This month’s featured artifact is a May 20th, 1944 issue of the ‘Penguinews’, a twice-monthly newsletter published by Naval Air Station Minneapolis throughout the war. The magazine’s name was derived from the air station’s insignia featuring a penguin on skis (a light-hearted nod to our northern location and climate) and was designed by Walt Disney Studios per direct request and adopted by the base in 1941.
The Penguinews was published by the public relations department on base and had its own production staff, editors and photographers. The publication was available to all on base and could be mailed out to personnel domestically for 1 ½ cents or 6 cents overseas.
The featured issue’s cover photo shows personnel of the U.S. Naval Women’s Reserve (‘WAVES’) working on the finer points of airframe fabric covering as a cadet and instructor walk past several N2S training aircraft on the tarmac in the spring of 1944. The newsletters were a realistic snapshot of life on the base during WWII. Most of the issues contained humorous or playful news from around the station, upcoming events such as parades, picnics and sporting events on base as well as the latest entertainment available such as what movies were being shown at the base theater or the latest books available in the base library.
The newsletters also include the names of individuals highlighted for a particular talent in the ‘Meet Your Mates’ or ‘Cadet of the Week’ sections as well as the names of current and former base personnel that may have been promoted, received awards or became casualties overseas. There was often an inspirational message from the base chaplain and important war news was often mentioned.
Most issues also included a separate page or a highlight of things happening at our own Fleming Field. Naval Air Station Minneapolis consisted of two bases with the main ‘A Base’ being located at Wold-Chamberlain Field (the current location of Minneapolis international Airport) and the auxiliary ‘B Base’ located ten miles to the east at Fleming Field in South Saint Paul. The addition of the B Base at Fleming Field roughly doubled the capability of the base to train aviation cadets when it was established in 1943.
The sole mission of Naval Air Station Minneapolis during the war was to serve as a primary training base for aviation cadets learning to fly and to prepare them for advance training prior to combat. While the pilots often got the glory, these publications illustrate that we would be remiss not to highlight the many dozens of supporting roles on the base making their own contribution to the war effort including the WAVES, storekeepers, seamen, yeomen, radiomen, mechanics, meteorologists, parachute riggers, metalsmiths and various other specialties that were absolutely vital in fulfilling that mission.
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