Every part of the country has a unique history; this is the history of the Pend Oreille Valley, an area that was comprised of small towns in extreme northeastern Washington and northern Idaho. This is a place of interesting cultural diversity that is closely tied to its environment, a place that, during World War II, provided numerous vital war industries as well as brave young men for the war effort. It is also the story of how people dealt with the adversity of shortages, the loneliness, and the humor that often surrounded them in the four-year period that has many calling them the "Greatest Generation." While the experiences of those that lived in the Pend Oreille Valley are not a singularly unique occurrence, this study is exclusive in the fact that this area has often been forgotten in the histories of the region, and as such, this is the first we hear from its residents.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the Pend Oreille Valley was still in the throes of the Depression, with the majority of its residents barely eeking out a living in the woods, the mines, or in the fields. Through these occupations, now deemed essential industries, the residents of the Valley would find themselves helping out the war effort. The timber that in the 1920s and 1930s produced poles for the REA (Rural Electrification Administration) and telephone poles now would be used for the war effort. The mines in the northern part of Pend Oreille County which had long produced lead and zinc for the smelters in Spokane was contributing materials vital for the war. The same with the agricultural products in the Valley, with the milk, cheese, beef, poultry, potatoes, and grains going to not just feed the military, but to feed those on the home front.
As was the entire nation, residents were swept up into defeating our enemies, whether as part of the military or part of the workforce. Many of the young men that could serve did so, in all branches of the service. Many of the young men of the Valley and some of its young women enlisted in the Navy, an organization that recruited heavily in this land-locked area. There were also those that volunteered or were inducted into the Army and Army Air Corps, and there were still a few that volunteered for the Marines. Those men and women that did not serve in the military went to work in the essential industries around the area, places like Diamond Match Sawmill, the Pend Oreille Mine, or went into Spokane to work out at Galena Air Depot, the Alcoa Plant, or Trentwood Aluminum.
Many that look back on that war remember it as a time of minor hardships, a time where you couldn't always get what you wanted, and had to curtail how much you traveled. Those of the "Greatest Generation" remember the difficulty in getting enough sugar, shoes, meat, and stockings, but in the grand scheme of things what wasn't available on the home front was not as bad as it seemed, because after all they didn't have much to begin with. As a result, the gas and tire rationing, the food rationing, and the rationing of shoes, and other clothing wasn't something to worry too much about.
For the young women that were caught up in the rush to marry their sweethearts, and in some cases men they hardly knew, the four years at war was one of terrible loneliness, made especially hard if there were young children involved. However, these women found times to laugh and found that they were not alone, as there were others going through the same things that they were, creating support networks to help them cope.
While none of this is unusual for many small towns in the nation, the proximity to Spokane and Farragut Naval Station would indicate that the Pend Oreille Valley would at least be a footnote in the history of World War II in the Pacific Northwest, and this is not the case. This area, which provided lumber for the building of Farragut, supplied women that worked in Spokane's factories, sent some of its finest young men to fight and inevitably die, as well as serve as host for German and Italian prisoners of war, has been largely ignored; that is until now. Thus, the purpose of this study is to rectify this situation.
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 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!"1 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 effect 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. "It was impractical to intern German and Italian aliens who were neither geographically concentrated nor easily identifiable."2 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.3
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.
The timber industry had long supported the people of the Pend Oreille Valley, especially since the early 1900s, but now instead of producing cedar poles and lumber for modest building enterprises, it now was producing the lumber desperately needed for military building. The uses of the lumber from the Diamond Match Company (the primary lumber mill in the Valley) went into building Farragut Naval Station, other military housing and barracks, decks for the Navy's ships, and even the PT boats used so successfully in the Pacific.4 The high demand for lumber resulted in mills throughout the country having to speed up production, even having to send the lumber to its destination still "green," which meant that as it dried it would warp and twist.5 Due to the demand for lumber, small sawmills, especially those run by individuals, also thrived because they provided the lumber needed by builders in not only the Pend Oreille Valley but in Spokane as well. However, lumber was not the only raw material provided for the war effort from the Pend Oreille Valley.
