Even before America entered the war, production for it was in full swing. In Omaha, for instance, the Martin Bomber Plant plant was commissioned in September 1940 — well over a year before Pearl Harbor. Other plants were commissioned across the country to build bombs, tanks, rifles, and other ordinance, some for sale or "loan" to other countries and some for our own stockpiles.
Despite a deep feeling of isolationism within the country, many in the government were committed to the preparation for war well before we were in it. The idea was to build a large "Arsenal for Democracy".
The Martin plant was created when the U.S. War Department directed that two new assembly plants be built in the interior of the country (at least 200 miles from a coast). It was formally established on February 14, 1941, with the signing of a contract between the Martin Company and the U.S. government for the construction and operation of such a plant at Fort Crook (later Offutt Air Force Base). The Nebraska plant was owned by the War Department and operated under its supervision. The Glenn L. Martin Company facility in Baltimore could not supply all the B-26 medium bombers required by the U.S. Air Forces.
Even before Pearl Harbor, rumors were rampant that other Nebraska communities would be chosen as sites for government defense plants. Due to the efforts of Nebraska congressmen and senators, vital war plants subsequently were built near Omaha, Mead, Hastings, Grand Island, and Sidney. While the Martin Bomber Plant, Nebraska Ordnance Plant, Hastings Naval Ammunition Depot, Cornhusker Ordnance Plant, and Sioux Ordnance Depot each employed thousands of Nebraskans and brought additional workers to the state, they also created severe housing shortages.
Many farm families, whose lands were bought for war plant sites at seemingly unfair prices, were displaced.
|In World War II, there were 13 million men
in uniform. Four times as many workers — up to 66 million — supported them on the home front. Despite the many inequities tied to the construction of the war plants, the quantity of munitions churned out by Nebraska’s war industries was diverse and staggering.
From the 1980 NET Television program Legacies of World War II
Some World War II Medal of Honor recipients
in the Nebraska Hall of Fame
Find about all its members.