MARBLEHEAD — When amateur historian Sean Casey began to research what Marblehead was like during World War II, he talked to people who were there, and he investigated documents, letters and news stories. It got so he could say in words what it might have been like to walk the streets in those days — but he never expected to actually see a wartime Marblehead movie. Then, he discovered that the American Pictorial Service, a branch of the U. S. Army Signal Corps, had sent filmmakers to the town on November 8, 1944, and made a brief, Hollywood-quality film.
Casey, 56, a Marblehead native, will give two illustrated, 90 minute talks at Abbot Public Library. “Marblehead in World War II: Over Here,” on Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m., is a look at the Marblehead home front during the war. A second talk on Sunday, January 12, at 2 p.m. will discuss “Marblehead in World War II: Over There.” The six-and-a-half-minute Signal Corps film will complete Wednesday’s program.
A consultant in government work, Casey is married with two children. The idea of researching what his hometown was like during the war seemed a natural. For Marblehead natives, he said, “History is around you all the time.”
Roughly 1,300 out of 10,000 Marbleheaders served during World War II, said Casey. That transformed the town.
“Anybody even close to physically fit between the ages of 18 and 38 was gone.” Parents, wives and children often knew generally where loved ones were and knew the dangers they faced. “The stress on parents and wives was heartbreaking.”
He estimated that 46 Marbleheaders were lost in the war, 31 in combat. Although those numbers are hard to pin down because the town had so many summer residents, it’s a bigger percentage than suffered by most communities.
The number in the service, on the other hand, isn’t unusually high. For that reason, Marblehead is a good proxy for all the towns in America.