Traveling Tuesday: Michigan During WWII
Not surprising the great state of Michigan comes from the Ojibwe work “mishigamaa” meaning “large water” or “large lake.” The state consists of two peninsulas (the only state with this feature); the lower peninsula often described as being shaped like a mitten and the upper peninsula referred to as the U.P. The two land masses are separated by the Straits of Mackinac, a five-mile channel that joins Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. The Mackinac Bridge connects the two peninsulas. With the longest freshwater coastline of any political subdivision in the world, the states is bounded by four of the five Great Lakes, plus Lake Saint Clair. Because of this a person in the state is never more than six miles from a natural water source or more than eighty-five miles from a Great Lakes shoreline!
Citizens of Michigan played an integral part in the success of World War II. Ask most historians, and they will indicate that one of the main reasons the Allies won the war was because they outproduced the Axis powers. And the automotive industry primarily headquartered in Michigan was responsible for much of that production. Manufacturing nearly eleven percent of the U.S. military armaments during the war, Michigan ranked second behind New York among the forty-eight states.
Consider these numbers: Chrysler alone built 25,000 tanks in four years. GM produced the majority of the nearly 10,000 Grumman Avenger torpedo bombers produces. Pontiac built more 20-mm anti-aircraft cannons on license than the existing Swiss manufacture of the weapon. Oldsmobile put out forty-eight million rounds of artillery shell. Buick manufactured 1,000 aircraft engines per month, and Michigan factories produced four million engines during the war. This is to say nothing of the rifles, mess kits, gyro compasses gun feeds, map cases, and hundreds of other items needed for the nation’s citizen army.
In addition to manufacturing, Michigan also sent its young men and women into war. Out of its five million residents, more than 600,000 of them served in the armed forces, 30,000 of whom gave their life. Michigan’s National Guard units were activated and those in the 32nd division served in the southwest Pacific theater. Among the first American soldiers to meet the enemy, they went on to establish the longest combat record of any American division in the war. Overseas for forty months, the men fought continuously for over eighteen of those months. A Presidential Unit Citation for the entire division confirmed its record.
At home, Michigan houses 6,000 German and Italian POW soldiers. They were processed at Fort Custer near Battle Creek, then assigned to thirty-one smaller camps in mostly remote areas. Over Nazis and Fascists were removed from the general popular of prisoners, most of whom were homesick young men who were glad to be out of the war. Many of the prisoners worked in the agricultural industry picking fruit, harvesting sugar beets or felling trees. A group of Italians at Detroit’s Fort Wayne landscaped city parks and served on road crews. Multiple stories are told of the friendships developed between guards and prisoners, some of whom returned after the war to become U.S. citizens.
With most U.S. boys fighting for Uncle Sam in far off countries, Rochelle Addams has given up hope for a wedding in her future. Then she receives an intriguing offer from a distant relative to consider a marriage of convenience.
Conscientious objector Irwin Terrell is looking forward to his assignment at Shady Hills Mental hospital to minister to the less fortunate in lieu of bearing arms. At the arrival of the potential bride his father has selected for him, Irwin’s well-ordered life is turned upside down. And after being left at the altar two years ago, he has no interest in risking romance again.
Despite his best efforts to remain aloof to Rochelle, Irwin is drawn to the enigmatic and beautiful young woman, but will time run out before his wounded heart can find room for her?
Inspired by the biblical love story of Rebekkah and Isaac, Love’s Allegiance explores the struggles and sacrifices of those whose beliefs were at odds with a world at war.
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