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125 Years Strong – An IUOE History

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Celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the founding of the International Union of Operating Engineers


INTERNATIONAL UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS SECOND WORLD WAR BORE HEROES, 273 GOLD STARS I.U.O.E. members serve as U.S. Navy “Seabees” during World War II. Members of the I.U.O.E. have consistently and heroically served the nation in times of war as members of the U.S. Armed Forces and as civilian contributors. During World War II, 17,891 members saw service in the military, 273 of whom paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives (symbolized by the military with a gold star) while fighting in the global conflict. A large proportion of the I.U.O.E. members who served did so in the famed U.S. Navy Construction Battalion “Seabees” and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Those members helped construct much of the vital wartime infrastructure needed to attain victory, including the 1,600-mile Alaska Highway (or ALCAN highway) connecting Alaska with the continental United States through Canada in 1942 and 1943 that used 11,000 pieces of road-building equipment manned by operating engineers; 1,284 airports within the United States; and portions of the 1,475-mile “Big Inch” and “Little Inch” petroleum pipelines from 1942 through 1944 that extended from Texas to New Jersey. Countless operating engineers also worked on military-dedicated construction jobs in Europe and the Pacific Islands, as well as Newfoundland, Greenland, Labrador, Trinidad, British New Guinea, Arabia and Egypt. In another symbol of the union’s vital contributions to the war effort, the I.U.O.E. was honored for its part in winning an Army-Navy “E” award for the Consolidated Engineering Company of Baltimore for the construction of the Naval Air Station at Cedar Point, Maryland. (The “E” Award was an honor presented to companies during World War II whose production facilities achieved “Excellence in Production” of war equipment.) What’s more, I.U.O.E. Local No. 235 of Wilmington, California, was commended on December 7, 1945, for enabling the Los Angeles Port of Embarkation to successfully fulfill its mission, as members of the local maintained and operated the land and floating cranes essential to expeditious handling of the heavy munitions of war during over two years of around-theclock, highly accelerated operations. Among those many individual I.U.O.E. members who served with distinction in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard during the war, Brother Carl A. Carlson Jr. of Local No. 399 in Chicago was bestowed with the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to civilians by I.U.O.E. Local No. 399, Chicago, Brother Carl A. Carlson Jr. the president of the United States, for “courageous and distinguished service” for his actions at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base on May 21, 1944. Brother Carlson, a locomotive engineer with the Seabees, was assembling seven freight cars loaded with black gunpowder that day when three nearby munitions ships exploded. “Undeterred by two major explosions which left the docks and immediate vicinity in a blazing inferno, hurled heavily laden burning missiles over a wide area and pierced the cab of his locomotive,” according to the citation, he single-handedly finished coupling the cars and removed them from the danger zone. Pittsburgh Local No. 66 Brother William J. Shoemaker, a U.S. Army private and bulldozer operator with the Sixth Engineer Special Brigade in France, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second-highest decoration, for extraordinary gallantry on D-Day, the allied invasion of occupied France on June 6, 1944. Brother Shoemaker continued to work his bulldozer on the beaches of Normandy while it was a target of intense mortar and cannon fire from enemy Germans that day, dragging many capsized vehicles out of the surf and clearing obstructions from the beach. Demolishing road blocks and filling in anti-tank traps afterwards, according to the citation, “His courageous action permitted vehicles and armor to move out in support of the infantry troops.” I.U.O.E. Local No. 66, Pittsburgh, Brother William J. Shoemaker poses with his “Hellcat” bulldozer during World War II. engineers helped build 50 large military camps, 30 troop-reception centers, 52 harbor-defense projects, 16 air-force projects and 148 other projects as part of the U.S. Army’s emergency defense requirements. In addition to construction work, I.U.O.E. members manned and maintained huge sewagedisposal plants, water pumps and immense cold-storage plants at the camps. “In fact, in almost every phase in speed production brought about by the necessity of housing, feeding and clothing an army in the shortest possible time, machinery played a big part,” The International Engineer December 1946 issue recounted, “and wherever there was power generated, there was found an operating engineer.” The I.U.O.E. also participated in conferences between the A.F.L. Building and Construction Trades Department and various agencies of the government, from which the Memorandum of Agreements were developed on August 1, 1941. Provisions of the treaty called for no work stoppages and protection of wage standards on military construction projects. Internally, the union on October 15, 1940, arranged for members who should volunteer or be drafted for military service in Canada or the United States to be provided with Service Withdrawal Cards, which provided exemption of dues and payment of Death Benefit Fund fees by the local unions. A few months later, the General Executive Board instructed the general president and general secretary-treasurer to purchase ,000 in Victory Bonds using the union’s Death Benefit funds on deposit in Canada. The United States entered World War II following the Japanese attack on the U.S. Naval Station at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. Immediately afterward, President Maloney addressed all I.U.O.E. locals on the importance of all members “to do their utmost within their power to help in bringing the war to a victorious conclusion.” He further declared, LABOR OMNIA VINCIT WORK CONQUERS ALL

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