Traveling Tuesday: New Mexico During WWII
Most students of WWII know that New Mexico was home to the famous (infamous?) Manhattan Project, the government project centered around developing nuclear weapons. However, the forty-seventh state made other contributions to the war effort.
With nearly 50,000 men in the armed forces, New Mexico had both the highest volunteer rate and the highest casualty rate of the forty-eight states that were then in the Union. In addition, hundreds of men from the New Mexico National Guard were in the Philippines at Clark Field and Fort Stotsenburg manning anti-aircraft guns when the area was bombed by the Japanese only ten hours after the attack at Pearl Harbor.
Many of the famed Navajo code-talkers came from New Mexico. Philip Johnston, a WWI veteran who was fluent in the Navajo language, helped recruit the “original twenty-nine,” as they were called, who developed the code that was modified as the war progressed. About 540 Navajos served in the Marine Corps, of whom 400 served as code-talkers.
New Mexico was home to nearly sixty military installations from Airbases and Gunnery Ranges to Army Hospitals and Camps. The most prominent airbase was Kirtland Field in Albuquerque. Originally an advanced flight school for Air Corps pilot, the base was converted to a major base used to train B-24 crewmen, B-29 pilots, A-11 pilots, glider pilots, mechanics, navigators, and other air personnel.
Like many western and southwestern states, New Mexico was home to internment camps, mostly holding individuals of Japanese descent. Unfortunately, there was a shooting death in 1942 at Camp Lordsburg and a riot at Camp Santa Fe in 1945 that marred the otherwise peaceful existence within the camps. There were also POW camps in the state that imprisoned German and Italian soldiers. An escape from Camp Stanton occurred in November 1942, but the four prisoners were quickly caught and returned.
Have you ever visited the beautiful state of New Mexico?