We already know how valuable Nebraskan manufacturing, farming, grain processing, and meatpacking industries are to the entire country, but did you know that Nebraskan manufacturers played a critical part in American efforts during World War II?
Manufacturing (especially good, well-administered manufacturing) never becomes more critical than when a country enters into a war. From bullets to tanks to bandages, the demand for these goods and more is drastically escalated. America saw a great deal of this as they entered into World War II, and turned to Nebraska for help.
Historian Jim McKee explains that the widely unpopulated land and distance from sea coasts made Nebraska a desirable destination during wartime.
“Nebraska…became the site for U.S. military industries and training facilities. Not only was Nebraska a major producer of aircraft, pilot-training airfields and munitions plants, but it also was a major source of women’s entry into the workforce, many for the first time,” said McKee.
The largest wartime manufacturer of the four established in Nebraska was the Cornhusker Ordnance Plant west of Grand Island. The plant manufactured 90-, 220-, 260-, 1,000- and 2,000-pound bombs for the wartime effort and employed 4,229 workers at its peak.
With such vigorous economic activity, a small town sprung up around the plant to accommodate the workers. The ‘Coplanter’ was the newspaper created specifically for this group, a vital need with the constant drama and anxiety of wartime.
Eventually, McKee reports, the plant grew to 645 buildings with 15 miles of electric distribution lines and 12 miles of sewer lines. Until the plant closed in 1945 at the end of the war, the government kept it open for future use. In 1950, the plant was reactivated to produce rockets and artillery shells for the Korean War and in 1965, it was the only American bomb-loading facility for the Vietnam War.
It’s always interesting to see the history of manufacturing, especially when it impacts events on a large scale such as World War II. Manufacturing makes a difference, and the solid values and intelligent workers here in Nebraska help the state continually remain a standout in the manufacturing industry.
Did you know about Nebraska’s manufacturing involvement in WWII? Have any other facts about the history of Nebraska? Feel free to connect with us on Twitter or in the comments!
Photo credit: Farming in the 1940s