leave for school before 0800 and then report back after school to work on into the evenings. Dreadful. Pay was determined by how much weight in shrimp or oysters could be cleaned, and payment was made in company script, not US currency. Company stores would accept the script for items to be purchased. Many parallels are made with the coal industry's working conditions. Until a shrimp shucking machine was invented by a local businessman all the shrimp had to be cleaned by hand. The invention replaced what 50 workers could clean per hour. The same with oysters. They were steamed which opened the shells, then the meat had to be removed by hand and placed into cans for shipment to markets. Very laborious, tedius work and pay was based on the weight produced by the shucker.

Today's destination was only 85 miles down the road so I chose to stop at the US Navy's Seabee Heritage Center in Gulfport. The museum is on the Navy base where Navy Seabee Construction Battalions are trained. After passing the usual clearances at the base I visited the museum. I was particularly interested because I served in an Army Combat Engineering unit. The Navy's Seabees differ in that while the missions are similar the mode of moving all the equipment must be by ship. Another difference is that when formed in early 1942 the Navy's approach to their combat construction mission was to create small battalions led by professionally educated engineers who were Commissioned Officers. They were supplemented by Non-Commissioned Officers (Sergeants or NCO's) who were drawn (drafted) from the civilian ranks of labor unions with specialties in carpentry, electrical, construction, heavy equipment operators, mechanics -- all the skilled trades. A typical Army Combat Batallion has 500-600 men. A Navy Seabee battalion has 5 officers, perhaps 50 NCO's and the rest of the required manpower for whatever task is drawn from the low ranking seamen. All their machines/equipment is carried on ships and put ashore where necessary. For example, in preparation for the D-Day landings Underwater Demolition Teams went in under the German's noses, to prepare the beaches for troop landings, clearing underwater obstacles. After the infantry went ashore the Seabees constructed piers in record time to off-load supplies, laid petroleum pipelines from England to France on the bottom of the English Channel to supply, for example, General Patton's 3rd Army's DAILY gasoline needs of 1 1/2 million gallons to keep his armored tanks and vehicles advancing. The whole thing is mind-boggling. The Seabee's built aircraft runways on Pacific Islands carved from the jungles, some constructed in a matter of days, thus enabling General MacArthur's Island-hopping campaign against the Japanese to succeed. Space here does not allow me to elaborate further. It was a very interesting stop along the way.

Posted by dixter 18:07 Archived in USA Tagged museums interesting two

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Great history so far. Keep it coming. From one history buff to another.

by kafera

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