Illinois at War, 1941-1945
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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Since Germany had invaded Poland in September of 1939, the United States by degrees had been increasing its preparedness for entry into World War II. Upon the recommendation of the federal government, the state legislature authorized the Illinois State Council of Defense on April 17, 1941. Its purpose was "to protect and minimize the destruction of life and property from air raids or other enemy action, and to perform whatever other services would be required to strengthen the Nation's total war effort should we become involved in the war." Local defense councils were to be organized on the county, township, and city levels in order to implement a unified command structure.

The scene pictured in this document was taken from a United States Office of Civilian Defense publication. The sequence of events outlined was modeled after the English experience during the Battle of Britain, July 10-October 31, 1940. This action plan fails however to show England's secret use of the new technology of radar which was instrumental in its successful defense against the Luftwaffe.

During the course of the war the enemy launched only one aircraft bombing attack on the continental United States. In November of 1942 a modified Japanese Zero equipped with pontoon landing gear was released from an airtight compartment of a submarine. It dropped incendiary bombs on a forest in Oregon in an attempt to start a massive fire. The forest was not particularly dry at the time and the mission was unsuccessful. As the year 1942 came to a close fewer and fewer Americans were afraid of enemy attack from above and most civilian aircraft warning systems passed into disuse.

Points to Consider

If enemy aircraft had entered American skies during WWII,
    whose planes would they have been?
    where would they have attacked?
    by which route would they have come?

Does your community have an air raid warning system?

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