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WW II Veteran James Lee Hutchinson tells about his experiences and life in Lawrence County

LAWRENCE COUNTY - NOVEMBER 29, 2023 - James Lee Hutchinson tells about his experiences and life in Lawrence County.




About the Author

 

T/Sgt. James Lee Hutchinson is a WW II Eighth Air Corps veteran of twenty missions as a teenage B-17 Radio Operator/ gunner.  The ninety- seven year-old educator has published five WW II short story books to record and preserve 300 stories of WW II history of B-17 and B-24 air crews, fighter pilots and POWs. Stories gathered in the past twenty years from TV interviews, memoirs and diaries of veterans, many have  passed, but their WW II memories are saved.

 

He also wrote “On Leatherwood Creek” which describes his boyhood prior to WW II and “Hutch’s Rainbow Bridge, Ninety-three Years of Pets” continues with family stories of all the pets in his life and escapades after retirement to his “dream home “ on a farm.

 

The author holds three Indiana University degrees and is retired from 37 years as an elementary educator, Principal and Assistant to the Superintendent. Fifty year Mason, Rotary Paul Harris Award, Presbyterian Elder. Hutch uses the short story format and self-drawn sketches to encourage readers from twelve to ninety-six. His goal is to honor those who served to save our freedom and to educate the present generations.

 

WW II books of 50 or more stories of boys on B-17 Flying Fortress crews, flying deadly missions with the Eighth Air Force in World War II. His writing is based on his teenage combat experiences as a B-17 radio/gunner on twenty combat missions with the 490th Bomb group, diaries and interviews of veterans of various bomb groups. Teenagers who volunteered to fly were trained and went into combat before they could legally vote or buy a drink. They signed up for the Army’s Air Cadet Program and became a part of the greatest air armada in the world. A majority of the gunners on a bomber crew were teenagers and twenty-four was the average age of pilots, bombardiers and navigators. Veterans’ diaries give amazing reports of fighter attacks, flak damage and being shot down to become Prisoners of War. They were the youngsters who flew daylight bombing missions in the Mighty Eighth and destroyed Germany’s military and war industry. Our missions were designed to support the Allied ground forces by blasting and destroying Germany’s supplies and transportation system. Our targets were factories, railroads, bridges, oil storage and airfields. Of course, all strategic targets were well protected by anti-aircraft batteries and Luftwaffe fighters. Thousands of aircrews and planes went down before we destroyed their ability to continue the war.

 

The price of victory was high, with extreme losses of crews and planes. Eighth Air Corps losses were the highest of any military unit, 26,000 died. Like the author, teenagers who survived to tell stories of those great air battles are now in their upper nineties and rapidly passing into history. I have interviewed or collected the stories more than 250 veterans in the past twenty-two years to preserve WW II history. My seven books record true accounts of life in the Greatest Generation. I flew 20 missions as a teenage B-17 Radio Operator/gunner in the Eighth Air Corps. We flew on oxygen at 25,000 feet and 40 below zero to face enemy fighters and flak! I often wondered if I would ever see my twentieth birthday. Escort fighters protected us from enemy fighters, but only God could protect us as we flew into the black flak (exploding anti-aircraft 88 mm shells) filling the sky over the target. Our losses were the highest of any WW II military unit. Violent deaths and serious wounds were facts of life for the boys on heavy bombers. Today, at age ninety-seven I am proud to have saved these short stories of fellow World War ll veterans in seven books and four recordings.

 

I was an educator for thirty-seven years as elementary teacher, principal and Assistant to the Superintendent. I retired in 1987 to a life of golfing and horseback riding until a heart attack in 2000 (six by – pass) During recovery I wrote my first of eight books. I am a WW II veteran of twenty B – 17 bombing missions over Germany in the Eighth Air Corps as radio/ operator/gunner. I was with 490th Bomb Group at Eye, England at age nineteen. My first book was my diary, “Through These Eyes”

 

I retired in 1987 to a life of golfing and horseback riding until a heart attack in 2000 (six by – pass). I Wrote my first of eight books during recovery. Six books are short stories based on diaries or interviews of WW II combat veterans and two boyhood or retirement stories.