The military desperately needed metal to produce its fighting machines and the guns that its branches needed, the ores for that metal came from many places, however the mines in the northern part of the Pend Oreille Valley would contribute two vital types of ore. The lead and zinc mined from Pend Oreille Mine went for things such as munitions, smoke screen materials, even paint pigment for the military.6 The mines in the Valley were not the only places deemed essential to the war effort though. The Alcoa plant and the Trentwood plant in Spokane supplied the aluminum necessary for aircraft, and landing mats for invasions. Many of the Valley's residents went to work in these places, and Evelyn Reed's mother was one of those women. "...that was the dirtiest, she worked in the carbon room and it was filthy but she did it all through the war so, so that I think there were a lot of people, she was far from alone...."7 Regardless of the filth and the long hours that dominated the mining and the metal producing industries, many accepted it as their contribution to the war effort.
One of the other industries in the area for residents to support the war effort in was agriculture, as the nation and military needed to eat. The rural Pend Oreille Valley had numerous farms and ranches, all of which provided the food needed for the military and the people on the home front. For example, the cattle ranch of Roy Rednour and Son sold their cattle to the military, "...because where we were raising beef, it was essential, and ... the Army camps and stuff couldn't get enough beef, so [it was]... designated for the Army, Marines, or Navy."8 What was needed in the way of food was not just meat though; potatoes, grains, fruits, and vegetables were also high in demand and all could be found not only in the fields around the Pend Oreille Valley but in every family's garden as well. While these gardens rarely received the designation of a Victory Garden by most residents, they still accomplished the task of feeding the family and in some cases the neighbors. Thanks in part to the amount of agricultural products grown in the Valley, as well as other agricultural areas in the United States, the nation was able to not just feed its army and citizens but the populations of their allies as well, and at the same time the slumping agricultural economy was able to reverse its slump.9
Raw material production was not the only essential industry where the residents of the Pend Oreille Valley contributed to the war effort. Since many of the young men were gone, the women of the area like many throughout the nation were going to work. The famed title of "Rosie the Riveter" could have been applied to many women in the region, as they went to work in droves, out to Galena Air Depot to work on the B-17s and B-24s. Two of these women, Evelyn Reed and Pat Geaudreau had different experiences out at Galena; Evelyn chose to remain in the more traditional role of secretary:
Each of the four large hangars had a center deal that was called the Tool Crib, and it was upstairs and they checked their tools in and out, and I signed clearances for people that were returning things or whatever, and I did filing and some typing so I did a type of office work most of the time I was there.10
Pat however, got bored doing the mundane secretarial work, opting instead for something a little more exciting:
I went into first office work ... that was boring as the dickens, so I transferred to Test Block. ... I was the one that was on my particular shift that built up the carburetors for the B-17s. Cut off the safety wires and put the fittings on so they could be run off eventually....11Regardless of what job the young women of the region performed out at Galena or at the Alcoa and Trentwood plants, or even in the shipyards of Seattle and Portland, they were still part of the nationwide war effort, filling in for the men that overseas, and at the same time experiencing a new-found freedom.
The problem for the industry's war effort however was manpower, as many of the men of draft age were being swept up into the armed forces, this left women and those men that were not of draft age to work. The government partially solved the manpower shortage early in the war, by freezing workers vital to the war effort to their jobs, the only way to serve was to volunteer, something that many did. This especially affected those in the lumber, mining, and agricultural occupations, all of which as stated before were vital to the economy of the Pend Oreille Valley. Not only were workers frozen to their jobs, but they were also unable to switch occupations without governmental approval, and other employers were not allowed to hire essential workers away from where they were working.12 These restrictions would be in place for the duration of the war, for men and women, as the need for war workers was so great, leaving two clear choices for the male workers, work in an essential industry or fight.
One of the things that members of that generation remember the most is the rationing system. This, when put in effect in February of 1942, was enacted to ensure that everyone had enough to eat and that the military had the supplies it needed. Rationed items fell into two categories, things that required a ration stamp and those that you simply could not get. Regardless of what category these items fell into, the nation and the residents of the Pend Oreille Valley took it all in stride and waited for life to get back to normal and looked forward to the time when they wouldn't have to concern themselves with ration stamps.
Ration stamps had to be used for things such as coffee, sugar, gasoline and fuel oil, tires, meats and meat products, canned or processed goods, fruits and vegetables, and shoes. These were all vital to both the fighting men and those on the home front, and as such had to be available for both, hence the ration stamp. Ration stamps, held in the four ration books, issued throughout the war to all citizens, had to be used with money to pay for whatever item the customer wanted. The ration stamps were either color-coded, picture stamps or were simply coupons for gasoline and fuel oil. However, the worth of the ration stamp changed frequently, requiring the store owner to change his prices and point values almost weekly, which not only resulted in confusion for the store owner but also the customer.
