Director of Welfare
The billet of Director of Welfare in the Eighth Naval District was not filled until 6 June 1945, but the already functioning offices which were to be placed under his supervision had been combined in the Welfare Division under the Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel when that office had been established. The functions of the Director of Welfare were to serve, under the Commandant, as the primary representative for the Bureau of Personnel on all welfare matters within the district, internal and logistic; and to administer the district welfare organization. The following officers were under his supervision: the District Recreation Officer, the District Ship's Service Officer, the District Benefits and Insurance Officer, and the District Housing Officer. Though the chart of the personnel staff organization for the district places the Legal Assistance Officer along with the Benefits and Insurance Officer in the Personal Assistance Office under the Director of Welfare, he is not contiguously or commonly housed with other welfare activities at district headquarters, but is housed with and is under the supervision of the District Legal Officer. The District Civil Readjustment Officer, who in the original plan was placed in the Division of Welfare, was transferred by the Bureau of Personnel to the Division of Distribution on 18 May 1945 as part of the readjustment toward preparing for demobilization.1
The Welfare and Recreation program was officially established at District Headquarters on 14 November 1941, when the Commandant assigned one of the Personnel Officers collateral duty as District Recreation Officer. But it was not until April 1942 that this officer was made District Recreation Officer on a full-time basis. At the same time he was also made Treasurer of the Navy Relief Society and Treasurer of the Headquarters' Welfare Fund. (The duties of Treasurer of the Navy Relief Society were later delegated by the Commandant to the District Chaplain.) His primary duties consisted of providing funds, equipment, personnel, and facilities for the operation of recreation programs at all activities in the Eighth Naval District under the Commandant. He also assisted ships and Seabee battalions in obtaining welfare funds and equipment before leaving for overseas duty.
In August 1943 the Bureau of Personnel assigned two officers to the district as Assistant District Recreation Officers; and early in 1944, when the program was greatly expanded, two more were assigned with the same title, one of them a Wave in charge of Wave recreation. A District Librarian was also assigned, and five enlisted personnel were added to the office force of two civilians.
The District Recreation Officer now performed many services. He advised the Commandant on the assignment of Recreation Officers within the district. His staff inspected all activities under the Commandant and assisted whenever and wherever possible with the station recreation programs. When the Naval Supply Depot, New Orleans, began handling welfare and recreation equipment, the district office advised activities
as to the proper procedure for obtaining the equipment. It assisted activities in booking USO shows and other types of entertainment. It provided books for ships and for libraries at district activities. It assisted ships in the district in obtaining commissioning and quarterly allotment from appropriated welfare funds and in the procurement of recreation equipment. It published manuals for Recreation Officers both at shore-based activities and on board ships; approximately two thousand of the manuals for forces afloat were issued. The District Recreation Officer administered appropriated welfare and recreation funds. He had charge of such drives for funds as those of the American Red Cross and the Navy Relief. He organized and supervised a well-rounded recreation program for enlisted and officer personnel attached to district headquarters. With the assignment by the Bureau in June 1945 of a District Motion Picture Officer, the district office made arrangements for establishing circuit motion picture booking of entertainment films for all activities under the Commandant.
Another important office under the Director of Welfare, the District Ship's Service Office, began functioning on 1 December 1943. In the beginning this office was technically under the District Personnel Officer, but it actually functioned as a separate division of the headquarters staff.
The Bureau of Personnel had authorized District Ship's Service Offices in order to coordinate the activities of the approximately four hundred Ship's Service Departments that had sprung up in the United
States with an annual sales volume of about $200,000,000.2 Prior to the establishment of the District Ship's Service Office in the Eighth Naval District, there was little or no supervision of the Ship's Service Departments in the district. They were operating in an independent and sometimes haphazard fashion. No monthly financial reports of any kind were made, and therefore the solvency of the various departments was unknown.
The first major task of the District Ship's Service Officer was to establish a system that would furnish the Commandant with current knowledge of the financial solvency of all District Ship's Service Departments under his cognizance. Prior to receipt of regulations from the Bureau, the District Ship's Service Officer initiated a monthly reporting system and visited all the Ship's Service Departments. He found several insolvent, and all in need of coordination and a more efficient routine for operating. He gave the necessary instructions and aid to put them on a sound basis.
One of the functions of the District Ship's Service Officer was to act for the Bureau of Personnel as a channel through which information and advice flowed to the Ship's Service Officers and through which district reports and data were forwarded to the Bureau. In addition to visiting and inspecting the Ship's Service Departments, he acted as coordinator for all Commissioned Officers' messes at activities under the Commandant.3 He also had charge of the various rationing programs that
had to do with allocating scarce merchandise, such as liquor, candy, and cigarette lighters, in accordance with the number of personnel on board. In this respect, though in no other, he had dealings with the activities under the Air Commands.
One reason for the improvement of Ship's Service Departments throughout the district was the change of attitude toward the billet of Ship's Service Officer. Before the Special Services Division of the Bureau of Personnel was established, the duty of Ship's Service Officer was generally looked upon as a punishment rather than as a worthy assignment, and consequently commanding officers too often assigned to it men who had few of the necessary business qualifications. The situation improved with the Bureau's emphasis on the necessary qualifications of the Ship's Service Officer and with its aid in procuring the assignment of a qualified officer when none was available at a station.