 

During WWII for the past 20 years I have interviewed dozens of local WW II veteran on a local high School television station  and collected veterans’ diaries and papers they wrote for the family I write at the seventh grade reading level and use the  ‘short story format to hold the interest of  readers. Writing is an expensive hobby, I will never recover money invested in publishing and buying books to sell. However, I get great satisfaction educating readers to the sacrifices  of thousands to protect our nation’s Constitution and Freedom.

 

Book titles and free videos are listed below:

 

 Read my books –see my videos to know what we did! WW II Eighth Air Corps B-17 Veteran saving History of Heroes                                  

 

T/Sgt. James Lee Hutchinson -- Air Medal -- two  clusters -- 20 missions  teenage radio operator/gunner -- 490th Bomb Group (H) Sqd 848 -- Eye, England

 

Siv books- 250 true combat stories based interviews and diaries!

 

Autographed copies at  <james_hutchinson_693@comcast.net>  or

 

 812-508-0062    $22 --- free shipping   50 to 60  stories is    also online  

 

***New book  --  WW II – We Were There

 

Through These Eyes- author’s diary of 20 Eighth Air Force missions

 

Bombs Away! 40 combat stories and 25 Great Depression boyhood stories

 

Boys in the B-17 – Teenagers, too young to vote, but not to fight

 

B- 17 Memories from Memphis Belle to Victory – stories from 8th and 15 th  airmen--  9th Infantry --  POWs --- Holocaust 

 

B-17s, Fighters and Flak --  includes ace P-51 pilot’s journal 

 

  1. WW II – We Were There

 

 

Also 2  fun books    On Leatherwood Creek - Indiana Bicentennial project - veteran’s boyhood in the poverty of the Great Depression  Hutch’s Rainbow Bridge, 93 years of pets --- 20  sketches by author

 

 Free videos -- – google --  James Lee HutchinsonYouTube” 1.”Tales from the Greatest Generation with James Lee Hutchinson” by Smithville Media2.

 

2 .”Flying Fortress: Wings Over Europe”


3. “Hutch-B-17 Flak and Fighters”


4.”Arming the B-17 Bombers”

 

My Motto --- Knowledge for the Young - Memories for the Old 

 

There will never be another air war like World War II. Computer guided aircraft and missiles have replaced the “Boys in the B-17.” However, within living memory, men left the earth in 1,000 plane formations and fought major battles five miles high, leaving a legacy that should never be forgotten! Today, at age ninety-seven, I hope my short stories give readers a glimpse of history as I lived it in World War II.   

 

                      1944-45  age 19                          2023   age 98

 

Liberty Belles’ Combat Story

 

September 9,1944 the 390th Bomb Group attacked a target in Dusseldorph, Germany and suffered its second largest single mission loss of the war. On the bomb run over the target, just prior to bomb release, one the low squadron B-17's was hit by an anti-aircraft shell. The direct hit in the open bomb-bay exploded the 5000 pound bomb-load. That explosion blew six bombers out of the sky and badly damaged three others. Nine of the twelve planes in the low squadron were lost to the bomb group while over the target. P-51 escort fighters escorted the three damaged bombers to safety. One of the planes flew two hours on one engine and landed safely in Paris. A second “ cripple” landed in Belgium and the third struggled back to its home base in Framingham, England. It landed much later than the other bombers returning from the mission. But, it landed!  That Flying Fortress was the Liberty Belle! The severely damaged B-17 had managed to make it safely back to England and after much repair, flew another 64 combat missions! The war-weary plane was unable to make the return trip to the USA after the war. The 390th Bomb Group flew 300 missions and lost 144 bombers. There were heavy loses of men and planes in all forty-three of the heavy bomber bases in England. The 390th had one of the best bombing accuracy records in the Eighth Air Force.

