Texas Insights - March 2012

Volume II, Issue 4

What’s New?

The Exploring Texas Workshop Series is being developed through a partnership between the Texas State Historical Association and the Region VI, X, and XIII Education Service Centers to expand the offerings of professional development opportunities for Texas history teachers across Texas. In addition, we will partner with other institutions and groups to create additional workshops and to provide the highest quality service.

This workshop series is intended to build on existing efforts and to provide timely and accessible historical content each year with workshops in August, October, November, and January. The workshops will have a content focus based on upcoming instructional needs, but are not limited to the following: August will cover the prehistory through Anglo settlement, November will cover the Texas Revolution through turn of the century, and January will cover the 20th Century. Each year, the location of the three regional workshops in the Austin-San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston areas, will rotate on the calendar, so that teachers in each area will have the opportunity to receive a wider variety of content. In the 2012-2013 school year: The Region XIII Texas History Conference will be held August 9 – 10, 2012 in Austin, the Region VI Texas History Conference will be held November 1 – 2, 2012 in Huntsville, and the Region X Energizing Texas History Conference will be held January 24 – 25, 2013 in Dallas.

In addition, each school year at least one additional broadly-focused one-day workshop will be held in an area outside the major population centers to reach area teachers more conveniently. TSHA has partnered with the Region VII Education Service Center in Kilgore to offer the first of these one day workshops. The Region VII Texas History Workshop will be held on October 2, 2012.

 The Exploring Texas Workshop Series will bring together high quality historical content and pedagogical advice from renowned scholars, respected classroom practitioners, and organizations with expertise in the fields of history, geography, economics, civics, and skill building to enhance the knowledge and instruction of our classroom teachers statewide.

New Resource for Eras and Dates

The Texas State Historical Association is happy to announce the release of a new resource to help Texas history teachers understand the eras of Texas history named in the 2011 Texas history TEKS. The document, found on the TSHA website, provides teachers with the dates and a short explanation for each era, and helps you and your students to answer the question, “why do historians divide the past into eras?” This resource is intended to help teachers have a better understanding of the eras of Texas history and was vetted by many of the same historians who originally assited in creating the list of eras. To view the document, see TeachingTexas.org.  


San Jacinto Symposium and Festival

Celebrate the anniversary of Texas Independence with two spectacular events. The Friends of the San Jacinto Battleground is proud to present their Annual Battle of San Jacinto Symposium on April 4, 2012. Then, on April 20-21, 2012, visit the annual San Jacinto Day Festival and Battle Reenactment, at the San Jacinto Monument. This festival will provide family entertainment, living history demonstrations, a children’s area and vendors reflecting all things Texas. The battle reenactment is one of the largest in Texas, and is sure to put the event in perspective. For more information visit both, the Symposium and Festival entries on TeachingTexas.org.  

Featured Institution

Rice Fondren Library
By Amanda Focke
Assistant Head of Special Collections

Rare and unique materials at the Fondren Library, Rice University, are made available at the Woodson Research Center. The Center collects, organizes, preserves and describes materials related to Texas and Houston history, U.S. Civil War, Rice University history and several other topics. This material is available for Rice faculty, students and alumni, as well as local, national and international researchers - many of these primary sources are also freely accessible online, often with full-text searchability.

The Texas history materials at Fondren Library include a collection of over 3,000 Texana rare books and wide variety of original diaries, photographs, correspondence, architectural drawings, maps, oral history interviews and much more. Here are two examples from the collections.

The following are just a couple of examples of items in the archives:

The personal diary of Elizabeth Craw records her wagon trail journey from Ohio to see her soldier fiancé in Texas, and her experiences there. Craw’s fiancé fought and died at the Battle of the Alamo, 1836. The diary touches on such issues as Migration, Slavery, War, Race relations and Gender. How did Elizabeth Craw receive the news on the wagon trail that her fiancé had been killed at the Alamo? What did she do? What was happening elsewhere in Texas in February 1836?

