Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Traveling Tuesday: West Virginia During WWII

Traveling Tuesday: West Virginia During WWII

West Virginia is the only state in America to form by seceding from a Confederate state. (Wikipedia has an interesting article about how that occurred). Nearly eighty years after joining the Union, West Virginia played a large role in World War II. Factories, mills, and mines expanded their workforce to produce huge quantities of materiel for the U.S. military and its Allies. Interwoven Hosiery manufactured socks for the army and navy, while other companies made tires, planes, jeeps, trucks, and parachutes. The railroad was kept busy transporting goods and servicemen and women.

The state is proud of the fact that it provided the fifth highest percentage of soldiers: nearly 220,000. Additionally, more than 1,000 of its women donned uniforms to serve in the auxiliary services.

Here are some of West Virginia’s award recipients: 
Hershel Williams
  • Hershel Williams received the Medal of Honor for his bravery on Iwo Jima.
  • Harrison Summers took out thirty-one German soldiers during exceptionally heavy fighting.
  • Foster Feathers searched for landmines on Normandy.
  • George Roberts, the Army Air Corps first black cadet was a combat pilot.

Now the Greenbrier Valley Airport, the field was used by the Army Air Force during the war. Other air fields include Cumberland, Elkins, Moundsville, and Buckhannon.

And what about those enemy alien diplomats?  Rather than immediately shipping them home, the U.S. interned the Germans and Italians at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs. Diplomats from Hungary also stayed at the Greenbrier. The Japanese were sent to The Homestead Resort in Virginia. One article I found indicated that despite being allies in the war, the Germans and Italians did not get along (read: acrimonious), and the Italians were moved to the Grove Park Inn.

Children of German Diplomats
at the Greenbrier
Reasoning for a “high-end” experience for these individuals was the idea that if they were well-treated, U.S. embassy personnel would receive the same treatment. Internment was only supposed to last a couple of days, but instead dragged on for seven months because of red tape. Prisoners were exchanged during the summer of 1941 by way of Madagascar, South America, and other locations.

In late 1942, the Army purchased the property and converted it to the 2,000 bed Ashford General Hospital. Opening in October 1943, the facility served over 25,000 casualties before closing in 1946.

Thank you for your service, West Virginia.

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