 

The Liberty Belle that flew across America today was a replica of that famous bomber; the B-17G Flying Fortress, restored, at great cost, as a flying museum of history to honor the men and planes that filled the skies over England in WW II. More than 12,000 of the sturdy bombers were manufactured to serve; the Belle was one of five or six restored B-17 bombers flying at that time.

 

It was a thrill to see the aircraft soaring above the Mt. Comfort, Indiana countryside, carrying passengers who wanted to experience a flight in a Flying Fortress. The Liberty Belle brought back a ton of memories my days in the 490th Bomb Group and those twenty bombing missions over Germany so many years ago in World War II.

 

My wife, June and I set up the card-table, book display and lawn chairs and joined the crowd of on-lookers on the sunny June day. The historic bomber was visited by many WW II veterans and their families. We exchanged stories of our wartime experiences and enjoyed watching the bomber take off, land and load more passengers.

 

One Liberty Belle visitor, had been a pilot in the 390th Bomb Group on that deadly mission in 1944. He was flying in the low squadron on the day of that deadly mission and was one of three B-17's to escape damage from the explosion! Those three planes stayed on the bomb run to the target and dropped their bombs. The old pilot said he will never forget that day when six planes in his squadron went down instantly and sixty men lost their lives in that one fatal blast.

 

Another Eighth Air Corps veteran had served as an Eighth Air Corps armorer, one of the guys who loaded our planes with bombs and ammunition before each mission. They also had to unload them when bad weather cancelled a mission. The ex-sergeant had interesting stories from a “ground pounder’s” experiences on a bomber base. He was one of those very important guys who prepared our bombers for missions and sweated out our safe return.

 

Atrocity --- I got a different view of the war from a veteran who had served with Airborne Troops during the D-Day invasion. He was a member of a bomb squad, a “sapper,” his job was to locate and dis-arm land mines and bombs. His most riveting story concerned a B-17 that was shot down near St Lo on D-Day. His men witnessed two crew members parachute to the ground in the midst of the fighting. He said his infantry squad fought their way across a field to save the airmen, but were too late. German troops had already captured the two survivors, tied them to fence posts, doused them with gasoline and burned them alive!  He earned his own Purple Heart medal a few days later when he and a buddy were disarming a land mine which exploded. He said the last thing he saw before passing out, was the blood-stained snow surrounding his dead buddy lying a few feet away. He didn’t wake up until he was in a hospital bed in England.

 

Descendants of Flying Fortress veterans attending this visit of the Liberty Belle were eager to talk with Eighth Air Corps veterans. Several bought an autographed copiy of my book, Through These Eyes and cameras bugs got a lot of good pictures of the historic Liberty Belle and the men who had served and survived World War II in the Eighth Air Force. The trip to Mt Comfort and flying in a B-17 again was truly one of my most enjoyable missions. I have flown on three more restored memories of the past since the Liberty Belle.

 

Flying Tigers

 

Japan invaded China In the late 1930s, and China’s leader, Chiang Kai -Shek, had a very weak Air Corps so he decided to beef-up his Chinese Air corps by buying planes and equipment from the United States and hiring fighter pilots from other countries. Faced with too much Japanese air power bombing cities, the Chiang government hired American Claire Chennault, a retired US Army captain, to coordinate China’s air defense. Chennnalt put together an air raid warning network, built airbases across China, and went to the United States -- still a neutral party in World War II to find pilots and planes to defend China against the Japanese air force. He was able to buy 100 Curtiss P-40B and hire pilots and mechanics for his new airports.

 

Pay ranged from $13,700 a month with 30 days off a year. Housing  included and an extra $550 a month for food. All contracts were for one year, to live and work in China, flying, repairing and making airplanes. Fighter pilot contracts included a bounty of $ 9,000 for every Japanese airplane shot down -- no limit.  Ninety-nine fliers, along with support personnel, made the trip to China in the fall of 1941, according to the US Defense Department history. American pilots, mechanics and support personnel became members of the American Volunteer Group (AVG), later known as the Flying Tigers. The group's American-made warplanes featured the gaping, tooth-filled mouth of a shark on their nose May 28, 1942.

