Remembering Pearl Harbor
Wyoming ties to Pearl Harbor and the start of World War II are continually remembered through news items from the state’s newspapers and stories on the internet. In an article by Tom Nash, published by wyohistory.org, a project of the Wyoming State Historical Society, the following was partially noted.
One of the first Wyoming men killed during the second World War was also one of the last to return home.
Navy Machinist’s Mate First Class George Hanson died on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He was among 429 servicemen killed when torpedo bombers assaulted the battleship USS Oklahoma, capsizing it.
Hanson was not identified until more than 70 years later, thanks to advances in identification technology. In 2019, his remains were buried at Greenhill Cemetery in Laramie.
Following Pearl Harbor, in all, 1,095 Wyoming servicemen died in the fighting or from related injuries during WWII. No county in the state was spared.
In Wyoming, patriotic fervor took many forms. War bond drives were conducted throughout the war. In 1942, people were asked to invest 10 percent of their paychecks in war bonds or “to the limit of their ability.” By February 1943, more than 25,000 workers in 303 businesses were enrolled in the plan.
Communities also were encouraged to buy bonds for particular aircraft. For example, $450,000 invested in bonds would purchase a heavy bomber. Movie stars like Ronald Colman and Ann Sheridan helped sell bonds in several towns. A $1,000 bond entitled the buyer to lunch with stars in Casper and Cheyenne.
Newspaper editorials extolled the virtues of bond buying, while feature articles highlighted exemplary behavior – a sheepherder using his entire paycheck to buy bonds, for example, or the Eastern Shoshone Tribe authorizing the Interior Department to purchase bonds with interest from the tribe’s judgment fund.
Auctions were another means for selling bonds. In Worland, a prize pig brought $11,500, while Burns and Carpenter auctioned off homemade pies. A particular cherry pie yielded $1,000.
Collecting scrap metal was another popular way for folks on the home front to support the troops. In Wyoming, agricultural scrap fetched 40 to 50 cents per 100 pounds from dealers, or it could be donated to the American Legion or Red Cross.
The town of Medicine Bow, population 338 in 1940, conducted two scrap metal drives. The first yielded a stack of steel, iron and copper, which was piled next to U.S. Highway 30. Locals wrote messages on the scrap, “Special delivery to Hitler” and “This one is for you, Tojo.”
A crowd turned out when the pile was collected. Speeches, a high school band and dancing to Dixieland jazz capped off the day.
One controversial Cheyenne scrap metal donation left some people scratching their heads. Officials decided to remove captured World War I German artillery pieces from the state house lawn – over objections from the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
“Why do we sit back and permit things to be destroyed that stand for our traditions?” Association Secretary Russell Thorp asked. “Why do we have to destroy things that create interest in and respect for the very ideals that we are now fighting to preserve?”
The objection did not persuade state salvage officials, who sent the howitzers to a smelter anyway.