wwii: THE BEGINNING
In 1939, U.S. leadership realized the United States could not remain neutral in this conflict. Over the next two years, the Axis powers continued to expand their conquests in Europe and Japan in Asia. By the time Pearl Harbor was bombed, it was obvious that a defense-only position would not be enough. The United States needed to enter the Second World War, and had to commit everything.
Glen Lindstrom, US Navy
Glen received his draft notice after he graduated from high school in the spring of 1942, but on the advice of his brother in the Army, Glen enlisted in the Navy.
After basic training, Glen was assigned to the U.S.S. Alabama, a new battleship being outfitted for service. The officer on-board asked Glen what he knew about guns, and all Glen could say was, “I know they’re dangerous.” He knew nothing about guns, but he did know how to sew and cook from helping his mother. Glen became the assistant tailor on the ship.
In 1964, the decommissioned ship became a museum in Mobile Bay, Alabama. After visiting it as a museum for the first time, Glen decided he wanted to restore the tailor shop to the way it looked during WWII. He was successful in finding everything he needed to put the shop back just the way it was when he worked there, and the tailor shop opened to the public in 1988.
Milkweed as Kapok
The cotton-like fluff from the Kapok tree provided a buoyant material valuable for use in life jackets. Unfortunately, these trees grow in tropical areas, so when Japan took control of Indonesia, the U.S. supply was cut off. Milkweed fluff became an acceptable substitute.
Knowing it would take three years to commercially grow and produce enough milkweed for the war, school children were encouraged — and paid — to harvest wild milkweed. They received onion bags to fill with milkweed, which carried a 15 cent value each. Two bags could fill one life jacket.
COLLECTING MILKWEED, Waldo Leistico, Burns/Nowthen resident
“It was fun, nice clean work, walk along the creek and pick every pod. And everybody was doing the same thing. We picked every milkweed pod on the farm. We had a 1927 Chevy truck and we loaded that up with the sacks of pods and took it to Anoka. We must have had it about a quarter full. We went to Federal Cartridge and the trucks were lined up down the road as far as you could see. Model A’s and T’s and then our Chevy. We got a pretty big check! The first two years, they only wanted the pods. Then they wanted the stalks as well as the pods, so we took a corn knife and cut the whole stalk down.”