 

The volunteers --- some were fresh out of flight school, others were former Army Air Corps members or ferry pilots for large bombers. They signed up for the Far East adventure to make a lot of money, to get into the war (we had lots of eager patriots in those days) or because they were simply bored. That deal -- in inflation-adjusted 2020 dollars, convinced a few hundred Americans to volunteer in 1941 and to become the heroes, and some would even say the saviors, of China.

 

Flying Tigers P-40 - American Volunteers

 

The nose's symbolic fierceness was backed up by its pilots in combat and the Flying Tiger pilots are credited with destroying as many as 497 Japanese planes at a cost of only 73 of their own. Perhaps the best known of the Flying Tigers, US Marine aviator Greg Boyington -- around whom the 1970's TV show "Black Sheep Squadron" was based . Greg “Pappy” Boyington. In his memoir, Chennault notes what his group -- never fielding more than 25 P-40s -- accomplished.

 

"This tiny force met a total of a thousand-odd Japanese aircraft over Southern Burma and Thailand. In 31 encounters they destroyed 217 enemy planes and probably destroyed 43. Our losses in combat were four pilots killed in the air, one killed while strafing and one taken prisoner. Sixteen P-40's were destroyed," he wrote.

 

“The US military notes the heroics performed on the ground:

 

"The crew chiefs and support technicians performed miracles of improvisation in getting the fighters ready to fly, but if any (aircraft) ... had been on US military bases, they would have been deemed un-flyable," it said.

 

Despite the Flying Tigers' heroics in the air, allied ground forces in Burma could not hold off the Japanese. Rangoon fell at the end of February 1942 and the AVG retreated north into Burma's interior. But they'd bought vital time for the allied war effort, tying down Japanese planes that could have been used in India or elsewhere in China and the Pacific. According to Chennault, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made this comparison:

 

“The victories of these Americans over the rice paddies of Burma are comparable in character, if not in scope, with those won by the RAF (Royal Air Force) over the hop fields of Kent in the Battle of Britain.”

 

Boyington,  like many flyers who flew in early service, transferred to US Forces, the Marines. The experienced native American (Sioux) fighter pilot had phenomenal success in the Pacific war and won our nation’s highest awards, the Navy Cross and the Medal of Honor!

 

 Medal of Honor Citation 

 

BOYINGTON, GREGORY --- flying Tiger

 

Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Marine Squadron 214. Place and date: Central Solomons area, from 12 September 1943 to 3 January 1944. Entered service at: Washington. Born: 4 December 1912, Coeur D'Alene, Idaho. Other Navy award: Navy Cross. Citation: For extraordinary heroism and valiant devotion to duty as commanding officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 214 in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Central Solomons area from 12 September 1943 to 3 January 1944. Consistently outnumbered throughout successive hazardous flights over heavily defended hostile territory, Maj. Boyington struck at the enemy with daring and courageous persistence, leading his squadron into combat with devastating results to Japanese shipping, shore installations, and aerial forces. Resolute in his efforts to inflict crippling damage on the enemy, Maj. Boyington led a formation of 24 fighters over Kahili on 17 October and, persistently circling the airdrome where 60 hostile aircraft were grounded, boldly challenged the Japanese to send up planes. Under his brilliant command, our fighters shot down 20 enemy craft in the ensuing action without the loss of a single ship. A superb airman and determined fighter against overwhelming odds, Maj. Boyington personally destroyed 26 of the many Japanese planes shot down by his squadron and, by his forceful leadership, developed the combat readiness in his command which was a distinctive factor in the Allied aerial achievements in this vitally strategic area.

