Historical Treasure: Prized artifact: World War II Navy uniform

Submitted photoCaption: World War II Navy uniform and photograph of Terre Haute “Seabee” Carl Mahurin, taken in 1941.

It isn’t every day a beautifully preserved World War II Navy Uniform shows up among the donated artifacts at the Vigo County Historical Museum. But when one does and it’s accompanied by a biographic profile of the veteran along with a photograph of him wearing the uniform; it’s like hitting the history maker’s jackpot.

The museum holds a vast collection of historic clothing and textiles from Victorian lace to heirloom quilts, and top hats to military uniforms. Although I wish I knew the story behind each of them, several of the articles come from an obscure past. So much can be learned from the personal clothing and everyday accessories of the past. Yet, beyond the details of how and when they arrived at the museum, many remain a mystery.

Thankfully, this week’s Historical Treasure is not one of those tales of the unknown, but rather it’s the Navy uniform of Carl Mahurin. Carl was born in Pimento Indiana in 1917. Later, he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Stationed in the Philippines he was a Seabee or member of the United States Navy Construction Battalion (CB). The word “Seabee” comes from the initials “CB.” The uniform, which includes a cap, jumper, pea coat and trousers, was donated to the museum by the family of Carl Mahurin, along with the framed photo of him taken in 1941.

The Fighting Seabees were recruited from civilian construction trades and were known for, among many skills, their ability to build just about anything from scratch. As American troops joined the fight overseas, there was much that needed building and the Seabees were there to meet the challenge.

They constructed fuel tank fields, camps, roads and airstrips, often completed while under enemy fire. This group of trained recruits adopted the motto, “Can Do” because there wasn’t much they couldn’t. The Seabee battalions fought for their country while literally “paving” the road to victory. Some believe the Allied powers wouldn’t have triumphed if not for the extraordinary efforts of the U.S. Navy Seabees.

Applying the trade and skill that served him during his military enlistment, Carl Mahurin continued to work as an electrician after the war. In 2009, Carl was laid to rest at the age of 92. He spent most of his life working in Terre Haute as a successful electrical contractor.

The Vigo County Historical Society Museum is now open. With appropriate sanitizing, social distancing and face masks, we encourage you to come enjoy a safe atmosphere to learn about our county history. Memberships are available online at www.vchsmuseum.org.

Temporary hours 

The museum will be closed on Sundays through Aug. 30. New temporary hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

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