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WORLD WAR II

As the sons of the Park went off to war as soon as they were able, the rest of the Village did their best to conserve resources and raise money.  Any additional stories are surely appreciated; please contact us.  Also see Park in Times of War
 

OUR MEN IN UNIFORM

 

Countless men and women from St. Louis Park served in the armed forces or in war-related industries during the war. 

 

Draft Board Local 423 was located in Hopkins, although Park men registered at registration points in town. On Valentine's Day 1942, 737 men between ages 20 and 40 registered for duty at the Village Hall. It was the third group of registrants in the Park. The fourth registration yielded a "disappointing" 120 men, all age 20. Future registrations would call 19 year olds, then 18.


ON THE HOMEFRONT

 

The St. Louis Park Commodity Allocation Board "For Tires, Tubes, Autos, Sugar, Etc., Ration Board No. 27-4" was chaired by S. Earl Ainsworth; the other members were Lydia Rogers and Willis H. Richardson.  Below is a ration book from 1943.

 

 

Scores of citizens were saving on rubber by riding bicycles; in July 1942, over 400 bicycle licenses had been issued.

The St. Louis Park Red Cross was headed by Production Chairman Mrs. G. Andrus, and taught surgical dressing classes at the American Legion Hall.


The "boys" at Republic Creosoting worked an extra half day on a Saturday in 1942, donating their pay to the Red Cross. The effort yielded $367.46.


 At the Triangle across from Brookside Drug, behind the gas station, was the local scrap metal depository, which also, for some reason, collected balls of string. Throughout the Park, 300 tons of scrap were collected during a national drive. A message from Mayor Martin in October 1942 thanked everyone who participated in the scrap drive, but added,

It is quite regrettable that one automobile driver had to be apprehended and made to unload scrap from his car after taking it from the stock pile. Evidently he misconstrued the purpose of the drive. Let it be known that anyone tampering with these stock piles will be properly dealt with.

On September 11, 1942, Minneapolis held its first blackout, which lasted half an hour.

 

Also in 1942 over 700 Park citizens attended a civil defense rally, and air raid wardens and first aid workers were given their instructions.


 

In January 1943 the Echo reported that the U of M offered accelerated courses for girls in order to fill manpower shortages.  Courses included:

  • Journalism - 2 years
  • Technical - Xray, radio, electronics, Army Signal Corpos, technical research - 1 year
  • Social Work - 2 years
  • Statistical - personal, business, psychology, sociology - 1 year
  • Office - typing, shorthand, accounting - 1 year

In May 1943 Minnesota staged a "semi-surprise" blackout test. For 30 minutes, somewhere between 9 and 11 pm., every light in Minnesota was to be extinguished, except those necessary for war industries. The test was to be initiated by steady blasts of sirens and whistles and by turning out the streetlights. Radio stations would announce the "all clear." R.W. Hollander, Chairman, Hennepin County Civilian Defense, warned:


It is a deadly serious test to prepare all civilians and civil authorities for prompt and efficient action if and when enemy bombers should appear over this area. Military authorities recently have stated the Twin Cities and Detroit areas are more likely to be attacked than either the East or West coast. It is the duty of every citizen to be prepared.



While only $45,000 of the $60,000 goal was raised in the first bond drive, the second drive promised that if the Park buys $125,000 in bonds, a bomber would be named after the Village. The response was so great that the ante went up to $175,000, and the total amount raised was $220,000. Sure enough, the "Spirit of St. Louis Park" Mitchell bomber was produced.



Park students conducted a "soap for soldiers" campaign and collected 750 bars of soap.

 

In 1944 the staff of the Echowan cited a shortage of film and asked students to bring in their snapshots for the yearbook.


LIFE AFTER THE WAR

 

The 1945 directory provides a photo of the Honor Roll that was erected, listing the names of all who served in the War from Park.  Eventually it was damaged by fire and not replaced - perhaps because people wanted to move on and not be reminded of this dark time.

 

 

The May 15, 1945, Echo reported that 2,675 decks of playing cards were collected, presumably for servicemen still waiting to come home.