One of things that residents of the Pend Oreille Valley lamented was the rationing of was gasoline. "...well I suppose the thing that bothered us the most was we didn't have any gas to go anyplace."13 The rationing of gasoline began with the attack on Pearl Harbor and did not end until the surrender of Japan, as did many other rationed items. Gasoline was desperately needed for the war effort, and resulted in many vehicles not being used for the duration of the war, and led to an increase in the amount of walking and train travel. "...basically we would put the cars up during the winter time we'd store 'em in someplace."14 The gasoline ration led to speed restrictions on the highways, and car owners having coupons that limited them to in some cases three and four gallons a month. For many Americans gasoline rations were saved up so that longer trips could be taken, or in some cases, rations were saved so that servicemen could use the family car when home on furlough, as was the case for Norma (Schirmer) Rednour and her new husband Dick Schirmer:
Wally [Norma's brother] was overseas, but he loaned us the car for a week, and because that was all that Dick had left, he had only had a fifteen-day furlough so we went to Metaline Falls to visit...Ann and Everett had been saving their gas ration tickets so that he would have some gas money.15The gasoline ration was not the only thing that kept the residents of the Pend Oreille Valley walking, as the tire ration was just as inconvenient.
Due to the fact that it was virtually impossible to purchase new tires, except for those in essential industries, such as agriculture and the timber industry, residents were relegated to purchasing retreads, which according to most were worthless. Schools limited their extracurricular activities, preferring to save the tires on their school busses, car owners stored their cars for the duration, and children would offer their "little red wagons" for running errands around town. For those needing to purchase tires, they had to appear before the county-wide ration board that met in Newport once a week, and plead their case. These times could be frustrating and sometimes humorous, as Robert Rednour recalled:
Rubber tires was something that you just was real hard to get. We got one tire for the pickup and I made one trip to Spokane and comin' back, comin' down Cook's Mountain, KABOOM! So I went back to the Ration Board and told 'em what it was, and they let us have another tire.16Robert and his father had a cattle ranch, and as such, often had to appear in front of the ration board to get extra gas, diesel, or tires for their equipment, and often found, as did those that worked in the lumber and mining occupation that getting those items depended on what was available at the time:
So we went to the Ration Board and told 'em what we was gonna do that uh we needed rubber tires for these two trailers. Well as luck would have it, they weren't havin' as many calls for tires so they had extra so we ended up with ten tires.17This experience actually was fairly unusual, as many people relied on other forms of transportation, namely walking and the train or bus to Spokane, to get where they needed to go for the duration of the war.
The rationing of food proved just as inconvenient, with processed or canned goods, sugar, and meat products required using a stamp to purchase them. Canned goods such as fruits, vegetables, baby food bottled products, juices, and soups all were point rationed. Point rationing indicated on each blue or green stamp how much the item was worth, and then the customer also had to provide a certain amount of money for each item, or blue ration tokens that represented small amounts of change (see Figure 1). The rationing of sugar was done the same way, and provided somewhat more difficulties as many residents of the Valley canned their own fruits and vegetables, made their own juices and soups, so really were not affected by the processed food ration so much as they were by the sugar ration that limited how much sugar a month allowed. Many residents remember saving their sugar ration for canning or extra special occasions, and raising a garden and orchard to deal with the scarcity of fruits and vegetables.
|Figure 1 Safeway Ration Advertisement18|
While the rationing of canned and processed foods did not alter the way of life much for the people of the Pend Oreille Valley, the rationing of meat and meat products did. These items also were point rationed, with red stamps and red tokens, and they also fell into the category of stamps and money for purchase. Meats, especially beef and pork, were extremely expensive, so even with the ration stamps proved difficult to purchase. Instead of the beef and pork that people were used to getting for inexpensive prices, they now had to eat a great deal of chicken, rabbit, and wild game in order to get the protein they needed, and when asked today about having to eat rabbit, the typical response is, "Well I can hardly eat any, stomach the thought of rabbit."19 While the rationing of canned goods and sugar ended at the end of the war, the meat ration did not; instead this ration lasted until late November 1945, prolonging the inconvenience of two and a half pounds of meat per person a week.
