The Homefront

Rosie the Riveter
National Archives

(Jump to the stories)
The attack on Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941 took all of the United States by surprise, including the residents of the Pend Oreille Valley. Many were coming home from church or had just gotten home, and were in complete shock over what they had heard over their radios or what they heard from friends or co-workers. In the case of some that lived where there wasn't electricity, they did often did not hear until the next day, but in interviews recently completed, Pat Geaudreau's response is typical of their reaction, Oh gosh, we were just devastated. All I could think about was those dirty Japs! Not only were Americans shocked and in disbelief, but many did not or could not comprehend what was going on until later when schoolmates, brothers, husbands, and fathers were drafted or volunteered. While residents were trying cope with what happened in Hawaii, a place that seemed worlds away, they were also mobilizing for war and preparing for further attacks by the Japanese.
The attacks that many on the West Coast were expecting had been prepared for in many ways, whether it was the construction of coastal defenses or the stationing of armed guards on bridges. The Organization of the State Council of Defense committee that had been set up by Clarence Martin, Washington's former governor, immediately went into action, placing armed guards on the bridges that crossed the Pend Oreille River as well as at the Pend Oreille Mine and Albeni Falls. These places were deemed critical to the area, and as such needed to be protected from any saboteur, especially the Japanese. While it would be expected that the local police would have undertaken the security for the bridges, the patrols instead were manned by local, armed citizens that stopped and searched all traffic going over the bridges.
While the bridges and other locations that were important to the security of the Pend Oreille Valley and the nation were being placed under guard, the backlash against those of the nationalities that the United States was now at war with began. Immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese-Americans became targets for discrimination. The reasoning behind focusing on those of Japanese ancestry was a direct result of years of anti-Oriental sentiments heightened by fears that Japanese-Americans would either spy or be saboteurs for their native country. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor raised these fears to a fever pitch, leading to restrictions on all "aliens," but specifically the Japanese on the West Coast.
The immediate affect of the attack on Pearl Harbor came in restrictions on all "enemy aliens." The government required all residents over the age of fourteen that had not completed American citizenship to apply for certificates of identification, carry identification cards, and register with local governments. They also had to turn in their short-wave radios and their cameras, and were restricted from the areas of the Pend Oreille Valley deemed strategic, and of military importance. While these restrictions were to be for German, Italian, and Japanese nationalities, it was really targeted at the Japanese.
But why were they so easily targeted when German- and Italian-Americans were not? The answer partially lies in the settlement patterns of these groups, as the German- and Italian-Americans were scattered throughout the country, the Pend Oreille Valley being no exception, yet Japanese-Americans usually created somewhat exclusive communities. The obvious factor which made for easy identification, and later internment of the group of Americans that were now being called "enemy aliens," is in their physical appearance, as it was rather difficult for Japanese-Americans to blend into American society, yet very easy for the Germans and Italians. Because of these factors, virtually every Japanese-American on the West Coast was rounded up and sent to internment camps throughout the western states, to make sure that they could be watched for any hints of disloyalty against the United States. The Japanese sent to these internment camps went to states such as Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, basically any place away from the coastal areas. These citizens, forced from their homes and businesses would be placed in the camps for the duration of the war, and would be subjected still to anti-Japanese sentiments in many of the communities they had been taken away from.
There were however, those Americans that did not get swept up in the overarching mass internment movement, where all persons of Japanese ancestry, regardless of American citizenship were required to be sent to these camps. This minority would speak out in favor of their neighbors and against the internment order; a case in point would be the Kubota family of Metaline Falls, Washington. This Japanese-American family owned the hardware store in Metaline Falls, their children attended the local schools, and they were regarded as fine, upstanding citizens. The patriarch of the family, George was picked up by the F.B.I. in June of 1942, as were many Issei (first-generation) men. However, when he returned to Metaline Falls, he and the rest of the family were to have been sent to an internment camp, as the Pend Oreille Valley area had been declared a military area, an area off limits to Japanese-Americans. The communities of Metaline Falls and Ione however, spoke out in favor of their neighbors, arguing that the Kubotas were no danger and in fact a family that was just as American as the next. Inexplicably the federal government backed down from the internment order, and allowed the Kubota family to remain in Metaline Falls for the duration of the war.
Immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the repercussions that followed for the Japanese-Americans, the nation and the Pend Oreille Valley shifted from a peacetime economy to that of a wartime economy. Factories that just months before produced automobiles and washing machines now produced airplanes and tanks, and anything associated with the war effort became known as an essential industry. Essential industry was not simply aircraft factories and shipyards; it was also agriculture, munitions, communications, utilities, timber industry, and mining. The Pend Oreille Valley would play a significant role in many of these essential industries by providing the needed raw materials.
Go to the Industries page to read about the essential industries in the Pend Oreille Valley during World War II.
The people on the home front during World War II faced many hardships, usually brought about by the rationing system that caused things like gas, sugar, shoes, and silk stockings to be rationed. Some that were on the home front worked in factories like the Alcoa Aluminum Works or at the Galena Air Depot, yet others worked in the lumber mills or in the fields, making sure that not only the military had enough to eat, but also those at home. Their stories are on the following pages:

Norma Rednour
Norma worked for Interstate Telephone Company.
Robert Rednour
Bob worked in the vital agriculture industry on his family's Usk cattle ranch.
Dory Schwab
Dory was a high school student at Newport High School.
Helen Beaubier
Helen was married to Bob Beaubier, a Seabee.
Pat Geaudreau
Pat worked at Galena Air Depot (now Fairchild Air Force Base) refitting carburetors for B-17s.
Bill Piper
Bill worked out at Farragut while it was being built and then for the vital lumber industry.
Evelyn Reed
Evelyn worked at Galena Air Depot (now Fairchild Air Force Base) as a clerk in the Tool Crib.
Faith McClenny
Faith was a high school student during the war, and helped with her father's sawmill.
Henry Rahder
Henry's story of Missoula, Montana is very similar to those of the Pend Oreille Valley.
Joann Rahder
Joann, as a 10 year old at the beginning of the war offers a unique perspective.

Copyright © 2004 by Kristen Cornelis