Drafted in WWII

4.2.7The United States entry into World War II was a difficult time, especially as the draft board began calling up men for military service. This appeal letter was written on behalf of my father by his employer.


January 16, 1941


          I am asking for your consideration in classifying Harvey Simmelink, who is in my employ as manager of the Manlius Milk Products Company of Manlius, Illinois. My reason for doing so is that I am not in a position to replace Mr. Simmelink with a man that will be able to operate that plant as he is.
          It takes years of special training to learn to make a quality cheese which the trade demands today. Besides that, Mr. Simmelink has the acquaintance, personality and the respect that is required of a manager to make a plant like the one he is in charge of operate successfully in its respective community. The experience and qualifications Mr. Simmelink possesses are outstanding in his profession and he would not be very easily replaced, if at all.
          I would be the last one to claim exemption for any of my help which could readily be replaced, but in this particular case it is otherwise. Harvey Simmelink has been in my employ for better than five years and it is through his efforts that the Manlius Plant has served that community as well as it has.
          In view of the fact that Mr. Simmelink’s work consists of manufacturing food product which is of vital importance, I trust you will consider my request in classifying Mr. Simmelink so he will be allowed to remain in his present position.

Respectfully yours,
Axel Madsen

The letter and an appeal hearing delayed Dad’s induction but he was eventually drafted into the Army in 1942.

Photo from National WWII Museum



Remembering Veterans and Those Who Serve

WWII The men and women who currently serve, and those who have given military service to our country, come with diverse skills and experiences. My Dad was a cheesemaker before he was drafted into the Army in 1941 at age 32. He remained stateside, serving as a training sergeant preparing soldiers for battle. I grew up listening to his stories about people he met in the Army. Here is perhaps my favorite story.

          Four companies were on field maneuvers together in the California desert. One of the men in Dad’s Company D was Ruben, a draftee from Kentucky who listed his occupation as “professional chicken thief.”          
          One day Dad was informed that the Commanding General was coming to inspect the camp. Dad was assigned to drive some distance to the nearest airfield that evening in order to pick up the General the next morning and bring him to the field camp.
          Some of the men in Company D had discovered a chicken ranch not far from camp. After Dad left on his mission, they challenged Ruben to demonstrate the skills he bragged about. After dark that night, a small group of men led Reuben to the chicken farm. He told them to wait outside the fence and he disappeared.
          The men never heard a sound from the chickens but soon a plump bird sailed over the fence and plopped at their feet. Several more dead chickens followed. Then Ruben appeared. With a wide grin he said, “That enough chickens for you or should I go back for a few more?”
          The men delivered the chickens to the Company D cook. He asked no questions but promised a fine chicken stew for lunch the next day.
          Dad returned mid morning with the General and accompanied him on his inspection of the camp. They came to the mess tent just before lunchtime. Each of the four companies had a food line set up and ready for the soldiers. The General started with Company A, looking over the equipment, the layout of the food line and lifting the lid of each cook pot.
          At Company D, the General lifted the cook pot lid and the aroma of chicken stew rose in a mist of steam. Dad was stunned. The General would surely turn to him and demand an explanation. Dad had no idea what he could say but he imagined everything from a thorough dressing down to losing stripes.
          The General replaced the lid and, as expected, turned to Dad.
          “This is rather odd,” said the General. “Company A is having standard rations: hamburger and beans with potatoes and gravy. Companies B and C are having the same. However, Company D is having chicken stew. By the aroma, I would judge it to be FRESH chicken stew.”
          Dad took a deep breath and prepared for the fury that was about to come.
          The General’s only words were, “I believe I will dine with Company D.”

Published in: on May 24, 2014 at 6:00 am  Comments (1)  
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SS Chief Ouray, Part 2

Your Bonds Buy Ships posterDuring World War II, any person or group who raised two million dollars by selling war bonds could propose the name for a ship. There were five  Liberty Ships named for Indian Chiefs.
          The SS Chief Ouray, hull number 513, was the first of the five entered into production. Its keel was laid down for assembly at the Permanente Metals Corporation, Yard #1, in Richmond, California on November 27, 1942. It was built in “way #1” of the seven ways (assembly slots). The completed ship was christened and launched on December 28, 1942. It was delivered to the Navy on January 12, 1943.
          Three days after the Chief Ouray’s keel was laid down, assembly of the Chief Washakie, hull number 613, began at the Oregon Shipbuilding Company in Portland, Oregon. The Washakie was launched December 24, 1942, four days before the Chief Ouray, thus becoming the first Liberty Ship christened in honor of an Indian chief.
          The five chiefs honored with namesake Liberty Ships included Charlot of the Flathead, Joseph of the Nez Perce, Ouray of the Ute, Osceoloa of the Seminole, and Washakie of the Shoshone.
Complete List of Liberty Ships

SS Chief Ouray, Part 1

On December 28, 1942, a square-hulled grey cargo ship slipped from its berth and splashed into the Pacific Ocean. The vessel was one of 2,710 Liberty Ships built to support the U.S. military during World War II. This one was christened the SS Chief Ouray. 

The Jeremiah O’Brien, one of two surviving Liberty Ships

          Liberty Ships were built assembly-line style at eighteen U.S. shipyards. At the peak of production, three ships were launched per day. The first Liberty Ship was lanched September 27, 1941 and the last was completed September 2, 1945. Of the 2,710 Liberty Ships built, only two remain.
           The Chief Ouray was assembled in 31 days at the Richmond, California shipyard of Permanente Metals Corporation.  This yard turned out a total of 130 such ships.  The Chief Ouray went into active service with the U.S. Navy on January 23, 1943, where it was renamed Deimos.  Just six months later, on June 23, 1943, an enemy torpedo struck the ship and it was scuttled off San Cristobal in the Solomon Islands.

Greetings at Christmas


While sorting a box of old family photos recently, I found this vintage World War II Christmas card designed for a member of the armed services.  My grandparents sent it to my father in 1942 while he was stationed with the Army at Camp Maxey, Texas.  Dad kept it among his papers where I found it after he died. It reminded me that times may change, but contact with folks back home is still vital for military men and women stationed far away. This holiday season I am thinking of military families and praying for peace.

Published in: on December 24, 2008 at 4:29 pm  Comments (1)  
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