The Houston Asian American Archive contains over 50 oral history interviews with Asian Americans living in Houston. These interviews were conducted by the Chao Center for Asian Studies at Rice University. The interviewees include one of the first Asian Americans elected to office in Harris County, a former rocket scientist and high school chemistry teacher, a founding member of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, a World War II veteran, and the publisher of a Chinese newspaper in Texas and owner of the first Chinese printing company in Houston.

Historian's Corner

Texas In World War II
By: George Green
Retired, University of Texas at Arlington 

As Europe plunged into war, Texas governor W. Lee O’Daniel, 1939-1941, denounced the idea of helping the allies in any way, but the attack on Pearl Harbor silenced the isolationists. Texas was soon home to 55 major army and army air force bases and large naval training facilities at Galveston and Corpus Christi. The Woman’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASPS) trained at Sweetwater. They flew every plane in the U.S. arsenal, testing them, delivering them, ferrying troops, etc. Texas led the nation in training aviators, over 40,000 male pilots, one of whom managed to drop a bomb near Turkey, TX, and kill a cow. 750,000 Texans saw active duty (12,000 women) out of a population of 6.5 million, though Texas added another one million more people half way through the war. Half a million Texans moved off their farms into Texas cities. Several “corn field” factories were erected by the government, and turned over to private companies, including North American Aviation in Grand Prairie (building Mustangs), and Convair on the west side of Fort Worth (B-17s and B-24s). Other huge plants manufactured synthetic rubber, ammunition, steel, tin, and paper. Huge ship-building facilities were built with government money in the Port Arthur—Orange—Beaumont area and Houston. Texas oil played a mighty role in allied victory, as did other natural resources, e.g. sulfur and natural gas. The industrial boom was matched by an agricultural boom, but so many Texans had left the farms that mechanized farming techniques expanded greatly and braceros were imported from Mexico under a card system for seasonal work that lasted until 1964.

Wartime work was available for just about everybody who wanted it, including women and minorities who had faced severe discrimination prior to the war. Discrimination in hiring policies and on the jobs themselves did not suddenly end, of course, but the jobs were there. Still, Black and Tejano resentment against segregation and low-level jobs grew during the war. Wartime jobs were lost in 1945, of course, and discrimination continued, but it was never quite the same as the suffocating pre-war biases. Everyone knew that women and minorities could work as well as Anglo males and support gradually built for federal legislation that established legal equality in the 1960s. Within the military during the war, only blacks and Native Americans (Indians) continued to fight in segregated units. Tejanos were integrated. Of course, Jose Lopez returned home with a Medal of Honor and was denied service in a South Texas café; Texas was not integrated. A break in voting rights came in 1944, in the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Smith v. Allwright. It was found unconstitutional to bar blacks from voting in the only Texas elections that mattered in this one-party state, the Democratic primaries. By 1946, they began voting. Servicemen and women overseas, including most Texans, often had difficulty obtaining ballots for the presidential election in 1944. Governor Coke Stevenson refused to call a special session of the legislature to consider a bill that would have allowed Texas soldiers in the field to vote without paying a poll tax, because special sessions cost money.

The North African campaign prompted the establishment of the first POW camps in Texas, which was judged to have the same climate as the Sahara Desert. Most of the 80,000 POWs in Texas were Germans, distributed in over 50 camps. In Camp Hearne, in Robertson County, the Nazis controlled the camp and murdered a corporal, who had told the Americans about their short-wave radio. Five escaped from Camp Hood in Bell County, but were captured within a week. Some stayed in Texas after the war. Crystal City had the largest U.S. internment camp, filled with Japanese and Japanese-Americans, Germans, and some Italians.

Women on the Texas home front were denied nylon and silk, so turned to liquid hosiery. Victoray was a leading brand that could be sprayed on. Rationed goods, e.g. red meat, coffee, and gasoline, had to be purchased not only with cash, but also with stamps issued by the U.S. Office of Price Administration. In some Texas school districts women school teachers during the depression were fired if their husbands had full-time jobs (spreading out the work to jobless families). Some districts repealed that rule during the war if the woman was married to a serviceman, but once he returned home—without physical disability—the woman’s contract was canceled. And, of course, women took so-called men’s jobs in Texas factories.

