Traveling Tuesday: Pennsylvania During WWII
Last week, we traveled to Maryland. Today, we’re in Pennsylvania, the home state of Murder of Convenience’s protagonist, Geneva Alexander. Geneva and her parents are from Philadelphia, but this entire state named for William Penn “did its bit” for the war effort.
Industry boomed in Pennsylvania as millions of Federal dollars poured into companies that manufactured war materiel. Everything from parachutes and radio crystals to tanks and battleships. Bethlehem Steel, one of the country’s largest producers of steel churned out more steel than the Axis powers combined. Mill across the state put out about one-third of the nation’s supply and one-fifth of the world’s supply.
|Henry "Hap" Arnold|
The military was a large presence with depots and army bases in numerous locations around the state such as the Philadelphia Navy Yard, the New Cumberland Army Services Forces Depot and the Letterkenny Ordnance Depot. In addition, nearly a dozen airfields populated the state from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and Middletown to Williamsport. Almost 1.25 million Pennsylvanians served in the armed forces, and some of the war’s most famous leaders hailed from the state: George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the Army; Henry “Hap” Arnold who commanded the Army Air Corps and was instrumental in getting approval for the Women’s Air Service Pilot program, Carl Spaatz who was Arnold’s second in command, and Chief of Naval Operations in Europe Admiral Harold Stark.
Volunteerism exploded as women surged to organizations such as the USO, Red Cross, American Women’s Voluntary Service, and other worthwhile non-profits. Thousands of ladies were active in bond drives as well as fundraising events for social organizations through the United War Fund. Rolling bandages, entertaining armed forces members, and creating neighborhood newsletters that were sent to the boys overseas are just a few of the ways women served in unpaid capacities.
Pennsylvania also went to war in its laboratories, becoming a center of technological advancements. Philco Corporation created the Plexiglas canopies for American aircraft and engineers at the University of Pennsylvania designed ENIAC, the world’s first digital computer. G. Raymond Rettew developed a method for the mass production of penicillin that saved millions of lives.