I recently received a catalog, advertising historical tours mostly in the United States and Europe, where Americans have been involved in battles. Most of them were from the Civil War and World War II.
Included in the catalog was a letter from the founder and CEO of the tour company that started out, Dear History Lover. One phrase in this catalog of tours caught my eye. It said “Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, what we pass on to future generations, and what is an irreplaceable source of life and inspiration.”
Being an historian, sometimes people ask me. “Why do you study history,” and “why is it important. It has already happened.”
The reason to study history is the same reason to study the Bible, to learn from the mistakes people made in the past and to learn not to make these mistakes again. I’m afraid people today are not studying either history or the Bible, and the same mistakes made in the past are being made again today.
The largest turmoil in the world during my lifetime, if not also in the history of the world, was World War II.
I have written how, at age four, I vividly remember President Franklin D. Roosevelt announcing the attack on Pearl Harbor and saying, “December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy.” The next day, on December 8, the United States Congress declared war, and the United States officially entered World War II.
Everyone in the United States, both those in the military and civilians, got involved in some way in the war effort. People bought “war bonds” and many items were rationed and could be purchased legally only if you had stamps issued by the federal government. I still have my ration book.
This tri-state area of Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky became greatly involved in the World War II war effort. The tri-state area was selected because of its location away from the coasts and its availability of railroad and waterways.
Evansville, Ind. had the manufacturing of LST boats and the building of airplane parts. Some people from the Norris City area worked there.
Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Shawneetown, trained people for the military and also protected the tri-state area’s war plants and facilities with its Army troops and air base.
Southern Illinois had the Illinois Ordinance Plant in the Crab Orchard Lake area, west of Marion, Ill. This plant was referred to as the Ordill – short for Ordinance Illinois – plant. This plant employed over 10,000 people at its peak of production, and they manufactured 250,000 105 mm. shells, 175,000 155 mm. shells and 170,150 500- pound bombs on a monthly basis. The 200 bunkers built to store this ammunition until it was shipped out on railroad cars still exists. I have seen and been inside some of them.
In Southern Illinois, the War Emergency Pipeline was built from Longview, Tex. to Norris City, Ill. It was dedicated on February 19,1943 at Norris City. Fifteen 80,000 gallon storage tanks were built at Norris City to hold the oil coming in on this pipeline. Oil was loaded on railroad tank cars and hauled out of Norris City on a continual basis to eastern oil refineries. The War Emergency Pipeline put 3,500 workmen to work building the pipeline to Norris City. I have a list of the names of 134 men and women from the Norris City area who were put to work at the War Emergency Pipeline terminal in Norris City that first year of 1943. This does not include the New York Central (Big Four) Railroad workers who were also employed in hauling the oil.
Servicemen and women from this area were serving all over the world and some where in major battles in Europe and Asia and some even became prisoners of war. I know of men being tail gunners on airplanes and fighting battles such as the Battle of the Bulge. Two were on troop ships heading for the invasion of Japan, ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which was stopped by President Harry Truman, who ordered the use of the atomic bombs instead. So altogether, the people from this area played a major role in the winning of World War II.
A coming event will honor Norris City’s role in the war effort during World War II. Read future issues of this column for more information about this event.
If anyone has any information or comments, please contact me at Edward Oliver, P. O. Box 456, Norris City, IL 62869 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.