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The Air-O-Mech is a newspaper published at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base (known at the time as Seymour Johnson Field) during World War II. It is now on DigitalNC thanks to our partner Wayne County Public Library. The paper’s first issue was published on January 8, 1943 and asked readers to submit a name for the paper and have a chance to win $5 if their name was selected. The initial paper also quotes Brigadier General Walter J. Reed’s support of the paper, with him stating “This field newspaper widens the scope of our news service. It will let you know about changes in Army regulations which concern you. It will describe the services available to you and your dependents through the Red Cross, the Army Emergency Relief and other agencies. It will tell you about your fellow soldiers, and pass on to you information on what is happening on the field.”
The headlines in the paper display both the humor of those stationed at Seymour Johnson as well as the seriousness of serving during the war, alternating between things such as “Hold Your Hats, Gang, All-Girl Revue is Here!” and “GI Wash Day Blues to End” (on a story about a new laundry facility opening) to “In our time of trial give us strength.” On the whole though, the paper definitely leans towards a light-hearted take on life on the base, and even includes in one issue a handy guide on how to get married in Wayne County where the base is located and the excitement over a new soda fountain being installed in the service cafeteria
The issues now on DigitalNC cover January 1943 to January 1944 and joins a number of other military newspapers on our site.
To learn more about our partner Wayne County Public Library, visit their partner page here and their website here.
Group of Soldiers Posed with Firestone Officials, from the Gaston Museum of Art & History.
This Veterans Day, we thought we’d mention some best bets for finding and searching materials on DigitalNC related to military history. Some time periods and subjects have better representation than others, so we’ve focused on the five wars that have the most related materials. This post has been updated in 2022 to show the most recent systems for our content.
Tip 1: Search by Subject
To isolate materials that are predominantly about a particular war, you can use the subject specific links listed below.
You can use the Advanced Search (see below where to find in the search window) to narrow your search.
Use the Advanced Search to further narrow your query
If you click one of the links above and then go into the Advanced Search, you can use more terms to further narrow your search. Using “partial phrase” is the best option to get the widest set of options that might fit that term. (see the graphic below that illustrates this)
You can also do a full text search that combines (1) your research interest (perhaps a name, a topic, or an event) in conjunction with (2) the name of a particular war. This may yield a lot more results, depending on your research interest, but it could also zero in on your target faster.
Only interested in photographs? Try this search, which is limited to photos that contain the word “military” or “soldiers” as a subject.
Tip 2: Search by Date Range
Another tactic is to search or browse items that were created during a particular war. These don’t always have that war as a subject term, but they often deal with wartime issues or society regardless.
A list of alumni and students killed or missing in action, from the 1944 UNC-Chapel Hill Yackety Yack yearbook, page 12.
Keep in mind that doing a full text search will be ineffective about 98% of the time when it comes to handwritten items on our site, as most do not have transcripts. This is just to let you know that you may need to read through handwritten items pulled up in one of the searches above if you believe they may contain information you’re interested in.
Our partners have shared a lot of yearbooks on DigitalNC and, while they may not be the first thing that comes to mind for military history, many colleges and universities recognized students who served. Especially for the Vietnam, Korean, Gulf, and Afghan wars, yearbooks document campus reactions and protests. You currently can’t search across all of the yearbooks available on DigitalNC; our site has high school yearbooks published up through the late 1960s, and college and university yearbooks and campus publications through 2015.
Tip 3: Newspapers!
Searching the student and community newspapers on DigitalNC can yield biographical information about soldiers, editorials expressing local opinions about America’s military action, as well as news and advertisements related to rationing and resources on the homefront.
The Newspapers Advanced Search is your friend here! You can target papers published during specific years. You can also narrow your search to specific newspaper titles.
Screenshot of the Newspapers Advanced Search page, with the search phrase “Red Cross” and limiting the results to papers published from 1914-1918.
We now have so many military newspapers on our site, we have a whole exhibit dedicated to them, which you can view by going to our Military Newspapers in North Carolina page.
The titles include:
- Air-O-Mech, published by servicemen stationed at Seymour Johnson Field, 1943-1944
- Cloudbuster, published at UNC-Chapel Hill to share news about the Navy pre-flight school held on campus, 1942-1945
- Hot Off the Hoover Rail, published by the community of Lawndale for servicemen from their city, 1942-1945
- The Caduceus, published by the Base Hospital at Camp Greene (Charlotte, N.C.), 1918-1919
- The Caromount, published the community at Caromount Mills in Rocky Mount “solely for the benefit of all former Blumenthal employees now in the service of our country,” 1943-1955 (later years published for the mill community itself rather than those in the military)
- The Home Front News, published by the Tarboro Rotary Club for servicemen from their city, 1943-1945
- Trench and Camp, published by The Charlotte Observer for Camp Greene, 1917-1918
Bonus Resource: Wilson County’s Greatest Generation
One of the largest exhibits on our site is Wilson County’s Greatest Generation, an effort by the Wilson County Historical Association to document the service men and women of Wilson County, North Carolina who served in World War II. Documentation is organized by individual, and includes personal histories, photos, clippings, and other ephemera.
We hope this information can guide you through researching military history on DigitalNC. If you have any of your own tips or questions, please let us know by commenting below or contacting us.