 

 

 

Canadian Royal Air Force

 

Americans joined other Air Forces --- World War II created many heroes ---  early volunteers who were first to fight for a country, other than the United States, but  like the 9,000 who joined the Canadian Royal Air Force, if they survived  they were later absorbed into our Army Air Corps. The Battle of Britain was going badly in the early 1940 and 9,000 young Americans decided to volunteer as airmen. I have two interesting stories. From a n earlier book. Francis Wayne Gennette, of my hometown, was turned down by the US Air Corps and John “Red” Morgan of Texas was classified as “4-F” because he had a broken-neck as a teenager. Each “rejected” young patriot decided to join the Canadian Royal Air Force and were welcomed into the CRAF pilot-training program. A year later both were in England, flying bombing missions in RCAF uniforms. Perhaps they met on the Path to Glory.

 

Flight Sergeant Wayne Gennette became tail-gunner and flew several mission on a Vickers-Wellington two motor medium bomber with a five man crew.. He died in combat over Holland shortly after our Army Air Corps bombers arrived to fly their first mission in August 1942. Netherlands citizen provided information on the air battle and his grave and have decorated it in gratitude for eighty years. His name is listed in the CRAF Book of Remembrance in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada.

 

Flight Officer John C. Morgan was flying CRAF heavy bombers. He transferred to the US Army Air Forces as a B-17 co-pilot in May 1943, and was assigned to the 95th Bomb Group --- Squadron 326 at Alconbury. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, but later shot down and became the only MOH holder to become a POW. The complete stories of Gennette and Morgan are included in my fifth book, “B-17s, Fighters and Flak”

 

Germany had taken most of Europe and was planning to invade England in 1941 and our theater newsreels (no TV) were full of his savage war in the Battle of Britain.  Many young Americans were so eager fly that they who joined the RCAF (Royal Air Force) Eagle Squadrons of U.S. volunteers to fly British planes as gunners or pilots against the Germans. Once the U.S. entered the war and the Eighth Air Force was stationed in England, three Royal Air Force Eagle squadrons of American pilots and crew members transferred to U.S. fighter groups. The U.S. had very few planes before World War II. Aircraft production and pilot training became a desperate need after Pearl Harbor and the Air Cadet program was flooded with applications from young men eager to join Army, Navy or Marine Air Corps.

 

 

 

Freedom and Democracy were in deep trouble when the United States joined the war. My collection of short stories from the young men who were there, tell why your Grandfathers or Great grandfathers fought so hard to save them for you!  My  generation made great sacrifices to save our country’s independence.

 

Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec.7, 1941, brought our United States into WW II. However, war had been raging in Europe for two years. German and Italian troops had already conquered France, Poland, most of Eastern Europe and North Africa. England had won the Battle of Britain but was again under attack and near invasion by Germany. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said,

 

“Hitler built a fortress around Europe, but he forgot to put a roof on it!                       

 

Pearl Harbor -- War at Home

 

Pearl Harbor was bombed December 7, 1941 when I was a sixteen year old sophomore. So, I experienced WW II as a civilian for almost two years. Our nation rallied around the flag and became the most united our United States it has ever been. Formed on 28 January 1942, the United States 8th Army Air Force was established at Savannah, Georgia, as the air component of the projected invasion of North-West Africa ( Operation Torch.  April and May 1942 saw the first personnel arrive on British soil. The first raid of major proportions was mounted on 17 August 1942 by 12 Boeing B-17 Fortresses, the giant four-engine bombers which, with the Consolidated B-24 Liberator, bore the brunt of the US bombing effort. This raid on Rouen, mounted in daylight, sustained no losses, but this was not to be the case in the majority of its successors. Men and teenagers joined or were drafted into military service and women went to work in defense plants. The war caused many shortages and War Ration Books with sheets of food stamps were issued to families to purchase rationed products like meat, sugar, tires and gasoline. It was May, 1943 and World War II was raging in Europe, North Africa and the Pacific. Our country needed more defenders and the draft had been lowered to eighteen. Teenagers were lying about their age to go to war and most of my class planned to join at the end of school in May in order to pick the branch of service they preferred.  There were many of those dreaded War Department telegrams notifying parents of the wounded, Missing in Action, POW or dead.  Worst of all, a few of last year’s graduates we knew so well had already come home with life-changing wounds. One hundred and twenty-four died in combat!

