Continuing my remembrance of the days when the world was embroiled in war in two theaters, (Europe and the Pacific), living in the islands was tough. Our parents probably worked for the Department of the Navy at Sub Base, Naval Yard on Hassle Island, Water Island, Bourne Field or the Sick Bay at Lindberg Bay. Getting favorite food supplies was problematical. Everything came by ocean vessels and they were subject to attack by German U-boats. Commercial flights were limited, if any. Virtually all foods which were imported were purchased with ration stamps. You had to purchase your goods from you neighborhood grocer. There was an Office of Price Control to administer pricing for goods and commodities. Anyone who violated the orders of the OPC was subject to a fine. Even if you had enough money to purchase the entire stock of any commodity, the ration book governed. Families were allowed to purchase certain items and certain quantities periodically. The head of the household had to plan to wisely conserve and still provide for the needs of the family.The locals used many home-grown foods which made up for what was formerly imported. Certain cooking ingredients were hard to find and many substitutes had to be used. The Red Cross played a big roll in handing out gift boxes containing necessities to school children on all three islands.
There were air-raid wardens who were assigned to districts on the islands to ensure that everyone took the appropriate cover in the event that enemy aircraft approached the islands. School children practiced the drills while at school.They also ensured that lights were out every evening and that the islands were in total darkness. There were no radio stations on any of the islands at that time, and everyone who had a radio, tuned-in to Puerto Rico; those who had shortwave capability tuned-in to the BBC in London, England to listen the news and the events of the war.
Bourne Field, St. Thomas was a busy airfield during the war, Navy fighter aircrafts were in and out frequently while patrolling the Caribbean and the Atlantic. Their hangars were standing on the spot which now accommodates the terminal building for the Cyril E. King Airport and the field house which now accommodates the University of the Virgin Islands multi-purpose gymn. I was told that the Navy used the eastern most part of St. Thomas in the vicinity of Long Point for limited gunnery practice.
The islands made many contributions to the war effort, but to the newcomers and young folks this is not known.
I am sure that there are many more stories which could be told about the Virgin Islands experience during World War II.
Eric E. Dawson
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