Can Do!


“Huie’s job in the Navy was not to drive nails, but to write.”  — Don Noble

William Bradford Huie was inducted into the United States Navy on April 24, 1943 as an apprentice seaman, USN-1.  Huie served the Seabees as their chief promoter and historian.  It was Huie’s goal to ensure that the contributions of the Seabees to the war effort did not go unnoticed.  They may not have been fighting battles with the enemy, but they were building roads, buildings, and infrastructure to keep our soldiers safe.

Huie documented the experiences of the Seabees as the aide to Admiral Ben Moreell, founder of the Seabees – the Naval Construction Battalions.  After interviews, research, and training, Huie published a series of periodical articles then his first book on these able-bodied men.  Huie was said to be perfect for the job of capturing the Seabee story.

The official motto of the Seabees was Construimus, Batuimus — “We Build, We Fight.”  The unofficial and popular slogan was Can Do!, and it became the title of Huie’s book on this group of men.  Can Do! The Story of the Seabees was published in 1944 and introduced the Seabees to Huie’s readers on the home front, as well as boosted morale and confidence in the troops fighting abroad discussing progress in the American effort.

“In its darkest hour the Navy had turned to the country’s natural fighters: to dam builders and sand hogs, structural-steel workers, timberjacks, cat-skinners, dock-wallopers; a breed of men capable of licking jungles as well as Japs.  These [were the] first Seabees.” – William Bradford Huie



The paths of JFK and WBH crossed more than once, to be sure.  Today, on the fiftieth anniversary of the election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency of the United States, why not take a peek at Huie’s interview of Kennedy for the early television news show,  the Longines Chronoscope.  William Bradford Huie and fellow interviewer, Harold Levine talk with Rep. John F. Kennedy (Democrat, Massachusetts) on senatorial campaign between him and Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (Republican, Massachusetts) in 1952.

Other Voices: Mud on the Stars

A huge thanks to Jennifer Horne and her students from Honors College shared book experience course.  We have added three papers from the course to the site – written in the voices of other characters from Huie’s first (and very autobiographical) novel, Mud on the Stars.  This book is a MUST READ for UA students — anyone who wants to get an inside view to The University of Alabama in the late 1920s.  Fascinating stuff!

Part of Mud on the Stars was adapted to become the film, Wild River (1960, directed by Elia Kazan), which we will be screening (the real reels, no dvds for us!!) at the Bama on 11/10! Don Noble will introduce the film, along with Jeremy Butler.  Did you know that Don also wrote the fascinating introduction to the UA Press edition of Mud, which is in print and available at the Supe Store, and other places.  Do yourselves a favor, and read it!