The rationing of coffee, shoes, and alcoholic beverages proved to be just as frustrating as the meat, sugar, and canned food ration. Coffee and shoes were items that required unit stamps for purchase, stamps that instead of being assigned a point value had pictures of airplanes or tanks on them, stamps that often were traded among people to get what they needed. Norma Rednour had difficulty with the coffee ration as well as the shoe ration, but was able to get by:
At times it was hard, you know you couldn't get everything you wanted because coffee was rationed and I liked my coffee. ... Course the leather, leather-soled shoes were, that was a pain, you couldn't find, buy decent shoes, but then I got by with about forty-five pair is all.20The rationing of shoes was especially stressful for young women, as indicated in interviews completed with members of the Pend Oreille Valley community, as every woman interviewed expressed that this item was the worst to have to go without in the four years of war. "...I guess it was Mr. Sauter [the owner of the clothing store], said that if he had even shoe boxes, he could have even sold them."21 The rationing of alcoholic beverages was done to ensure that there was enough especially for the men overseas, leaving alcohol to be one of those things that residents just simply could not get very often. For most it wasn't truly a hardship, but the events around a train wreck inside the Newport city limits provided a humorous moment at a time when it was needed:
...one of the boxcars was filled with, with cases of beer that were going to be shipped to the South Pacific to the boys, and it burst open and so everybody was, all the townspeople and even my brother were down there with gunnysacks gathering up these bottles of beer and we always called it "Train Wreck Beer" and hid it in the basement, and so did other people. I mean everybody was getting some of it.22The recurring theme however was that the frustration and hardship of dealing with ration stamps and shortages would be over as soon as the war was over, and in most cases was easily dealt with substitutes for rationed items, a case in point were stockings.
Silk and nylon stockings happened to be one of the things that women simply could not purchase when their old ones were unusable. Silk and nylon were being used by the military in a variety of uses, powder bags for artillery, parachutes, uniform linings, gear for paratroops, and a multitude of other uses. Because of the shortage caused by the war, women were doomed to wear the dreaded rayon hose, the kind that sagged and bagged at the knees that instead of leaving runs when they snagged, would leave gaping holes, and not to mention was very expensive. The alternative women and girls found, especially in the late spring and summer was to paint their legs, and the women of rural Pend Oreille Valley were no exception to this activity:
Well you put this goop on your legs and then you had, you'd put the line in the back with a dark pencil of some kind and then of course, you know you'd go out and you'd be all set. You know you had your dress clothes on and these painted on socks.23
...well it looked a lot like liquid make up, facial make up, a little bit thinner I guess, you had different colors, and I don't know, I heard a lot of people saying you know, that it ran and so on, normally I only did it in the summertime, you know, it was too cold in the wintertime. I didn't play around with, some of 'em tried to paint, the stockings nearly all were seamed then, and some of them would try to paint the seams and stuff.24Regardless of the inconveniences that rationing brought to the residents of the Pend Oreille Valley in many cases were able to share their rationed foods with those men that were stationed close by on military bases.
The military touched the Pend Oreille Valley in many ways, from the amount of men that served, to the creation of Farragut Naval Training Station in nearby Athol, Idaho on Lake Pend Oreille. There were some young men from the Valley that gave their lives and some that were prisoners of war, as well as a number of women that served in the military from this area. Immediately following Pearl Harbor as was the case throughout the nation, there were immediate volunteers, many of which left their jobs in the mills, the mines, or on the farms. There, of course, were a number that waited to be drafted, especially those that were in high school, leaving graduating classes full of mainly girls, a scenario that occurred throughout the United States. "It was just like, okay you'd come to school and the desk would be empty and they'd say so and so, Larry Masterman or O.B. Scott or whoever, they've signed up and their gone."25 Some of these men would return with chests full of medals, as was the case of Branson Cobb who returned with fifteen, and there were the sixteen men that gave their lives for their country. Regardless of whether they volunteered or were drafted these men and those women that served gave up precious years of their lives, often being where they didn't want to be in order to do what their nation asked of them in its time of need.
While the Pend Oreille Valley sent its young men to war, other communities were sending their young men to the newly formed Farragut Naval Training Station. This base was constructed in nearby Athol, Idaho on Lake Pend Oreille, with lumber from the Diamond Match Mills and construction workers from the surrounding areas. Many left their jobs in the woods to go to work on Farragut because they were paying such high wages, in fact, "For ... nine months more than 22,000 men worked ten-hour shifts...."26 Bill Piper was one of these that left the woods for the summer to work at Farragut, and remembers what it was like driving to work:
You had to get there early because it was single file on those primitive roads, and if you had guts enough to get out in that other lane, 'cause there wasn't much traffic coming the other way, and you'd go like hell, and they wouldn't let you back in.27The building of Camp Farragut with its 776 buildings was a huge boost to the local economies of towns like Newport, Sandpoint, and Coeur d'Alene, but the involvement of the local communities wasn't limited to building the base.