War heroes included Sam Dealey of Dallas, the navy’s most decorated sailor. He and his submarine crew sank 5 Japanese destroyers in three days in Japanese-controlled waters, and he received the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross. The sub was lost in the Pacific. Audie Murphy from rural Northeast Texas was the army’s most decorated soldier, serving in North Africa and all over Europe. The movie “To Hell and Back,” in which he played himself, was actually a muted version of his combat record. In his greatest exploit he killed some 50 Germans single-handedly and held off two companies while holed up in a burning anti-tank vehicle, enclosed by the enemy on three sides. He was awarded the Medal of Honor and every decoration for valor in action that the army offered, before he was old enough to vote. A Black Texan, Doris (Dorie) Miller, was a steward on the USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor. He received the Navy Cross for tending to the wounded under fire and shooting down 2 or 3 Japanese planes, though he had never fired a gun before. He was still a steward, two years later, when his new ship went down with all hands. Cleto Rodriquez of San Antonio led the capture of the railroad station in the blood-soaked Battle of Manila, killing dozens of Japanese and received the Medal of Honor. 33 Texans received the Medal of Honor; over 90 earned the Navy Cross.

The Texas 36th Division was symbolized by a “T” on the arm patch, inside an arrowhead, symbolizing the Oklahoma troops in the division. Its fiercest action was probably at the Rapido River crossing in Italy. The two famous lost battalions of World War II were both contingents from Texas. One was the 131st Field Artillery, detached from the rest of the Texas 36th Division, who were captured almost as soon as they arrived in the Dutch East Indies right after Pearl Harbor. Many Texans also escaped from the sinking of the USS Houston in the Java Sea. These 900 men from the 131st and the Houston were lost because they were enslaved by the Japanese in work camps and held incommunicado. Their families had no idea what happened to them. Many were building the “death railway” in Burma and Thailand. Museums in Decatur and Austin honor them today. James Hornfischer’s book, Ship of Ghosts, 2006, details the fate of the men, 163 of whom died of the wretched conditions in the camps. The other lost unit was another far flung segment of the Texas 36th Division, literally lost in the Vosges Mountains in Northeastern France, cut off from retreat by Germans, but rescued by the famed 442nd Japanese-American battalion, who lost about as many men killed (280) as they rescued. In one of many bizarre incidents in the war, there was a mass Japanese suicide charge on Los Negros Island, February 1944, against the U.S. First Cavalry Division, largely a Texas outfit. The Japanese charged to the blaring broadcast sound of a new American hit song, “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” It did not divert anyone’s attention.

The Admiral Nimitz Museum and the National Museum of the Pacific War are on Main Street in Fredericksburg, the former located in the historic steamboat hotel opened by Nimitz’s grandfather, who rode with the Texas Rangers. Nimitz was commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and made crucial decisions at Coral Sea and Midway that helped win the war. General Claire Chennault, a school teacher from Commerce, founder of the Flying Tigers, commanded the allied air war in China. Oveta Culp Hobby of Houston, the widow of Governor Will Hobby, commanded the Women’s Army Corps (WACS), 140,000 women who engaged in radio communications, weather observations, clerical duties, and mechanical repairs. 400 of them were in the Manhattan Project that made the A-bomb.

The war propelled the transformation of Texas into an industrial state. Tens of thousands of wartime jobs were lost in 1945, and unemployment rose sharply in the summer and fall. Most civilians and returning veterans eventually found work in the booming post-war economy, including construction and manufacturing. Two last New Deal reforms, the GI Bill of Rights and the Veteran’s Preference Act, eased the transition of veterans back into the civilian economy. The GI Bill provided opportunities for higher education to many Texans who would never have attended college otherwise. Texans did pay a high price for the war, of course, particularly with some 23,000 dead (about 5.7 percent of the nation’s total of 407,000). Another aftereffect was the disappearance of depression-era politics. Conservatism became the political norm during the war. During and after the war, there was a growing disenchantment with the Democratic Party’s operations in the nation’s capital—the high wartime taxes, the numerous regulations and agencies, and the movement toward embracing civil rights. The trends continued after the war. They did not immediately impact presidential elections; since Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman won their campaigns easily in Texas in 1944 and 1948—but by the 1950s Texas was ready for a change, even in presidential politics. 

