Surveyor, Seabee, engineer: WWII veteran Wilbur Nations reaches centennial – The Vicksburg Post
Family and friends of Wilbur Nations will gather at the home he designed and built on Monday to celebrate a milestone – his 100th birthday.
“Lots of people and food,” he said.
And in the years after his birth, Nations worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, worked as a surveyor several times for the Mississippi State Highway Department (now the Mississippi Department of Transportation), Waterways and other companies. , was a Navy Seabee and spent years traveling the world as an engineer for International Paper.
It all began on April 18, 1922, in Lincoln County, where Nations was born, and continued to Lorman, where his family moved in 1928.
“That’s where I was raised,” he says.
He joined the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1939 at age 17, “and we worked at the Military Park. We cut the grass. That’s about the only thing we did was cut the grass and clean up the monuments. It (the park) was bigger than it is now; much bigger.
After two years with the CCC, Nations joined the State Highway Department as a surveyor in the Natchez area.
“We built Highway 84 and Highway 18; we covered three counties,” he said.
He left the Highway Department in 1940 and joined an engineering company that built Camp Van Dorn, an Army training base in Centerville, before enlisting in the Navy Seabees in 1942.
“When I volunteered in 1942, I did start-up training in Norfolk, Virginia, and then we were sent overseas,” he said. “I had no leave until I returned to the United States – almost three years. They put us on a train and we went to Oxnard, California, and they put us on a boat to New Caledonia.
Nations said his unit was a specially selected battalion that took care of the cargo, “picking the materiel and shipping it out.”
It was a mission that took him not only to New Caledonia but also to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, then to the Marshall Islands, to Saipan in the Mariana Islands and to Guam before returning to the United States.
“As they took the islands, we were right behind them handling the cargo; no fighting, cargo handling,” he said. “We had another Seabee crew ahead of us and build the buildings and piers and we followed behind. It was hard; we worked seven days a week handling cargo.
After the war, Nations went to work as a surveyor for an oil company, then returned to the state as a surveyor for the Department of Highways before going to the Waterways Experiment Station, where he worked as a surveyor for flood models and as a surveyor for the expansion of the facility.
“Waterways later laid off me and others, five of us,” he said.
He returned to state survey counties for new highway locations.
“We had five counties,” he said.
Nations left the highway department to work as a surveyor for Ford Bacon and Davis, a construction company laying a natural gas line from Oxford, Miss., to Atlanta, Ga.
From there he went to work for International Paper as a field engineer.
“I was nearing the end of building IP; whether we were to add to the paper mill or build a new mill,” Nations said. “I stayed with them for 37 years building new mills and repairing mills. I worked in five countries in Europe, five in the west. I went to Japan and the Philippines in 1970.”
He then transferred to Charleston, SC as Construction Manager, then to Mobile, Alabama as Construction Manager, then to Vicksburg, where he retired in 1985.
He said he stayed in River City because his daughter lives in Vicksburg.
“We bought this land and built this house; Building it yourself is much cheaper in the long run,” Nations said.
Looking back at his 100th birthday, Nations said: “It’s been tough, I’ll tell you. The oldest member of our family lived to be 80 years old. My father’s father lived to be 104; I guess I have some of his genes.