The 300,000 "Blue Jackets" that went through Farragut were welcomed into the neighboring communities, to spend their money, to sightsee, or simply to become surrogate sons for those whose own sons were away from home. In Sandpoint and Newport, as well as the other small towns of the area, sailors flocked to these places on their liberties. Sailors would be treated to all sorts of social activities, such as going to dances held every Saturday night for free, even something as simple as sitting around the soda fountain at Kimmel's Drug Store. Dory Schwab, who was in high school at the time, remembers how much fun the sailors were:
Well Farragut was running wildly over there and every Saturday night a bunch of the sailors used to come over and we always had dances at the high school to a local band. And oh wow, we had a good time!28It wasn't just during liberties that the neighboring communities took care of the Blue Jackets from Farragut, as they would also send care packages to them during holidays, and invite them over for meals when the men needed it. Because of the treatment these sailors received from these communities, many would eventually settle down in this area, remembering how beautiful it was as well as its friendliness.29
The sailors from Farragut however were not the only military presence in the area that received attention from the people of the Pend Oreille Valley though. The troop trains that ran through Newport loaded with boys headed to war, frequently stopped to fill up with water, and when they did they young girls of the town, those that were close by that is, would go down to the train station to meet the trains. While this happened in many towns, one of the more famous occurrences was the North Platte, Nebraska Canteen, where the entire town would meet the trains with baskets of food and gallons of coffee.30 There the soldiers and sailors were allowed off the train, here in Newport however, they weren't allowed off, but that didn't stop them from meeting the young girls. What came from these quick meetings was that most girls in Newport would have a multitude of pen pals, pen pals that would be shared throughout the high school and written to for the duration of the war. Evelyn Reed and Faith McClenny remember writing to these pen pals:
We had troop trains and in fact a few times we were down here greeting 'em and I got mail from some of 'em all through the war and never saw 'em again but met 'em through a window up there and you wrote to, we had pen pals, people and stuff too, maybe there was a picture exchange or something but anybody, they were all our age and that's why I say, kids from, I wrote to a kid from Louisiana, one from Minnesota and so on that uh, I don't think, I don't even remember if I saw them here or if somebody else said, "You know I've been writing to this gal" or something, and it was you'd get a letter, letters from him, stamps were three cents I think, and but that was uh Newport just kinda kept along during the war.31
...the only contact that I personally probably had with the service people was pen pals, and I think all the girls in high school had time wrote to a couple different sailors or soldiers of course we were just delighted just to have the letters come. I never met anyone that I wrote to. ... And being only fifteen or sixteen I could have great romances with somebody I was never going to meet.32Regardless of whether they new the servicemen or not, the community made sure that they were taken care of and knew that they would be remembered here at home.
While the common, everyday occurrences that surrounded the war were not unique to most small towns, the presence of enemy prisoner of war camps in the local area was. The Pend Oreille Valley would serve as host to both German and Italian prisoners for the duration of the war, housing them at old Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps or in the case of the largest contingent of prisoners, right outside the gates of Farragut Naval Training Station. Many of the prisoners that were brought before 1945 were considered detainees, crews of merchant vessels or U-Boat crews captured in South America or off the East Coast at the beginning of the war. However, in February 1945 750 German and Austrian North Afrika Corps troops and some U-Boat crews were brought to Camp Farragut, an enclosure across the road from the training station.33
Regardless of whether they were designated as detainees or prisoners of war, they were all held in regards to the Geneva Conventions. This meant that they had to be given living conditions and food that was similar to what soldiers in the United States military were getting, and if they were to be put to work it could not be war related.34 As a result, those that were placed in CCC camps at the Veteran's Camp in Usk, camp F-164 near the Falls Ranger Station above Priest River, and the Sullivan Lake CCC camp were put to work doing the tasks that the CCC boys abandoned when they went to war. German and Italian prisoners worked doing brush disposal, building and cleaning trails, white pine blister rust control, and on the fire crews during the summer. Some were even offered to help in some of the agricultural work, something that prisoners were already doing in the camps in the South and the Southwest, as well as in Montana.35 Those that were held at Farragut were also allowed to work inside the Naval Training Station as groundskeepers, but all were paid wages so that they could purchase what they needed from the local communities.
