General Marshall’s Victory Report on the winning of World War II in Europe and the Pacific, with the added section featuring contributions made by our community toward the Winning of the War, is a bonus that truly makes it a historic handbook for all. The American Legion Auxiliary, Ben Fuller Unit No. 64 was responsible for the distribution of the handbook.
Glider Training at Atkinson Airport
In May 1942, the War Department urged all qualified personnel – civilian and military, to apply for glider pilots. The U.S. Army Air Corps contracted basic flying training by McFarland Flying School at Atkinson Airport for the 21 st Army Air Force Glider Training Detachment in June 1942. Fairchild PT-19s were the primary trainers used for the trainees. Kansas State Teachers College cafeteria feed the trainees, while other rooms were set up for a parachute room, ready room, and instructors offices. The campus athletic equipment was used such as the tennis courts, swimming pool, football field, and track. To keep a close watch on the trainees’ health, the YMCA housed the medical detachment and orderly room. Fall of 1942, all quarters were moved to the KSTC gymnasium where double-decker bunks, lockers, orderly room, medical room, and all recreational facilities were located. Along with academic classes, trainees had four weeks of intensive training in light airplane accompanying ground courses, then two weeks of actual glider instruction at an Army operated glider school. The student officers were moved to the Hotel Stillwell in June 1943, and the restaurant became the mess hall. Intelligence officers established a war room and intelligence library in hotel rooms. Pittsburg High became the new location for all physical training. By May 1944, approximately 5,000 students graduated from Army Air Force Glider Training, later named, 2nd Army Air Force Liaison Training Detachment, AAF Contract Flying School.
KSTC was selected as one of the Officers Training Center, from July 1943 to October 1945, where 649 potential Navy Officers representing thirty-eight states received training. The Navy outlined college courses consisting of three terms of sixteen weeks each, reimbursing the college for textbooks Engineering Drawing, Electrical Engineering, Naval History, American History, etc. The trainees took part in every activity on campus and their presence greatly helped the college during this period of reduced enrollment. Willow Hall became ‘The Ship’ for Navy student barracks after the girls were moved to the Science Hall into their new dorms. The college cafeteria fed over 456,000 meals within the two years. Navy uniforms became a familiar sight throughout the streets in Pittsburg and everyone became aware of their importance as never before.
Activities of the Red Cross in Crawford County included; Home Service, Nursing, First Aid instruction, war production, Camp and Hospital Service, Jr. Red Cross, plus more. Hundreds of garments were made from yarn provided by Red Cross to be knitted into sweaters, scarfs, gloves, and socks, for the Army, Navy, and refugees. Around 30,000 of various dressing were made by hundreds of volunteers. Every man from the Armed Services was given kit bags- a deck of cards, gum, shoe strings, razor blades, cigarettes and a housewife- pins, needles, buttons, thread and safety pins. KSTC organized a college unit of Red Cross to train students in-home nursing, nutrition, and first aid.
KOAM ran a series of broadcasts that featured leaders of various community organizations and citizens promoting war effort events. There was also newspaper publicity and businesses that set up window displays during the war drive.
In December 1943, the American Legion built and maintained a canteen near the Kansas City Railroad station where four passenger trains came in daily, two from the North and two from the South. At the height of troop travel, about 1,000 cookies were baked, gallons of coffee were made, and dozens of volunteers were always on hand to help serve hot coffee, doughnuts, and sandwiches. In the summer, tea, milk, and sandwiches were served. The troops were not the only ones served, an average of fifty lunches was made each day to doctors, nurses, aides, and staff assistants. The canteen operated until 1946.
The short drive from Joplin Camp Crowder to Pittsburg made it a favorite stopping place for soldiers. The Red Shield Club, operated by the Salvation Army and partially supported by the USO fund, provided food and lodging for servicemen. The need for a larger facility and recreation led to the opening of the Pittsburg USO Club in December 1945 at the YMCA.
Dances were held every Saturday night in the gymnasium, with music provided by the Army Band. Sundays were filled with entertainment programs and sack lunches. Various Pittsburg coal operators donated long distance telephone calls. Three calls were raffled off every weekend to servicemen. During its brief run, the USO Club fulfilled a great need for the troops. The Salvation Army and volunteers served over 56,000 meals, donated 31,500 stationary and envelopes, handed out 44,475 doughnuts, 49,300 fruits and passed out 5,175 magazines. Betty Grisham shared her memories from this period when she was just sixteen at the time and working at Frohlich’s Style Shop (later Little’s) in Pittsburg.
“I just remember it was so romantic with the servicemen coming into the store. Everybody was so close, not just our community, but the entire nation. But, it was scary too since you never knew who would make it back after the war. In school, we made six-inch squares for the Red Cross to make afghans for the soldiers.
"When the war was finally over, many of the servicemen returned to Pittsburg to finish college or to settle down. Everyone flocked downtown to celebrate the war was finally over- hugs and kisses were abundant.”
Thanks to all who came out and supported the WWII reenactment, the reenactors, PSU Circle K and everyone behind the scenes. We appreciate the communities continued support for living history events.
— Amanda Minton is the director of the Crawford County Historical Museum, as well as a lecturer of history at Pittsburg State University.