Tag Archives: WWII

June 6, 2019: St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum to commemorate 75th anniversary of D-Day

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL – The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum will commemorate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day on Thursday, June 6, 2019 with special programs honoring our military. The ongoing programming will take place from 10 AM to 6 PM, with free admission for veterans and active U.S. military on this day.

The Museum will display “Field of Honor” signs on the front lawn of the Keepers’ House honoring friends and loved ones who have served. Donation is $50 per sign. To honor your loved one, order your sign online below, or please contact Tresa Calfee at tcalfee@staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745, ext. 212.

ORDER SIGN HERE

Donations will go toward our upcoming permanent WWII exhibit, which will include items that relate to St. Augustine during World War II. The exhibit will display some of the 2,000 items currently housed in the Museum’s collection.

“Our collection primarily relates to United States Coast Guard (USCG), including the Women’s Reserve known as SPARS, with material specifically related to the people that trained or were stationed at the USCG centers in St. Augustine,” explains Jason Titcomb, Chief Curator at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.  “The breadth of the historic materials include military uniforms and accessories, military equipment, USCG training material, local USCG newspapers publications and primary source documents specific to the St. Augustine Lighthouse while it served as a coastal lookout for national defense.”

The collection also contains oral histories and photographs belonging to military personnel and residents in St. Augustine and North Florida region.  These photographs and personal accounts bring to life the significance that the community played during World War II.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is conducting an oral history project focusing on the legacy of Northeast Florida during World War II. Our mission is to preserve these stories for future generations. We are looking to hear from anyone who served in the war, lived in the area during the war, or have relatives whose stories you would be willing to share. If interested please contact Jay Smith at jsmith@staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745 ext. 240 for more information.

The Tin Pickle Local Gedunk will serve food throughout the day. A gedunk is a canteen or snack bar aboard a large vessel of the U.S. Navy. This WWII-themed eatery features baked goods, specialty hot dogs and sandwiches, snacks, house-made fudge, sangria and locally brewed beer. 

For more details about the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, visit staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745. Stay updated on social media at facebook.com/staugustinelighthouse, Instagram.com/stauglighthouse, and twitter.com/firstlighthouse

ABOUT THE ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MARITIME MUSEUM:

A defensive and navigation tool and landmark of St. Augustine for 145 years, the St. Augustine Light Station watches over the waters of the Nation’s Oldest Port®. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, Inc. is on a mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port® as symbolized by our working lighthouse. We are the parent organization to the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. (StAugustineLighthouse.org)

ABOUT THE AMERICAN ALLIANCE OF MUSEUMS:

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. As the ultimate mark of distinction in the museum field, accreditation signifies excellence and credibility. Accreditation helps to ensure the integrity and accessibility of museum collections,  and reinforces the education and public service roles of museums and promote good governance practices and ethical behavior. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. (www.aam-us.org) 

Discoveries at the Barracks

The World War II-era United States Coast Guard (USCG) structure on site is currently being restored after serving as office space for many years at the Museum. The structure was constructed after the US entered into World War II. Before December 1941, the US military was in various stages of mobilization that included increasing military personnel, munitions and equipment.

The official telegram that head keeper Daniels received, which initiated a military mobilization plan that officially directed the US Navy to absorb the USCG (note that this occurs in November 1941 before the Pearl Harbor attack).

As war was declared, there was rapid action to train troops and prepare the US for overseas warfare. As the US prepared to enter into multiple war fronts, plans were developed and initiated for home front security. As part of this process, the USCG fell under direction of the US Navy. The Museum’s collections provide a glimpse into some of these rapidly developing events and the role the Lighthouse and Light Station played during the wartime effort. We are fortunate enough to have some of the original Keepers’ records here at the Museum.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, military actions were intensified. Lighthouses along our coastline were immediately designated coastal lookouts serving to monitor boat traffic and identify any German U-boats in a region that would pose as an immediate threat. The US military forces, including the USCG, initiated routine patrol to guard our shorelines, albeit with limited resources. Coastal defense needed additional support and the USCG developed a series of infrastructure series of lookout towers strategically placed along the coastline. Additionally, a beach patrol was established on the coast with a combination of coastguardsmen: on foot with patrol dogs, on horseback and in some areas, in Jeeps. Training centers were established for this new defense effort and local infrastructure further grew to protect our coastlines from saboteurs and to help identify foreign invaders.

At our Lighthouse, the strategy was to construct a coastal lookout dwelling; it was finished and occupied in 1942. The dwelling (aka the Barracks) was built to house at least four coastguardsmen. Their job was to be on duty at the top of the tower 24/7, and report boat traffic (among other things) as part of the coastal defensive system. Unfortunately, there is limited documentation regarding this structure, but some information has been gleaned from past renovation projects as well as some of our original Keepers’ records. A Barracks reroofing project years ago produced a couple of fascinating finds. Among the layers of the former roofing projects, interesting details emerged surrounding construction activity at the Light Station. Original roof material was still present beneath a replacement metal roof. When this metal was removed, examples of original shingles were found! On the reverse side of these shingles was the name and location of the local manufacturer (nearby Palatka).

Shingles with manufacturer’s stamp.

The other amazing find was a section of roofing liner below the wood shingles with a portion of it signed by the individuals believed to have laid the roofing material, as well as the person who completed the electrical work. The fragments of paper are amazingly preserved and one can still clearly read the date of “April 28th 1942” for when the work was completed, and that the laborers were from Daytona Beach (possibly an indication of how busy it was in St. Augustine).

Fragment of paper showing the name and location of the laborers.

By the beginning of May, keeper correspondence suggests the structure is ready for occupation with mentions that the furniture has arrived (including a studio couch, for those who are curious). As staff has conducted searches in correspondence, we have previously been able to note some timeline issues or like most construction projects, a “delay” or “problem” during construction. For example, the coastal dwelling Keeper correspondence from August 1942 indicates the structure and wiring are complete, but additional work is required in order to connect to the main power line. We have also discovered that our first coastguardsmen reporting for lookout duty arrived in July 1942.

Letter from C.D. Daniels confirming arrival and subsequent assignment of coastguardsmen.

A copy of Keeper Daniels’ official report to superiors notes their arrival, and that yet again the dwelling is not quite ready for occupation. When we examine the roster of who arrives, one name is familiar to us: H.D. Defee. He is of interest to us because Defee’s name was previously found etched in concrete by the garage of the same time period. Interestingly, we know the concrete work was completed in 1944 so apparently he had at least a couple stints at the Lighthouse during the war. Restoration projects often reveal history that would not ever be found in any record. This is the case here at the Lighthouse. We suspect that as the restoration project continues, we are sure to find additional surprises!

Contributed by Chief Curator Jason Titcomb, edited by Student Intern Jayda Barnes