As these prisoners were held in such remote locations, very few attempted escape, even when taken out into the communities. Residents of the Pend Oreille Valley remember them being brought into Newport twice a week for liberty and to purchase things like cigarettes and the other essentials of life for a prisoner, or to sit around the streets of Newport, enjoying their time out of camp. Norma Rednour worked at Kimmel's Drug Store, and remembers the German prisoners the most:
We took the good cigarettes, the Camels, the Lucky Strikes, and some of the others, and we put them underneath the counters, and we would give them the cheaper brands [laughs] the Pal Malls, I don't remember the name of some of the others, but and they would buy those. They would sit up at the soda fountain and talk. ... they would make comments in German as we went past them on the street down to the Post Office, and they would be standing there, sitting on the Northern Hotel steps and standing out on the edge and so you had to go through the middle of them...disconcerting.36The prisoners did not just enjoy recreation outside of the camp gates, but they were offered a number of recreational activities inside the camp as well, from soccer facilities to musical instruments, even the ability to create a camp newspaper, the German and Italian prisoners often had it better than their counterparts held in Germany.37 Despite the fact that approximately 980 German and Italian prisoners of war were brought into the Pend Oreille Valley during the course of the war, nothing had been mentioned of them, except by those that lived here throughout the war, remembering them simply as nice young men that for the most part kept to themselves.
Many Americans, the residents of the Pend Oreille Valley being no exception, found the four years of war one of minor hardships, when prosperity arrived at last, and the nation was unified for a common good more than ever before. The sacrifices of war were tempered with the need to do ones part, as well as the blossoming of new opportunities for minorities and women. However, no American, man, woman, or child that lived through that time remained unchanged, yet they all remain steadfast in that they just did what they had to do in order to get by.
The industries of the Pend Oreille Valley, like those of the rest of the nation ensured that the American military always had enough planes, ships, tanks, jeeps, and guns. The sacrifices of the women that went to work in the factories, the men that remained on the home front to work, and the dedication of the American people to donate their scrap iron through scrap iron drives, the Axis powers were defeated by American industrial might. The Pend Oreille Valley throughout it all remained a silent partner in this industrial might, by providing the raw materials so desperately needed by the factories and government contractors. The agricultural products that came from the Valley also helped ensure that that the nation was kept well-fed. Because of products such as cattle, potatoes, grains, fruits, and vegetables raised here and in other areas around the nation, citizens ate a better diet even with rationing while still feeding its allies for the duration of the war.38
The sacrifices that the people of the Valley had to endure were fairly minor, except for those with husbands overseas. Norma Rednour and Helen Beaubier were two of those women that married during the war, with husbands overseas. They were able however to immerse themselves in activities to keep busy, such as Norma worked for the duration of the war, first as a telephone operator and then as a clerk at Kimmel's Drug Store, and Helen raised her young son, born in 1944. While both women found things to occupy themselves, they both remember the war as a time of great loneliness, "Oh, [silence] more of the times when he was home you know, and his letters. We wrote almost everyday and looking forward to having his letters."39 "...you always looked forward to letters from the guys, and I thoroughly enjoyed my little boy."40 These and women like them not only found time to work, but they also dealt with taking care of the home and making sure that everything was as stable as could be both during and after the war.
While there were some women that married during the war, there were many other young women that were gaining new found freedoms and a sense of self-confidence because of their experiences during the war years. These young women, who were really nothing more than girls were finding like Pat Geaudreau a new sense of independence, an independence that in many cases would remain theirs for years. "That to me was like I say was more a freedom that I had never experienced before, because my dad was quite a strict taskmaster, and so all of a sudden I was given responsibility."41 Many like Pat (as did married women), were now working outside the home, and if they didn't work they entertained at USOs, collected wasted hosiery, scrap iron, paper, and fats, and corresponded with their sweethearts or pen pals that were overseas. Like those married women, if one thing could be said about the women's experience during the war, they were the glue that held everything together while the nation was at war.
