Traveling Tuesday: Illinois During WWII
Bordered by Wisconsin to the north, Iowa and Missouri to the west, Kentucky to the south, and Indiana and Lake Michigan to the east, Illinois is part of the mid-west and the Great Lakes regions. Of the fifty states, Illinois ranks in the exact middle in the size of its area. The state is the sixth largest in population, with nearly sixty-five percent of its residents living in Chicago and the surrounding area. Small industrial cities, extensive agricultural productivity, natural resources such as coal, timber, and petroleum give Illinois a diverse economic base.
Home to Native Americans for thousands of years, the area began to see exploration by the French in the late 1600s, eventually becoming part of New France and La Louisiane. In 1763, the land passed to the Britain after their defeat of France in the Seven Years’ War. To avoid British rule, many French settlers moved west. Exploration continued, and the area became the Illinois territory in 1809. After much discussion that included moving the northern border three times, the territory gained statehood in 1818.
By 1900, Illinois has a population of more than five million people. The Century of Progress World’s Fair was held in Chicago in 1933. Four years later oil strikes in Marion and Crawford Counties led to a boom which shot the state to fourth in U.S. oil production.
Manufacturing in Illinois during WWII was wide and varied. The Pullman Standard Car Company produced landing craft, patrol boats, tanks, cannons, and mortar. Ordnance plants manufactured shells, bombs, and torpedoes. Chemicals were produced by Monsanto, and industrial alcohol used to make smokeless gun powder and synthetic rubber by distilling companies. Nearly a dozen companies were responsible for making radios, radar, and other electronic devices. Textile companies converted to making uniforms, tents, mosquito nettings, boots, and shoes. By all reports, Chicago’s industrial output was second only to Detroit.
Then there was food production. By the middle of 1944, Kraft had shipped over sixty-four million pounds of cheese to the armed services. Canneries were located in Chicago, Hoopeston, and Rochelle. Candy and other foods were produced by the ton and provided to servicemen and women. The state was number one in the production of soybeans, and second in corn, hogs, and cheese.
Airfields covered the state, and the US Naval Station Great Lakes grew from six thousand to sixty-eight thousand recruits. In addition, Glenview was home to the navy’s largest air training facility, and the largest army training facility was located at Camp Ellis. All told, Illinois trained more than two million servicemen. A major transportation hub, the state transported ninety-eight percent of the nation’s military on its railroads.
Nearly one million men and women served in uniform with approximately 17,000 giving the ultimate sacrifice.
A big state with a big heart for service.
A secret mission. A fake bride. A run for their lives.
According to the OSS training manual, the life expectancy of a radio operator in Nazi-occupied France is six weeks. Partnered with one of the agency’s top spies, Gerard Lucas, newly-minted agent Emily Strealer plans to beat those odds. Then their cover is blown and all bets are off.
The border to neutral Switzerland is three hundred miles away—a long way to run with SS soldiers on their heels.
Will Emily and Gerard survive the journey?
And what about their hearts? Nothing in the manual prepared them for falling in love.
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