World War II affected the entire world, and Nebraska, of course, was no exception. Whether or not they were soldiers, everyone contributed in varying ways. These photos from Nebraska in the WWII era tell a small part of the story of our state’s involvement in the war.
1. Nebraska's National Guard mobilizes.
The Nebraska National Guard was called up to war even before the war officially began. The 134th National Guard mobilized in December 1940, making the entire state swell with pride.
2. Campfire Girls gather scrap material.
There was almost no such thing as waste during the war. Many discarded items could be repurposed for the war effort, including the metal collected here by a Campfire Girls group. The metal could be recycled into weapons and other essential wartime items.
3. Even stockings were part of the war effort.
Silk stockings were nearly impossible to get during the war thanks to an embargo on Japanese silk. Discarded nylon stockings were collected and used to make parachutes.
4. The North Platte Canteen lifted soldiers' spirits.
Some of the most iconic images from Nebraska during WWII are those from the North Platte Canteen.
5. The volunteer project was a heartwarming effort to show service men and women that they were appreciated.
As trains carrying soldiers passed through North Platte, volunteers passed out food, candy, magazines, cigarettes, playing cards, and other small items to bring smiles to the soldiers' faces.
6. Volunteers from 125 communities donated time, money, and goods.
These women wait with platters of ham sandwiches to present to uniformed visitors. At its peak, the North Platte Canteen provided food and other items to 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers per day.
7. Nebraska provided many of the aircraft used in the war.
The Martin Bomber Plant, assembled this B-26 Marauder. Later, the Martin Plant in Bellevue would make the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress bomber used to drop the world's first atomic bomb.
8. With so many men off at war, women moved into the industrial roles they typically filled.
This woman is working at the Cornhusker Ordnance Plant in Grand Island in 1944.
9. Women played a vital role in the success of the war effort.
Without the busy hands of the women who worked at the ordnance plants, the war would have gone much differently. This selfless service also showed employers that women were valuable employees, which paved the way for more women to enter the workforce after the war.
10. Nebraska's terrain made it ideal for air bases.
Air bases and satellite air fields popped up all over the state. Their accommodations were not exactly luxurious, but they provided invaluable locations for training those who would fly the wartime machines.
11. Nebraska was also home to 23 prisoner of war camps.
Large POW camps appeared all across the state as well. The main camps were located in Scottsbluff, Atlanta, and Fort Robinson, with satellite camps all across the state providing further accommodations for around 12,000 prisoners. The POWs filled some of the jobs left vacant by soldiers who were still off fighting away from home. In this picture, the POWs play a soccer game at Fort Robinson.
Aside from sending many of our able-bodied young people to fight on the front lines, Nebraska played a large part in the war effort. These photos will forever commemorate that dark time in world history that was made a bit brighter by people coming together to work toward a common goal.