The year is 1942 and the United States is at war. The government is in desperate need of trained men in the field of war production. The State Department of Education decides to set up a program wherein men of color would receive such training. Early in April, a request is sent to Xavier University of Louisiana asking them to take full charge of this unit, making the university its main center.
The picture above shows the second class of shipfitters who finished from Xavier’s War Unit Training Program in December of 1943. The first class, numbering thirty five, had already completed training in October of that year and were already employed by Higgins Industries (Higgins was based in New Orleans and was famous for the design and production of the Higgins boat, the landing craft used extensively in the D-Day invasion of Normandy).
Classes ran in two shifts: 10:30 A.M to 4:30 P.M. and 6:00 P.M. to midnight. The length of the course was four weeks and Higgins even provided instructors. Students received instruction not only in blue print reading and lay-out work, but also practical work in lining bulkheads and “fairing up”. They were also trained in the use of various types of tools.
Xavier University, in cooperation with the State Department of Education, also offered free training in welding, burning, tacking, machine shop work, auto mechanics and sheet metal work; in addition to the course in shipfitting. It was a great opportunity for men to prepare themselves for war work, as well as those who wanted to learn a trade for post war business.
Pictured above but not in order are (second class of shipfitters): Belmont Haydel, Joe Vaultz, Joe Longino, Benjamin Ammons, William R. Carter, Morris Moll, Malgy Theard, Peter McKey, Melvin Glover, Herbert Lang Jr., Raymond Glover, Curtis E.Johnson, Joseph A. Thompson.
[Click on the image for an enlarged view.]
Source: The Louisiana Weekly, 18 December 1941, page 1; Xavier University of Louisiana Archives.