Hurricane Camille and it's effects on American Legion Posts along the Gulf of Mexico
coastlines of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and inland northward into Virginia.
Hurricane Camille & American Legion Posts - Part 3

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"All Gone In A Few Hours"

(Note: Pictures added of the Merry Mansion
before and after Hurricane Camille.)
     The Gulf Coast was a Riviera for vacationers, with sumptuous Hotels, Motels, beautiful Beaches, and lovely sub-tropical trees whose stand had been there when the Le Moyne brothers first put into Biloxi Bay before founding New Orleans. All gone in a few hours. (Note: Text added. The Merry Mansion was a famous night club on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Local residents, and dignitaries from all over the Unites States and other Countries would be entertained at the Merry Mansion. It was built by Italian-born Henry Piaggio for his wife Margaret Muldowned of Mt. Vernon, Ohio. During WW-II the marble mansion was converted into a sumptuous night club. After Camille the Merry Mansion was never rebuilt. End of added text.)

     The Gulf Coast supported a waterfront dense with fishing craft that fed the Nation with oysters, shrimp, and fish delicacies. Completely demolished. There was no deep water harbor on the Mississippi coast until Gulfport built an artificial one behind a 27 foot sea wall, and benefited from a thriving ocean trade. She exported lumber, phosphates, crushed oyster shells, creosoted pilings, potash salt, fish, grain, cottonseed cake and meal, rosin and glucose. She imported many things, and was a central off-loading point for Latin America bananas. These all supported industries ashore. The harbor facilities were demolished to the tune of millions…a $5.5 million new addition disappeared with the rest.

     The ship channel was not totally filled in by Camille. After some dredging, a German banana ship made it into port for a makeshift off-loading within a month after the disaster…as a token that Gulfport shipping would rise again. But when? And what of those to whom it gave a livelihood in the meantime? Statistically, Gulfport contributed $46.5 million to the State’s economy in 1967, as the State’s only deep water port. Now Gulfport is going to have to "take" instead of "give" for some time forward.

(Note: Pictures at the left and text added. Within a few years, the Port of Gulfport
was entirely reconstructed. New docks, loading and unloading equipment, deeper channels, new buildings, and new businesses, makes it seem like Hurricane Camille never happened. A large Shrimp Boat was washed far up on land across Route 90 just west of the Port, and today remains where it was found and converted into a gift shop. "The Camille Gift Shop" is a constant reminder of "A Lady Named Camille" to all who stroll or drive along the Beach Boulevard. End of added text.)

(Note: Text added. The rest of the article deals with the American Legion National Emergency
Fund, and the effects on American Legion Posts in the disaster area.
End of added text.)

The American Legion Convention in Atlanta

(Legion Emblem added.)
     When the Legion Convention in Atlanta turned its attention to the
long term struggle of Camille’s victims that lies ahead, after the first
wave of National sympathy has faded, it started its own Disaster Fund.
Probably a priority will go to the Legion’s stricken Posts, Legionnaires,
Veterans, and their families. The National Executive Committee
allocated $25,000 out of National Funds, two days before the first
Convention business meeting to start off. On the floor of the Convention,
the New York Legion added $5,000 to it. Pennsylvania added $5,000,
and Illinois added $5,250. The American Legion Auxiliary added $7,500,
the Past Commander’s Club added $1,000. Alaska, recipient in its most
recent earthquake disaster, put up an immediate $500. Post 53 of Fort
Wayne, Arkansas, tendered $75.      The American Legion Press Club
members at the Convention pledged $200. Other small gifts brought the
Fund to over $53,000 before the Convention closed shop. A month later,
it stood at $61,326.

(Auxiliary Emblem added.)

