As the 80th anniversary of D-Day approaches in 2024, we take a look back to Chicago and the home front during World War II, and the contributions of everyday people and businesses to the war effort. Join us as author, investigative journalist and educator Jerome M. O’Connor sheds light on how Americans on the home front helped win the war.
After Pearl Harbor, American industry ended all peacetime production to become the war’s “arsenal of Democracy.” Chicago’s large labor pool, central location and expansive rail network made it the nation’s most important manufacturing and distribution hub. Over 1,400 Chicago area companies converted into war production, including some odd industrial bedfellows. Radio Flyer ended production of its famous little red wagon to make fuel containers. Cretor’s stopped producing popcorn wagons, and started making shell casings. Galvin Manufacturing (Motorola) and Hallicrafters made half of the military’s electronic equipment. Four massive plants supplied or assembled engines, torpedoes and entire aircraft. Victory gardens were on every vacant lot, even on rooftops. Canning kits extended the life of garden produce, contributing 40% of all manufactured foods. Every household rationed all essential goods, with ration books becoming another form of currency.
In this program, Jerome M. O’Connor will present rare images of these same companies from then to now and describe how the home front and the war front combined into a once-in-history accomplishment to preserve democracy. Included will be insider views of the still-existing tunnels in the world’s largest war plant, now Ford City Mall. This unique presentation will celebrate what our parents, grandparents, and neighbors accomplished when victory was the only option.
Jerome M. O’Connor is the award-winning author of The Hidden Places of World War II. A Chicago area resident, certified Chicago tour guide, and college continuing education instructor, O’Connor deeply researches and lectures about the little-known, overlooked, or under-reported people, places and great events of modern history.
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