World War II

Women Workers at Shell
Women workers at Shell Norco.

As early as the middle of 1939, the St. Charles Herald ran stories reflecting the unrest around the world. World War II would live up to its name before it ended in August of 1945 with the surrender of Japan. Battles were fought across the globe—in the Pacific, Europe, Africa, and beyond. The U.S. was on the fringe until the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, by the Japanese Army. Already a call had gone out in the local paper for recruits to fight the war.

Gasoline Registration
Source: St. Charles Herald newspaper
War Ration Book
WWII war ration book.
Selective Service
Source: St. Charles Herald newspaper
War Bond Quotas
Source: St. Charles Herald newspaper
WW II Veteran Anthony Portera
World War II Veteran Anthony (Antonio) Portera, a naturalized citizen.

After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. declared war on Japan and the recruitment effort intensified. War-related editorials and cartoons suddenly moved to front pages. A weekly article on page one of the St. Charles Herald called “With Our Men in Service” featured brief stories about the local men and women serving their country. Calls to buy war bonds went out. Gasoline and food rationing was the norm. Many other necessities, such as shoes, were in short supply. The Civilian Conservation Corps established during the Depression began looking for “unemployed young men” to fill needed positions in the community. Women went to work as never before. After their involvement in such groups as the American Red Cross, they left home in large numbers to shore up businesses whose workforces had been depleted by the war.

They managed both homes and workplaces reminiscent of women of earlier times. Following the war, most service men and women returned home but others remained in the service having had their lives redirected by this “war to end all wars.” Many never returned having sacrificed their lives for their country.

Here at home citizens volunteered to be “civilian airplane spotters” with the Army/Air Force Ground Observers Corps. Over a million Americans across the country participated. In the river parishes, spotters were also encouraged to look out for anything suspicious along the river. The citizenry was particularly concerned about German submarines working their way upriver, as many were responsible for damage to U.S. ships around the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The courthouse area served as the site of a German prisoner of war camp.

It was reported in the Herald newspaper that more than 125 U.S. Army anti-aircraft infantrymen were sent to St. Charles Parish after the Pearl Harbor bombing to guard facilities at Shell, Pan American, GATX, Cities Service, along with other plants and the Bonnet Carré Spillway.

This text is copyright © material by Marilyn Richoux, Joan Becnel and Suzanne Friloux, from St. Charles Parish, Louisiana: A Pictorial History, 2010.

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