When Germany surrendered, and the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the war came to an end. In many small towns, Newport being no exception, the news of the war's end was accepted calmly with no big celebrations as were happening in the larger towns like Spokane, where:
Downtown Spokane [laughs] it was full, crowded, you didn't dare lose each other because you'd never found each other again. But everybody was celebrating, it was just noisy.42
...they called about twenty of us into Glasgow to go on Shore Patrol duty with the MPs and when V-E Day was declared for about four or five days there was practically no automobile traffic on the streets a bonfire at every intersection and thousands of people goin' up and down, some guy with a bagpipe and he'd have thirty or forty people behind him goin' up and down the street....43
August 9, 1945 I was up in Victoria, Canada. And I can remember a few drunken sailors got a hold of an old bathtub and hooked it up to a car and they were going lickety-split down the streets, and everybody was just having a ball.44Yet for Newport, the war's hardships were over, rationing had come to an end, people could now go to the service stations and tell the attendant to "fill 'er up" for the first time in four years. As Bob Rednour recalled, the celebration in Newport was extremely low-keyed, "Not a great a lot, there were people excited it was over but I don't remember any big celebrations."45 The things that many remember the most about the end of the war years for the Pend Oreille Valley were that their loved ones would be home soon, and life as they knew it before the war would return. For the Pend Oreille Valley, as for the rest of the nation, the years of World War II would be times of great sacrifice, yet also a time of great camaraderie where everyone pitched in to do their part.
1. Patricia Geaudreau, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, February 11, 2004.
2. Glen Jeansonne, "America's Home Front," History Today 45 (1995): 25.
3. Helen Beaubier, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Usk, Washington, April 11, 2004.
4. Robert Rednour, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Usk, Washington, January 14, 2004.
5. Claude Jared, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, January 10, 2004.
6. "Going Ahead to Capacity in Their Effort to Supply Two Essential War Materials - Lead and Zinc," The Newport Miner, April 9, 1942, 1.
7. Evelyn Reed, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, March 10, 2004.
8. Robert Rednour, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Usk, Washington, January 14, 2004.
9. Jeansonne, 23.
10. Evelyn Reed, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, March 10. 2004.
11. Patricia Geaudreau, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, February 11, 2004.
12. "Workers In Mines And Lumber To Be Retained On Jobs," The Newport Miner, September 10, 1942, 1.
13. Robert Beaubier, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, April 11, 2004.
14. Patricia Geaudreau, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, February 11, 2004.
15. Norma Rednour, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Usk, Washington, February 19, 2004.
16. Robert Rednour, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Usk, Washington, January 14, 2004.
18. Safeway Advertisement, The Newport Miner, 1943.
19. Robert Rednour, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Usk, Washington, January 14, 2004.
20. Norma Rednour, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Usk, Washington, February 19, 2004.
21. Faith McClenny, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, March 24, 2004.
22. Patricia Geaudreau, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, February 11, 2004.
24. Evelyn Reed, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, March 10, 2004.
25. Faith McClenny, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, March 24, 2004.
26. Marriane Love, "Sailors Ahoy!: Fifty Years Ago This Year, An Era Ended at Farragut Naval Station, Idaho's Inland Naval Base," http://www.marrianelove.com (accessed February 10, 2004).
27. William Piper, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, April 14, 2004.
28. Dory Schwab, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, December 1, 2004.
29. Love, 3.
30. Bob Greene, Once Upon A Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen, (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002), 81.
31. Evelyn Reed, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, March 10, 2004.
32. Faith McClenny, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, March 24, 2004.
33. "The German Prisoners of World War II," http://home.arcor.de/kriegsgefangene/usa/index.html (accessed January 3, 2004).
34. "Italian Prisoners of War at West Branch," The Newport Miner, May 20, 1943, 1.
35. "Italian Internees Available to Aid Farmers in Harvest," The Newport Miner, July 1, 1943, 1.
36. Norma Rednour, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Usk, Washington, February 19, 2004.
37. Arnold Krammer, Nazi Prisoners of War in America, (Lanham, Maryland: Scarborough Publishers, 1996), 189-227.
38. Jeansomme, 21.
39. Norma Rednour, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Usk, Washington, February 19, 2004.
40. Helen Beaubier, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Usk, Washington, April 11, 2004.
41. Patricia Geaudreau, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, February 11, 2004.
42. Norma Rednour, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Usk, Washington, February 19, 2004.
43. Robert Beaubier, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Usk, Washington, April 11, 2004.
44. Faith McClenny, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Newport, Washington, March 24, 2004.
45. Robert Rednour, interviewed by Kristen Cornelis, Usk, Washington, January 14, 2004.
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