Featured Lesson

As you plan instruction on Texas during World War II, make sure to include the lesson, “How Texans Helped to Win the War: Texas in World War II” developed by Camp Hearne, and available on TeachingTexas.org. In this 7th grade lesson, students will learn the significant contribution that Texans made during World War II, such as housing military bases, training centers, and POW camps (such as Camp Hearne); the use of Texas oil, and the construction of military machinery. This lesson also highlights the accomplishments of many war heroes, such as: Chester Nimitz, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Oveta Culp Hobby, Audie Murphy, Samuel Dealey, Macario Garcia, and Doris Miller, all with significant ties to Texas.

Texas History News

Several opportunities for Texas history educators and students are available or are on the near horizon:

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department invites you to take a guided tour of the Battleship TEXAS, entering areas rarely seen by the public, on March 17, 2012. A limited number of tour slots are open to anyone 14 and older and by reservation only. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org.


Join the George Ranch Historical Park as they recreate the Runaway Scrape, the fleeing of the Texians from Santa Anna’s army marching east towards San Jacinto. The event will take place on April 14, 2012. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information.

Fort McKavett State Historic Site invites you to celebrate history at its annual West Texas Heritage Days, March 23-24, 2012. Activities include cavalry, artillery and infantry action drills, Native American living history, Buffalo Soldiers, chuck wagon samples, the Texas Camel Corps and other frontier skills demonstrations. A band playing period music will perform during a barbecue lunch offered by the Friends of Fort McKavett. While there, visit the recently restored ruins of Presidio San Luis de las Amarillas, also known as San Sabá Presidio, in nearby Menard. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information.


The Houston Museum of Natural Science is proud to present two events as a part of their Distinguished Lecture Series. The first, will be held on March 20, 2012, titled the USS Westfield, A Civil War Shipwreck in Galveston Bay. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information. The second, will be held on March 27, 2012, titled, Patriots for Profit – the Blockade Runners of the Confederacy. For additional information, visit TeachingTexas.org. Both events will be held in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, and will include a book signing following each event.

The Audie Murphy and American Cotton Museum and Collin College would like to invite educators to join them for their Annual Cotton and Rural History Conference on April 28, 2012. There is a $10.00 registration fee, payable at the door, which includes lunch. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information.


We are happy to announce our newest partner, the Public Education Initiative. PEI is a joint project of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Dallas and the Institute in Curriculum Services: National Resource Center for Accurate Jewish Content in Schools. To read about PEI’s objectives and goals, visit them at www.pei-jcrcdallas.org.

The Bell County Museum will host several activities during Spring Break, March 13 to March 16, 2012. All activities are free. On Tuesday, March 13 and Thursday, March 15, 2012, Crystal Calbreath will teach students to “Plant Your Family Tree.” The workshop is for families and is geared for students ages 9 to 14 and will take place from 9:00 until noon. For more, see TeachingTexas.org.


Texas history comes alive at the 27th annual Golad Massacre-Fort Defiance Living History Program at Presidio La Bahia, the only program of its kind in Texas. Saturday there will be battles fought around the fort. There will be the sounds of muskets and cannons discharging, and the air will be full of black powder smoke. For more information about this event see TeachingTexas.org.

Texas Insights is a publication of the Texas State Historical Association
in cooperation with the University of North Texas.

Texas State Historical Association
1155 Union Circle #311580
Denton, TX 76203-5017

Stephen Cure - Editor
Kim White - Associate Editor
JoNeita Kelly - Associate Editor


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