The improvement of Ship's Service Departments in the district is Indicated by the following data:
1943 1944 Number of Ship's Service Departments in 8ND 28 29 Total Sales at end of year $4,395,845.15 $7,673,197.10 Net Profit 427,490.98 626,783.64 Net Worth 368,757.79 651,664.23 Transfers to Welfare 132,364.95 300,294.86
The District Insurance Office was established on 6 December 1942, when the Bureau of Personnel assigned to the Commandant's staff two officers who had had special training as insurance officers. These officers assisted and instructed insurance officers at all district activities under the Commandant in the provisions and benefits of
government life insurance. They publicized national Service Life Insurance and cooperated with the District Disbursing Officer in the preparation of Insurance allotments.
In the beginning only about sixty percent of the Naval personnel in the district had government insurance. Therefore a good deal of time was spent conducting a campaign to educate the uninsured to the advantages of having insurance. A system was established whereby all pay accounts were checked to determine the amount of allotment for government insurance. Any officer or man reporting aboard having less than $10,000 was interviewed by the insurance officer. This system brought to light the cases of many men who thought that they had the full amount of insurance, but whose records showed that, for some reason or other, no allotment had been registered to pay their premiums. It was found also that personnel who had previously refused insurance would sometimes buy when approached again - possibly because of the different selling tactics employed, or because of changes in the family situation. When the coverage of personnel in the district had come up to about eighty percent, in June 1944, the officer complement of the District Insurance Office was reduced to one. When the war ended, eighty-nine percent of the personnel in the district had $10,000 worth of insurance, and ninety-six percent had some insurance. Toward the end the insurance office had less to do with selling insurance than with servicing policies already sold in such respects as changing beneficiaries and converting policies to permanent types.
In January 1945 the Benefits and Insurance Office (the title was
changed in November 1944)4 was assigned by the Bureau of Personnel the additional function of completing applications for family allowances for all personnel already in the service.5 It gave advice concerning aid to dependents and answered questions of dependents. It became a centralized agency for answering some of the questions concerning dependents' benefits and insurance that had previously been taken to the Legal Assistance Office, Navy Relief, the Chaplain, and the Disbursing Office.
The administration of insurance activities in the district under the Air Commands was rather complicated. The Bureau of Personnel on 23 February 1945 issued the District Benefits and Insurance Officer additional duty orders to report by letter to the Chief of Naval Air Intermediate Training for duty in connection with government life insurance matters. This placed under his cognizance the insurance offices of the principal intermediate training stations at Corpus Christi and Pensacola and their subsidiaries, all of which are in the Eighth Naval District except one field located in Atlanta. Insurance offices under the Air Operational Training Command in the Eighth Naval District were under the District Benefits and Insurance Officer of the Sixth Naval District. The District Benefits and Insurance Officer of the Ninth Naval District had additional duty orders causing him to serve the Naval Air Technical Training Centers at Memphis, Norman, and Corpus Christi. He also had additional duty under the Naval Air Primary
Training Command, which gave him one activity of this command to visit in New Orleans. Since a great saving in man hours and travel could be affected by having each District Benefits and Insurance Officer serve the activities within the geographical limits of his own district, the Farber Committee recommended, and the Secretary of the Navy directed, that the district commandant should have coordination control over all letters in the district pertaining to National Service Life Insurance.6 When the war ended, however, no move had been made to effect the change.
The District Housing Officer was established in the district on 17 February 1945, when an officer was assigned to the billet by the Bureau of Personnel. The first task that he performed was the processing of hotel reservations in the New Orleans area. An agreement was reached with the New Orleans Hotel Association whereby a certain number of rooms were set aside daily for assignment by a Naval Hotel Reservation Bureau. Similar arrangements were then made in various other cities in the district. Several reservation bureaus were operated in conjunction with the Eighth Service Command, U. S. Army, using the facilities of the Military Reservation Bureaus concerned with railroad reservations. With regard to hotel reservations in other cities, a list of all the Army and Navy reservation bureaus was kept, and the traveler was referred to the appropriate bureau. This was not in accordance with the procedure of some Naval Housing Offices, which sent dispatch requests, though only for those traveling on a duty status. The services of all reservation bureaus in the district
were available to all military personnel, except that in New Orleans the Army maintained a separate reservation bureau.
The next problem taken up by the District Housing Officer was that of assisting Naval personnel in the New Orleans area in obtaining living accommodations. Some progress was made by making contact with real estate agents and by newspaper publicity requesting landlords to list their vacancies with the Housing Office. Later, when welfare funds were allocated to pay for weekly classified advertising, a flood of vacancies came in. Many of these, however, proved to be very poor. Though it was impossible to inspect each house or apartment, knowledge of the housing in the various neighborhoods proved helpful. Some of the housing projects in the outer fringes of the city afforded good homes for Naval personnel. The Our Town Housing project, formerly restricted to Higgins workers, accommodated over five hundred Naval families at different times. Out of the 325 apartments in Bienville Homes, 150 ware assigned to the Navy. Plans to establish housing services at other crowded centers in the district had not materialized when the war ended.
All in all, the agencies under the Director of Welfare did much to improve the morale of Naval personnel. The good that they did gives cause for regret that they were not established sooner.
1. Dist. Personnel ltr. No. 5, dtd. 18 May 1945. 2. BuPers CL Pers-226-dsm, dtd. 14 Sep. 1943. 3. BuPers CL Pers-56-1EP/S34, dtd. 25 Jan. 1944. 4. Pers-11-AB,L13-2,SandA L13-2(25)(0GB), dtd. 10 Nov. 1944. 5. BuPers CL No. 12-45, dtd. 15 Jan. 1945. 6. SecNav ltr., Ser. 221813, dtd. 4 Jun, 1945.
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