Traveling Tuesday: Minnesota-Land of 10,000 Lakes
The U.S. state of Minnesota has many nicknames: Land of 10,000 Lakes, The Gopher State, The North Star State, The Agate State, and the State of Hockey. Personally, I’m surprised it’s not also called The Corn State in recognition of the miles of corn fields I pass during the ninety-minute drive from the Minneapolis airport to my sister’s house. A beautiful state, its flat lands and gently rolling hills are vastly different from the forested mountains of New Hampshire where I live.
But Minnesota is much more than its geography, although its geography is part of what helped the state “do its bit” during WWII.
As soon as the U.S. entered the war, Fort Snelling, located south of Minneapolis where the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers come together, became an induction center and processed more than 300,000 men and women into the Armed Forces. At its peak, nearly 800 recruits per day passed through. The Fort was also used to organize and train specialized unit such as the military police and the 99th Infantry Battalion that was made up of Norwegian-speaking soldiers who trained to fight on skis and snowshoes. In 1944, Nisei (second generation) Japanese-Americans came to the fort to learn Japanese, Korean, and Chinese in preparation for service as interpreters, interrogators, and intelligence workers.
In the Iron Range, over 338 million tons of iron ore were mined which amount to seventy percent of the iron ore needed for battleships, planes, and tanks. One train car of ore left Hibbing’s Hull-Rust-Mahoning Mine every twenty seconds for the shipping docks!
Shipbuilding was also a big enterprise in Minnesota. Contracted to build six ships, Savage Shipyard managed to produce eighteen ships and four tug boats instead. All told the six shipyards in the area manufactured over 230 ships for the war effort.
At the University of Minnesota, thirty-six conscientious objectors volunteered for an experiment to determine the physical and mental effects of starvation. The study ran for over a year, from November 20, 1944 until December 19, 1945. The results guided Allied relief assistance to famine victims in Europe and Asia at the end of the war. Another project at the University developed the K ration, a prepackaged set of meals soldiers could carry.
The Mayo Clinic’s Aero Medical Unit participated by inventing the first practical “G-suit,” a pressured flight suits that prevented fighter pilots from blacking out during quick maneuvers and dives. The Unit’s doctors and engineers risked their own safety by whirling themselves unconscious in the first civilian centrifuge.
One of the more unusual products devised by a company for the war effort of the manufacture of “wet or dry strips” by 3M. The strips were sticky on one side, and used on the edges of plane wings and ambulance runners to people could stand on them without fear of slipping.
Food manufacturer, General Mills used its Mechanical Division to produce gun sights.
Remember Spam? Hormel had been manufacturing the canned meat since 1937, but in 1941 it became an important part of the Lend-Lease program which sent food and supplied to allied countries.