Page from the Past: A Sailor’s Map Journal

(The following story, written by Center for the Book intern Maria Comé, is featured in the September/October 2015 issue of the LCM, which you can read in it’s entirety here.)

Map and diary of U.S. Navy Signalman 3rd Class Homer Buford Clonts, who detailed his movements and battles in the Pacific from 1943-1945.Sept. 2, 1945, marked the end of World War II, following the surrender of the Japanese to the Allied forces. Seventy years later, researchers can access the eyewitness accounts and memorabilia of those who served in the war, which have been collected by the Veterans History Project (VHP) in the Library’s American Folklife Center.

One of the more unusual acquisitions, pictured above, is a combination journal and map kept by Homer Bluford Clonts, a Navy signalman who served in the Pacific on the USS Eldorado from 1943 to 1945. Under the command of Adm. Kelly Turner, the ship and its crew helped capture the island of Iwo Jima. Were it not for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that hastened the war’s end, Clonts and his shipmates might have been part of the U.S. mission to invade Japan, set to begin on Nov. 1, 1945.

“This is not what you’d consider a typical journal,” said VHP archivist Andrew Cassidy-Amstutz. “Clonts annotated the front of this oversized map of the Pacific Ocean with his ship’s arrivals and departures from various islands. On the reverse, he kept a detailed journal of the military encounters he and his shipmates faced. His entries illustrate the daily challenges and terrors of military deployment.”

“The Navy has lost more men here at Okinawa than the Army and Marines together,” Clonts wrote in an undated entry. “Ships have been hit every day, mostly by suicide planes.”

Journal detail of Clonts' movements and battles from 1943-1945. Veterans History Project.

Journal detail of Clonts’ movements and battles from 1943-1945. Veterans History Project.

The map journal came to the Library jammed in a poster tube, covered in tape and water-stained.

Prior to extensive conservation treatment, the map was badly distorted from the tape and unusable. The paper was very fragile and more than 35 feet of adhesive tape used to repair tears in the map’s many folds had to be removed both manually and with solvents.

“This was a very challenging treatment,” said Heather Wanser in the Library’s Conservation Division, who painstakingly performed the work. “The colored inks used to print the map, and the pen ink that Clonts used, were soluble in some of the solvents that are used to remove tape and adhesive. Some of the tape was extremely tenacious.”

Following conservation treatment, the historically significant text is legible.

In September 1945, Clonts wrote, “The war is over.” His journal concludes with this entry on Nov. 10, 1945, “Discharged from U.S. Navy.”

One Comment

  1. Elaine Clonts Russell
    September 22, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    As a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), I donated my Dad’s map/journal to the Veteran’s History Project, which UDC adopted as an on-going project. Dad would be proud to know that his map has been preserved for historical reasons, from which all can learn.

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