Stories from PA History
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The Arsenal of America: Pennsylvania During the Second World War
During World War II, nearly 1.25 million Pennsylvanians served in the Armed Forces and another 1.6 million in the state's volunteer army of civil-defense workers. Others, including African American and women war workers, contributed to a staggering industrial output that was vital to American victory. As the home of the historic peace churches, the Commonwealth also produced more conscientious objectors than any other state in the nation.

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Overview: The Arsenal of America: Pennsylvania During the Second World War
Chapter 1: Mobilization and Opposition
Chapter 2: Pennsylvanians at War
Chapter 3: The Pennsylvania Homefront

Historical Markers In the Story
marker icon 28th Division Shrine (Centre) marker icon Carl A. Spaatz (Berks)
marker icon Col. Philip Cochran (Erie) marker icon Frank E. Bolden (Allegheny)
marker icon Gen. James M. Gavin (Northumberland) marker icon Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway (Allegheny)
marker icon George C. Marshall (Fayette) marker icon Harold L. Ickes [World War II] (Blair)
marker icon Jacob L. Devers (York) marker icon Robert Houghwout Jackson (Warren)
marker icon Sgt. Michael Strank (Cambria)

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Story Bibliography

Original Documents
icon full text Medal of Honor recipient Mitchell Paige reflects on his Pennsylvania childhood

1939 Germany invades Poland; England and France declare war on September 3, igniting World War II
1940 Congress adopts national defense tax measures designed to raise almost one billion dollars a year
1940 Vocational Education for National Defense Program begins in Pennsylvania
1940 FDR asks Congress for enough money to build a two-ocean navy
1940 Congress authorizes federal induction of National Guard units
1940 National Selective Service Act becomes law; the first peacetime draft in American history, with all men ages 21-36 eligible
1940 The American Bantam Car Company of Butler, Pennsylvania, delivers the first Jeep to the Army at Camp Holabird, Maryland
1940 FDR imposes an embargo on scrap iron and steel sent abroad to all countries outside the western hemisphere except England, to take effect October
1940 Fort Indiantown Gap is transferred to federal control
1940 Actual draft starts with first number called on this day
1940 Governor James establishes the Advisory Agricultural Defense Committee
1940 In the presidential election, FDR wins a third term
1940 A U. S. merchant ship is sunk in Bass Strait, the first sunk during the conflict
1941 The 28th Infantry Division is inducted into federal service
1941 Lend-Lease bill becomes law
1941 Governor James authorizes the State Council of Defense
1941 First war bond drive begins
1941 President Roosevelt proclaims an unlimited state of emergency in the United States and calls for rapid acceleration of industrial production
1941 The federal government opens the Passyunk Homes to house workers at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and their families
1941 Japanese planes bomb Pearl Harbor
1941 Germany and Italy declare war on United States
1941 Draft widened to include men ages 20-44, with all men 18-64 required to register
1942 Tire rationing begins
1942 Sun Ship in Chester launches the SS Gettysburg, the first of more than 220 vessels it would build during the war
1942 President Roosevelt declared "war time" to be in effect, effectively canceling the difference between daylight savings time and standard time until it was lifted in October 1945
1942 The Pittsburgh Courier launches its Double V Campaign, urging African Americans to fight for "Victory at Home, Victory Abroad"
1942 Surrender of Bataan in Philippines
1942 Sugar rationing begins
1942 Women's Auxiliary Army Corps authorized; on July 1, 1943, becomes the Women's Army Corps (WACs)
1942 - 1942 Battle of Midway
1942 - 1942 First statewide blackout practice
1942 Farm scrap drive bets 10,000 tons of metal, 550 tons of rubber Rubber drive nets 25,000 tons
1942 Gasoline rationing begins in Pennsylvania
1942 WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Enlistment Service) authorized
1942 U. S. Marines land on Guadalcanal Island in the Solomons, beginning America's first military offensive in a campaign that lasts until February 1943
1942 The Dravo Corporation in Pittsburgh launches LST-1, its first Landing Ship Tank
1942 - 1942 Scrap Harvest nets 780,000 tons of metal
1942 Letterkenny Ordinance Depot begins operations
1942 Federal authorization of the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and the Women's Flying Training Detachment (WFTD), which, in August 1943, are merged to become the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)
1942 Operation Torch-Allied troops land in North Africa
1942 Federal creation of the Women's Coast Guard, named SPARS, an acronym for the Coast Guard motto, "Semper Paratus-Always Ready"
1942 War Labor Board orders defense industries to provide equal pay for men and women
1942 Coffee rationing begins, lasted through July 1943
1942 Willow Grove Naval Air Station opens
1942 Nationwide gasoline rationing begins
1942 USS New Jersey launched at Philadelphia Navy Yard
1943 Sunday driving banned, the start of the ban on pleasure driving, which lasted until September
1943 Edward Martin assumes the office of governor
1943 Shoe rationing begins
1943 Federal authorization of the Women's Marine Corps (Lucille E. McClarren of Nemacolin, Pennsylvania, becomes the first recruit)
1943 Valley Forge Army Hospital opens (still in business as VA center)
1943 War Ration Book 2 registration begins
1943 The Sun Shipyards in Chester, Pennsylvania, launches the SS Marine Eagle, the first ship in American history completely built by African-American laborers
1943 Supreme Court decides that pledge to the flag is voluntary, striking down a West Virginia law
1943 G. Raymond Rettew's Chester County Mushroom Laboratories is the nation's most consistent source of penicillin, more than 90 percent of which goes directly to the armed forces
1943 Navy College Training Program (V-12) begins, accepting 70,000 men at 131 colleges
1943 Mechanicsburg Naval Depot opens
1943 Operation Husky-Allied troops land in Sicily
1943 Big Inch oil pipeline completed, stretching from Texas to Eagle, Pennsylvania, 12 miles west of Phoenixville
1943 Italy surrenders to Allies
1943 Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board begins whiskey rationing, ending it in January 1947
1943 USS Wisconsin launched at Philadelphia Navy Yard
1944 A court sentences pacifist Civil Rights activist Bayard Rustin to three years in federal prison for resisting the draft
1944 State legislature approves bill allowing soldiers serving overseas to vote; Governor Martin signs it this same day
1944 American, British, Canadian, and French forces land in Normandy on D-Day
1944 More than 7,000 conscientious objectors perform alternative service in Civilian Public Service camps across the nation; some 800 are serving in Pennsylvania
1944 The federal government takes over the Philadelphia trolleys when transit workers strike to protest the hiring of African Americans.
1944 Operation Dragoon-Allied forces land in southern France
1944 Red Ball express organized in France to speed supply to advancing American troops
1944 Battle of Hurtgen Forest begins. The 28th Infantry Division suffers heavy losses during combat that lasts through December 28.
1944 - 1944 Operation Market-Garden-Allied parachute landings in Holland
1944 American forces land in the Philippines
1944 FDR elected to a fourth term
1944 First B-29 raid on Japan
1944 Battle of the Bulge opens, lasts until mid-January 1945
1945 Private Eddie Slovik of the 28th Division becomes the only U. S. soldier since the Civil War executed for desertion
1945 U. S. Marines land on Iwo Jima; fighting does not end until March 24
1945 FDR dies and is succeeded as president by Harry S. Truman
1945 Germany surrenders to Allies
1945 V-E Day, the formal end of the war in Europe
1945 Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima
1945 Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki
1945 Official Japanese surrender on board USS Missouri
1945 State Council of Defense dissolved
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