Veterans Memorial Flag Pole1 E1447196824975

Thank You, Veterans, for your service and for protecting our freedom!

On this Veterans’ Day 2015, on behalf of all the Directors of the Morrison Knudsen Foundation, we express our gratitude to the men and women of the United States Military. Thank you for your bravery and the sacrifices you have made to serve our country.

Veterans Day is a celebration to honor America’s Veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.  The Morrison Knudsen Foundation strives to assist Veterans residing in the Treasure Valley by partnering with the VA Medical Center and their Supportive Housing Programs. Over 14% of all of our Foundation beneficiaries are Veterans.

On November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11th as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the commemoration of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”  It would not be until June 4, 1926 when the Congress of the United States recognized the end of World War I and concurrently passed a resolution making it a national holiday.

Morrison Knudsen Company devoted a great amount of the eMKayan magazine to patriotic expression and support of the war effort during World War II. The magazine was in its infancy and proved to be a place to post information and inspiration during the war period.  Issue- after-issue of the eMKayan featured a long list of the men and women who responded to the call to defend our country in a special section called “Em Kayans in Uniform.”  MK supported and honored those employees for their bravery.  They shared letters from servicemen and highlighted their stories of triumph and heroism. MK promoted investment in war bonds expressing a strong belief of their importance and value to the war effort and for the future of our nation.  Inspired by the wave of patriotism and personal conviction, Harry Morrison thrust MK head-long into war effort projects.

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Having survived the Great Depression, due, in part, to its success with the Hoover Dam project, MK was prepared to meet those business demands of World War II. The company joined other contractors in a joint venture known as Contractors, Pacific Naval Air Bases. Building airfield facilities on Midway and Wake islands in late 1941.  On Dec. 8, 1941, U.S. Marines and a group of civilian workers from Morrison-Knudsen Co. building a naval air base on Wake Island were attacked by Japanese forces. Under harrowing conditions, they resisted repeated enemy attacks. On Dec. 23, the Japanese captured the island and survivors were taken prisoner. At the end of the war, the Japanese surrendered the atoll and the American flag flew again. Sadly, 336 men who defended the island — including 250 civilian MK contractors — died on Wake or in prison camps.  Morrison Knudsen Foundation funded a Wake Island flag and pole for Veterans Memorial Park (shown in cover photo). The new flag commemorates the bravery of hundreds of Idahoans who fought against Japanese forces on Wake Island during World War II.

On the Hawaiian island of Oahu, MK was also engaged in the construction of 20 huge naval fuel-storage vaults, each 250 feet high and 100 feet in diameter. In fact, MK operated a War Products Division right here in Boise during WWII as well as developing a proving ground near Arco.  They joined Bechtel and Kaiser in the shipbuilding industry. They constructed air bases near the Bering Sea—the Alaskan Theatre of War was accepted as one of the toughest assignments ever given to a single construction firm in 1943.  These and other World War II projects established long-lasting ties for MK in the area of military contracting.

In his July 1942 “President’s Memo,” Harry Morrison wrote:

This will be the first 4th of July in all the known history of mankind with all the world at war. This 4th will witness also the greatest mobilization of man and machine power in the history of this or any other nation…Our equipment and facilities are now geared to the tremendously increased tempo of production which this crisis demands, so we are justly proud of our participation in the building of ships and planes, airports and cantonments, engines and materials of war, dams for power, military installations in fact, all the varied production efforts in which we are engaged.  It is my fervent hope; however, that this great mass of mechanized energy does not dull our personal sense of responsibility, does not remove from our ever-present consciousness the necessity for personal sacrifices and devotion to the principles for which we fight. The power of this nation materially and spiritually is but the sum total of material and spiritual might of its people. So, comparatively, our organization reflects the sum total of the individuals who make it. Let us all resolve that the record indelibly written by EmKayans everywhere will truly reflect that spirit of individual responsibility which along will win for us a lasting victory and lasting peace.

In addition to extensive civilian training and building contracts in Vietnam, the company procured a substantial amount of business outside of active battle zones. The Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, a chain of bases and radar installations, was constructed and maintained across northern Canada, as was the “White Alice” communications system in Alaska. In the 1960s MK became a leading builder of missile facilities, including the first U.S. underground Titan missile installation at the Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado.   The company sponsored a joint venture for the Aeropropulsion Systems Test Facility, an advanced jet engine center for the U.S. Air Force, which was completed in 1984. The company also was involved in the reconstruction of Kuwait following the 1991 Gulf War.  According to U.S. News and World Report, such an expensive national reconstruction effort had not been launched since the Marshall Plan molded a new Europe after World War II.  (many facts are quoted and obtained from Lehman Brothers Collection of contemporary business archives held in the Baker Library, Harvard School of Business)

Certainly, to be admired for their undefeatable attitude, is the small Boise-based company known as Morrison Knudsen, once again, accomplishing very big missions.

In researching this blog for our website, I found a letter written by MK Paving employee, June Oviatt, published in the eMKayan March 1943 issue, that brings us back to our Veteran’s Day theme and to reflect that it is because of the selfless acts of our Veterans and continued efforts of the men and women in our U.S. Military, that we enjoy continued prosperity, well-being, and freedom as a nation.  This article demonstrates her great appreciation of the American warrior.

Are We Meeting the Test? by June Oviatt

Much has been said about Americanism. We have been made war-conscious through the medium of the press, radio, movies, and every other available means of public contact.  We have been shown on the silver screen the thrilling exploits and brave deeds of the men on Wake, Bataan, and other places of martyrdom in this war.

But I wonder if we could ever really appreciate what it means to run for the nearest fox-hole, to pray as you have never prayed before, to hang on to this complex but wonderful thing called life, to hear the bombs screaming around you, and have comrades with whom you have eaten, slept and lived fall in the deadly turmoil around you.  Only after you had slept in holes in the ground, fought all kinds of pestilence, disease, scourges of infection–seen blood, tears and grime–could you ever be in a receptive mood or even begin to realize the immensity and the horror of this war and just what our men and boys and sweethearts are going through out there.

As you and I sit home tonight by our firesides, listening to our radios, eating our dinners–as yet plentiful and good–we should offer a prayer in our hearts that we shall be worthy of the things that our boys are going through to save all the things that we hold dear… Is the sacrifice they are making for me appreciated? …Are you doing your part?