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

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March 31, 1942


Everett McKinley Dirksen (1896-1969), Republican congressman from Pekin, served in the United States House of Representatives from 1933 to 1949 and in the U.S. Senate from 1951 to 1969. He was considered a progressive in the House because his criticism of governmental waste was tempered by his pragmatic support of those New Deal measures which he believed combated the Great Depression effectively. In the area of foreign affairs Dirksen startled his fellow Republicans when on September 18, 1941, he stood on the House floor and renounced his previous isolationism and endorsed a program of increased aid for Great Britain. Although this position was counter to the large majority of Republican thinking when it was taken, international interdiction clearly became the proper course after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor less than three months later.

The Illinois State Council of Defense held its first statewide training course in civil protection beginning on June 7, 1942, in Jacksonville. This week long session was intended to train instructors who were to return to their respective communities and in turn train volunteers there. The Jacksonville program was underwritten by a $10,000 donation from the American Legion, Illinois Department. A total of 344 men from 82 separate counties attended and learned air raid warden duties, gas detection and decontamination, fire protection, civil evacuation, sabotage prevention, and other civil defense procedures. Tazewell County got an early start on the rest of the state when on April 10, Everett Dirksen's wife, Louella, began teaching Pekin area volunteer air raid wardens their duties.

Points to Consider

Why would Mrs. Everett Dirksen of Pekin have received national defense training in Washington, D.C.?

How many zones and sectors would Pekin have been divided into?

Why did Pekin need 450 air raid wardens?

What would have been taught for twenty hours in an air raid wardens' school?

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