 

Time passed and our troops were fighting all over the world, every country was in the war or already conquered except Sweden and Switzerland who remained neutral throughout the war. Things were bad and the Draft Board was taking teenagers and married men with children every month to meet their quota. Our Leatherwood Creek Gang of five were now teenagers and it was our turn to fight for the Freedom we enjoyed as kids. We were soon saying goodbye to family and Dutchtown friends

 

Pearl Harbor was a shock and we talked about it walking to Bedford High Monday morning but had no idea how greatly that sneak attack would change our lives. The bombing of  Pearl Harbor found our nation in the Depression and unprepared for war  but unemployment dropped from twenty-four percent to zero as able-bodied men went to war and women went to work in defense work to produce enough tanks, ships, and planes to fight and win a war in both Europe and the Pacific. ‘Remember Pearl Harbor’ became our battle cry as millions of men and women enlisted or were called for service. Thousands of teenagers joined the military or were drafted and often, two or more members from a family were called to serve.

 

The nation’s sense of security was so badly shaken that the government forced Japanese families living in California into internment camps as a precaution against sabotage. Air-raid watch and warning systems used volunteers as Air-raid Wardens to search the skies for enemy bombers. Black-out drills and air-raid drills were practiced in schools. One summer night in 1943, Chad and Doc and I sat on a hill at Otis Park and watched the entire town go dark as the air-raid siren screamed for a practice blackout. We didn’t realize that we would soon hear real air raid warnings in combat zones. Civilian life changed drastically and the war effort had first priority on all materials. Rationing coupons were issued in late 1942 and coupon books of stamps for gasoline, tires, sugar, meat and coffee became a fact of life. Gas ration cards of class ‘A’ allowed the driver only three gallons per week. There was a ‘B’ card for farmers and workers driving to defense plants

 

The shortage of tires and inter-tubes was a huge problem which limited travel. Hoarding tires was illegal, and motorists could only own five tires per car. Priorities were given to doctors and essential workers. A permit from the County Ration Board was needed to purchase a new tire. I was working at Bill’s Auto Store, and we sold hundreds of tire inter-tube repair kits containing glue and rubber patches. There were also heavy patches (boots) to glue inside worn out tires to cover holes and get a few more miles and a bumpy ride out a worn out tire with very little tread.

 

Sunday, December 7, 1941 the Empire of Japan made a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor while their envoys were in Washington discussing peace. The bombing ended all thought of isolation and propelled us into World War II.  Pearl Harbor was hit when I was a sixteen year old sophomore In Bedford High. I experienced WW II as a civilian for almost two years.

 

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor did us a favor. It awakened our nation and we declared war on the three Axis countries who intended to rule the world. Pearl Harbor was a shock and we talked about it walking to Bedford High Monday morning but had no idea how greatly that sneak attack would change our lives. The bombing found our nation in the Depression and unprepared for war  but unemployment dropped from twenty-four percent to zero as able-bodied men went to war and women went to work in defense work to produce enough tanks, ships, and planes to fight and win a war in both Europe and the Pacific. ‘Remember Pearl Harbor’ became our battle cry as millions of men and women enlisted or were called for service. Thousands of teenagers joined the military or were drafted and often, two or more members from a family were called to serve.

 

The nation’s sense of security was so badly shaken that the government forced Japanese families living in California into internment camps as a precaution against sabotage. Air-raid watch and warning systems used volunteers as Air-raid Wardens to search the skies for enemy bombers. Black-out drills and air-raid drills were practiced in schools. One summer night in 1943, Chad and Doc and I sat on a hill at Otis Park and watched the entire town go dark as the air-raid siren screamed for a practice blackout. We didn’t realize that we would soon hear real air raid warnings in combat zones. Civilian life changed drastically and the war effort had first priority on all materials. Rationing coupons were issued in late 1942 and coupon books of stamps for gasoline, tires, sugar, meat and coffee became a fact of life. Gas ration cards of class ‘A’ allowed the driver only three gallons per week. There was a ‘B’ card for farmers and workers driving to defense plants

 

The shortage of tires and inter-tubes was a huge problem which limited travel. Hoarding tires was illegal, and motorists could only own five tires per car. Priorities were given to doctors and essential workers. A permit from the County Ration Board was needed to purchase a new tire. I was working at Bill’s Auto Store, and we sold hundreds of tire inter-tube repair kits containing glue and rubber patches. There were also heavy patches (boots) to glue inside worn out tires to cover holes and get a few more miles and a bumpy ride out a worn out tire with very little tread.

