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Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, James Trumbull joined the Navy at the age of 36 and served as a Chief Machinist Mate with the Seabees. Having worked in the Hercules Silver Mine of north Idaho, he already possessed the skills to operate and fix heavy equipment. He started his service on a ship in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and traveled to many islands in the western Pacific Ocean. His job was to build airfields out of beaches and jungle. I definitely feel a connection to him as we have been trying to establish stable foundations out of sand this whole deployment.

Back when I was still in high school, my dad showed me Grandpa Trumbull’s WWII trunk full of pictures and mementos from overseas. I didn’t fully appreciate all that it contained, having had no military experience myself. Although he was taken by cancer when I was five years old, Grandpa Trumbull was an extraordinary person to me. The treasures of his trunk have grown to have significantly more personal meaning as I complete my second overseas deployment. Over the past year, I have been able to scan and try to restore some photos from several photo albums preserved in his trunk.

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The feature photo above is the only photo I have seen with him in front of the camera. I love how he is posing calmly beside the overturned dozer. When sand is wet, things can quickly go awry. It is typical for Soldiers (or seamen in this case) to share photos, so I know that he did not take all of these photos himself.  Several of these photos have copies that can be found on the internet, yet there is very little information surrounding their origin. While searching online for connections with photos ranging from Saipan to San Fabian, many references included the Marines that first took control of these strategic islands.  I found some short videos on that cover two of the main battles:

Battle of Guadalcanal

Battle of Saipan

As an Army Engineer, I appreciate the proud history of the Navy Seabees. Without realizing it, I followed a similar military career as my grandfather to build and shape the battlefields of far off countries. In a few pictures, I recognize the M88 Hercules Heavy Recovery Vehicle still used today. I look forward to returning home not only to see my family and friends but to reopen Grandpa Trumbull’s war trunk will a new understanding and appreciation.


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