1944: "IBEW Local 48 Goes To War"

1944:"IBEW Local 48 Goes To War"

IBEW goes to war in the 55th Naval Construction Battalion.   

World War II was drawing to a close when Electrician’s Mate First Class C.M. Stehman mailed this 1944 photo to IBEW Local 48.  The union published it in the February 1945 issue of IBEW’s Journal of Electrical Workers and Operators.  In the story accompanying the photo, the union noted that  “L.U. No. 48 thinks that all of these boys look mighty fine and fit and is very proud of them all and the whole I.B.E.W. joins Local 48 in that feeling.” 

Stehman was a member of IBEW Local 48 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  Three days later, Nazi Germany declared war on the United States.  The nation mobilized.  The ranks in Portland of veteran NECA contractors and journeyman electricians in IBEW Local 48 thinned out.  Stehman was one of those who left Portland for war in the Pacific.  This created opportunities for women and minorities, especially in Portland’s six shipyards, and would forever change the complexion of Local 48 and shape the character of the union to this day.

Stehman, third from the right in this official U.S. Navy photo above, was important if only because he was typical of thousands of journeyman electrician members of IBEW Local 48 who for the past 100 years have answered our nation’s call to military service. 

The Navy assigned Stehman to the Pacific Seebees.  They would endure mud, sweat and malaria in New Guinea in the 55th Naval Construction Battalion, happy to survive.  His particular “band of brothers” in the photo above included (L to R) George Bixley, IBEW Local 643, Carlsbad, New Mexico; Elmo Morrissey, IBEW Local 340, Sacramento; Henry C. Anderson, IBEW Local 77, Seattle; Roger V. Williams, IBEW Local 1025; Harold D. Henderson, IBEW Local 125, Portland; R.E. Stephens, IBEW Local B-11; C.M. Stehman, IBEW Local 48; Maynard Atterbury, IBEW Local 659, Central Point, Oregon; and Herbert L. Shanks, IBEW Local 728.  

As with most veterans called up for service to their country, those union electricians assigned to the Seebees expected to have a job waiting for them after the war.  The promise was implicit but by no means guaranteed.  Anyhow, in 1941, there was a war to be won, so off Stehman and others like him went, proud to serve and then very happy to return home safely. 

Local 48 members have served in our nation’s armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, during the War in Vietnam and in the Korean Conflict.  They served in the Rainbow Division during World War I and worldwide during World War II, as civilians in Portland’s shipyards and in the military, especially in construction and engineering units such as the Navy Seebees.  Patriotism and service remain hallmarks of Local 48.       


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