 

Our nation’s auto industry concentrated on building jeeps, trucks and tanks for our troops. No new cars were manufactured in for civilians 1943 through 1944 and people relied on repair parts and ‘shade tree mechanics’ to keep their cars on the road. Speed limits were lowered to 34 mph and carpools were encouraged to save gas and tires. This wasn’t a drastic change, as many cars in those days couldn’t go much faster.

 

Millions went to work in factories to produce planes, tanks, and ships needed for victory. It was a time when men went to war and women made their weapons. A large percentage of the aircraft workers were women who did the riveting on building approximately 230,000 airplanes. Norman Rockwell’s famous painting of ‘Rosie the Riveter’, a muscular beauty wearing work clothes, a red bandana and holding a riveting gun appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Rosie became the symbol of women working to build the Arsenal of Democracy. The original painting sold for 4.9 million dollars at an auction in May, 2002. Nationwide, thousands of women were employed in dangerous jobs in munitions plants. ‘Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition’ became a popular war-time song. There were War Bond drives, and schools encouraged children to bring in loose change to purchase War Stamps.


 Rosie the Riveter

 

History praises the young men and women who sacrificed their youth in defense of our freedom. More praise is deserved for the women who stayed home to build the Arsenal of Democracy. Women of the Greatest Generation made very important contributions to the war effort. It was a terrible experience for women who scrimped, saved and struggled to feed a family during the hunger and poverty of the Depression only to see husbands and sons march off to war.

 

Sixteen million men and women from ages 18-35 joined or were drafted to save our nation. Nurses and young women also joined and wore the military uniforms of the Army WACs, Navy Waves, or other services.

 

Wives and mothers went to work in factories to produce weapons, tanks and planes.” Rosie the Riveter” became the symbol of those in the factories.

 

 Nearly nineteen million women held jobs during World War II. Many of these women were already working in lower-paying jobs or were returning to the work-force after being laid off during the depression. Women responded to the call of need the country was displaying by stepping up to fill positions that were traditionally filled by men. They began to work heavy construction machinery, taking roles in lumber and steel mills. Three new factories for making bombs, ammunition, gunpowder and testing military ammo opened up in Southern Indiana.

 

Many women enjoyed the salary these jobs provided during World War II many of the women who took jobs during World War II were mothers. Those women with children at home pooled together in their efforts to raise their families and shared such chores as cooking, cleaning and washing clothes. Many who did have young children shared apartments and houses so they could save time, money, utilities and food. If they both worked, they worked different shifts so they could take turns babysitting. The ability to support the soldiers by making all sorts of different products made the women feel very accomplished and proud of their work. Over six million women got war jobs.  Vi Kirstine Vrooman, in her book  A Mouthful of Rivets, writes about her decision to take action and become a riveter. She got a job building B-17s on an assembly line, and shares just how exciting it was, saying, "The biggest thrill—I can't tell you—was when the B-17s rolled off the assembly line. You can't believe the feeling we had. We did it!

 

Families hung six by ten banners with a blue star in a white center in their windows to show they had with a husband, son or daughter in the war. Many had two or more stars. Sadly, the blue star was changed to gold if the serviceman was killed. Radios and headlines reported the war’s progress and heartbreaking news of wounds or deaths. Young mothers remained home alone to raise children with the meager money allotted by the government. They dealt with shortages and War-time “ration cards for many foods, gas and tires and prayers for those in war.

 

 Others young mothers moved back with their parents and found jobs


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