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Morrisville PROJECt

morristown and world war ii


1939 found Europe once again at war and the United States standing on the sidelines. Still smarting from the last time Americans had gotten entangled in an European conflict the US policy pushed Isolationism and Neutrality. The Neutrality Act of 1939 reaffirmed America's desire to avoid war while still being able to support our Allies against Hitler's Nazi regime. In Morristown, however, evidence indicates that the US was gearing up and preparing for war well before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941 marked America's official declaration of war.

The lives of people in Morristown were most affected in three main areas during the war: rationing and salvage, civil defense, and bond drives. Exploring the News and Citizens indicates that people in Morristown were preparing for these areas of sacrifice well before America's involvement in the war, continued throughout the war and then, with exception, disappeared after the war.

Rationing and Salvage Drives

Similar to WWI all Americans were expected to sacrifice for the war effort through the use of Ration books and encouraged to collect goods for the war effort. The earliest record of aid drives was carried out by school children collecting clothes for victims of the British Blitz. As early as 1940, weekly articles appeared in the paper informing people of the need to salvage various metals for defense. Because the war was threatening the supply of vital raw materials the government educated the public on the use of various materials by the military and encouraged the rationing and salvaging of these materials. The salvaging drive was officially kicked off by PA students the week of Dec. 24, 1941 when they began collecting scrap paper. Morrisville's official National Salvage Board was formed in March of 1942. It was made up of various town organizations like the school, Legion, Boys Scouts, Modern Woodsmen, etc, who each took responsibility for running drop off stations for different materials. Unfortunately no record has yet been found of how much material was collected, but it appears the drop off system was not completely successful because by May of 1942 the Board was organizing official Scrap Drive Days.

Sugar Rationing began on May 4, 1942 followed by gas rationing a week later. The government organized ration registration through the schools. All town members reported to their local elementary school where teachers were trained to register the citizens.

War Bond Drives

Funding wars has always provided the government with the greatest challenges. In World War Two the government once again relied upon the use of War Bonds. The first explanation of the War Bond system appeared in the News and Citizen in October of 1941 Æ two months before our entrance into the war! From that point on a media frenzy was employed to encourage people to buy bonds and stamps. Two to three advertisements appear in every issue, posters were placed around town and the government established quotas to challenge each county to meet. Each person was expected to spend 10% of their income on War Bonds. A total for war bond purchases in Morristown has not been found for the 2nd World War, but we can get an idea by looking at the quotas for the county. For May of 1962 Lamoille County was expected to raise a total of $12,000. Interestingly enough Æ this was the second lowest expectation in Vermont next to Caledonia County.

Civil Defense

The organization of Civil Defense Boards should have been as much a warning to anyone that we were heading to war as anything else. On February 19, 1941 a warning appeared in the News and Citizen for all members of the American Legion between the age of 45 and 60 to register with the government for any future use. The local civil defense boards were probably certainly made up of these individuals. Morristown's official Defense Board was formed on November 19th, 1941. The first chairman was Edward Emmons but seems to have quickly transferred to Walter Jones. The Board called for volunteers to fill positions in the following committees: Auxiliary Police Men, Aux. Firemen, Fire Watchers, Rescue Squads, Drives Corp, Road Repair and Demolition Crew. After Pearl Harbor the list grew to include black out crew, air raid warnings and aircraft observation posts. The town fire horn was changed shortly after to signal air raids. Classes were offered to local volunteers and PA seniors in aircraft spotting and many remember manning the observation room on the roof of Peoples Academy. A poem written by Eva Ward can be seen here reflecting her experiences. It was the Civil Defense Boards that survived the end of the war. According to Robert Hagerman the aircraft observation post remained in practice throughout the 1950's, but people looked for Russian planes instead of German ones.

click on thumbnails
Flak Jacket from Morristown pilot Ethan Allen showing shrapnel damage received during flight over Germany.
Post Card of Morristown Metal Scrap Drive - 1942
Original War Bond Drive Posters
View of and from the "Observation Tower" atop Peoples Academy. From here the Civil Defense Board watched for enemy aircraft throughout the war. Photo taken in 2003.
Click Here to read a poem written by Eva Stancliff Ward in 1941 about her experience in the Observation Tower