The Final Paragraphs in the Legion Magazine Article

     Not since the early 1920’s has a Special Legion Fund Drive raised more than $190,000 A couple of million could be wisely spent just for the Legion’s own Camille’s War Veteran victims, for the sake of “…devotion to mutual helpfulness.” It is unlikely that much can be raised. One hops that individuals will send what they can, and someone in every Post will make the motion for whatever Post donation the treasury can stand. There are no “fund raising” or other charges larded on to Legion Special Funds. Contributions are tax-deductible. Checks should be made to “American Legion National Emergency Relief Fund", and sent to the Fund at P.O. Box 1055, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46206.
     If a handful of Legion Posts as Posts, and quite apart from the individual ruin suffered by their Members, lost more than one can reasonably expect to raise in a national relief fund drive…that may help put the total economic disaster from Alabama to Louisiana in some perspective. It is beyond counting.
     While it would take $1 from each Legionnaire and Auxiliare to raise $3,500,000 that isn't how it has happened in the past. Something less than 20,000 Members respond warmly with bigger gifts, while the bulk of the 3,500,000 Members of both Organizations seem to assume that someone else is taking care of the need. This is not always their fault. Communication within the Legion is sometimes unwieldy because of its loose, extremely democratic, and many-headed structure. A few years ago, the Legion raised more than $100,000 to aid the victims of Viet Cong terrorists in Vietnam, which was good…considering that this was the problem of a distant people. Last year, following a similar pattern, about $189,000 was raised for the 50th Anniversary Gift to the Nation. This too was very good, as it was a voluntary project not connected to any crisis.
     But the after-damage of Camille will continue to present almost a bottomless well of stark need, even after Government Agencies have funneled millions into the ravaged areas.
     Response in such tragedies is always greatest at the moment of the disaster, and there were many examples of Legionnaires all over the Country sending immediate aid, on their own, to the best of their ability, to storm areas, often in the form of emergency supplies. And while Government aid soon flowed in much greater volume, harried officials on the scene especially prized the private gifts, because they could hand them out as the need arose, without the enormous red tape of accounting for Government supplies.

Some examples of immediate Legion response:

     Camille had a bead on Tampa Florida before she swerved westward across the Gulf of Mexico. But on the heels of the storm, Posts 5 and 111, and Auxiliary Unit 5 in Tampa Florida succeeded in flying more than 4,000 pounds of emergency supplies to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi Mississippi, which was operable shortly after the storm.

     Post 11 in Laurel Mississippi, 90 miles inland, joined with the Moose and VFW there to run a line of trucks and tractor trailers to the Coast with relief supplies…and Post 11 raised $279 of relief funds on the spot.

     Members of Post 64 in Gretna Louisiana, thankful that Camille just missed them, raised a quick $2,700 of relief funds for south western Louisiana storm victims.

     After moving away from the Gulf Coast Camille headed northeast, toward the Northeastern States. All the States received damage from Camille, but Virginia was especially hurt. There, with her great winds dead, she dumped devastating floods along the Central Virginia watershed of the James River. A citywide team of Civic Groups in La Mesa California had already raised funds and relief goods for the Gulf Coast before Camille reached Virginia. Back in La Mesa California, the citizens turned out again, and using Legion Post 282 as headquarters, shipped off 6,000 pounds of relief supplies to Virginia.

(Note: The following text, in parenthesis, has been added due to the mention of the State of Virginia in the Legion Magazine article.)

     (Camille killed 256 people in the United States: 143 along the Gulf Coast and an additional 113 in the Appalachians, where its remnants caused massive flooding in the days following landfall. By the time Camille reached the Mississippi-Tennessee border, it had weakened to a Tropical Depression, but its destruction was far from over. The remnants of the hurricane traveled northeastward, crossing Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio before reaching West Virginia and extreme southern Virginia. Late Tuesday, August 19th, Tropical Depression Camille, dropped torrential rains on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains that lasted for eight hours. Flash floods and landslides ensued, as did record flooding in Virginia's James River Basin. The floods were the worst natural disaster Virginia had ever seen. Communication links, including all but one of Virginia's highways, were cut. More than 100 people died in Virginia, with many more reported injured and missing. Camille's total damage in Virginia topped $19 million. End of added text.)

(Note: Text added. And now, the last line of the American Legion Magazine Article...End of text added.)

     If all Legionnaires get the word, and reflect this kind of spirit, and if everyone gives a little to undo Camille, the Legion will raise millions painlessly. This would be some sort of landmark for the start of the Legion’s second 50 years.  R. B. Pitkin

(Note: Text added. Robert B. Pitkin was the Editor of the American Legion Magazine in November of 1969. End of text added.)

The Article Continues With Part 4
"The Continuing Disaster on the Gulf Coast"   Part 1
Camille Part 2
Camille Part 3
Camille Part 4
National Hurricane Center Camille Maps and Charts