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POWs and WOWs

After WW I there was little interest in war and the military. That plus the depression left the military in poor shape leading up to WW II. As it became obvious that there would be another war a rapid buildup of the forces was necessary. These men had to be trained, housed, clothed, fed and supplied with weapons. Many camps, airbases, depots, shipyards, airplane factories, and munitions plants were built.

Many of the men that built the new factories and bases were drafted into the service, leaving a shortage of labor to run them. Eleanor Roosevelt came up with the idea of using women to supplement the work force. Prior to this it was unusual for women to work in positions other than secretarial, nursing or teaching professions. This work force was called Women Ordnance Workers or WOWs. They worked in all phases of the war industry but became widely known for their work in ship building and airplane factories. It was the riveters in the plane factories that inspired the Rose the Riveter culture. There was the song "Rosie the Riveter", the Norman Rockwell painting on the Saturday Evening Post cover and most famously the poster. At Camp Carson, now Fort Carson, Colo. the WOWs worked as mechanics. At Black Hills Ordnance Depot they worked as truck and fork lift drivers. Click here for more info about the WOWs at BHOD.

Rosie the Riveter Rosie Painting Saturday Evening Post

As more and more men were drafted the labor shortage continued and at the same time the numbers of German and Italian prisoners were increasing. Partially to alleviate the pressure on the allies and more importantly to help with the domestic labor shortage the US agreed to take in some of the POWs. Black Hills Ordnance Depot was allocated several hundred Italian prisoners of war and for more information about them click here.

Italian POWs

Due to the remoteness and sparse population of the BHOD area, labor was a constant problem at BHOD, even after the war. One source of manpower that worked out well for BHOD was the Indian Reservations. The Native Americans benefited from the jobs and the community benefited from the contributions of the Indian community. For more information about this part of the BHOD story, click here.

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