 

The June 9, 1945, issue of the SLP Spectator reported that plans were made to assist returning servicemen in their readjustment to civilian life.  Mayor O.B. Erickson and representatives of the American Legion and the War Dads established committees on education, finance, and rehabilitation to aid the veterans. 

Twenty emergency housing units for veterans housing were allotted to the Park in May 1946. 


Postwar organizations listed in the 1946 Directory included:


The War Dads of St. Louis Park met at the Village Hall. Officers were Herman J. Bolmgren, Jake A. Werner, and Lew Conley.


American War Mothers, Donald Johnson Chapter was chartered on August 23, 1946 with 14 members. The purpose of the group, the ninth such group in Minnesota, was to providing aid to Veterans' Hospitals by making items for the patients and helping out at the hospital. They also had a goal of have a war mother present at the peace tables of WWII. Membership was limited to the "blood mothers of sons and daughters in service." President was Mrs. Mary Johnson, whose son, an AAF tail gunner, died in a B-24 over Dortmund Germany on January 28th, 1945. The group was active until at least 1958, selling carnations to raise money for disabled and hospitalized veterans.


The International Sunshine Society worked "in the Veterans' Hospital and the University Hospital, made layettes and remembered patients in hospitals at holiday time and on birthdays." President was Mrs. C.H. Dahl.


Gold Star War Kin, a nationwide organization, was founded in 1945 by Morton Arneson and Harry R. Bates. The statewide meeting was held on November 6, 1945.


 

JAKE NILVA


In 1958 the Jake Henry Nilva Post 722 of the Jewish War Veterans of St. Louis Park was formed in ceremonies on April 13 at Adath Jeshurun Synagogue at 34th and Dupont S. in Minneapolis. Program speaker was Benjamin Kaufman, national executive director of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States and a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.  Jack C. Gittelson was the department of Minnesota commander of the JWV.  Jack Kasoy, Jr., was post vice commander, organizer, and membership chairman.  The post was still listed in the 1960 directory.

 

Jake Henry Nilva was a Navy aviation machinist's mate from St. Paul.  Billboard Magazine reported on March 15, 1947, that Nilva

was a member of an 11-man crew returning from a mission over Kendari [later reported as Darvel Bay, North Borneo] in the Celebes.  Two members of the crew died in the crash and nine survivors, according to Thomas J. O'Neill, chief prosecutor for the War Crimes Commission in Manila, were captured.  Evidence collected by O'Neill in the Celebes indicated at least five were beheaded on the spot and the other four taken to an airfield. 40 miles away. 

 

Nilva's body was never identified as one of the five beheaded and no trace of the other four ever has been found, leading O'Neill to believe, according to wire reports, they may have met a similar fate. 

 

Nilva engaged in 115 missions in the South Pacific and was awarded two air medals and the Purple Heart.  Unmarried, his family last heard from him in September, 1944.

 

First word of what might have happened to Nilva... came this week when a Jap naval captain was sentenced to the firing squad for beheading a group of American fliers.

Nilva's fate was reported in Billboard because he was credit manager of the Mayflower Novelty Company.  In the October 1941 issue of Automatic Age Magazine there is a picture of the company, represented by Nilva, Morris Roisner, Sam Taran (Nilva's uncle) and Herman Paster (Nilva's brother-in-law) signing a substantial order for Wurlitzer “automatic phonographs and related music equipment” with Wurlitzer’s district manager. 

 

A subsequent story in the June 26, 1948, Billboard reported that all nine survivors were taken to  Tokai Tei prison and later executed.  The information came out in war trials "over a year ago" and led to the discovery of Nilva's grave.  His remains were brought back to the U.S. and a reburial service was held on June 9.

 

 



For memoirs written by men from St. Louis Park who served during the war, see the last chapter of Something in the Water.

 


                

Plaque placed by the American Legion on May 30, 1949, on rock located near the Veterans' Memorial Amphitheater in Wolfe Park.

 


 

 

This information comes from a variety of sources: newspapers, books, yearbooks, phone directories, interviews, etc. Given the varied sources, we cannot guarantee that all of this information is correct, and welcome any additions and corrections. Please contact us with your contributions and comments.