Jump to content

REO Motors Auxiliary Roofwatcher Pin.


Recommended Posts

I have had a rather unusual (to me) pin in my toolbox for many years. I can't remember where I got it, but I do recall being told that it was to identify

a REO plant worker assigned to the duty of standing on the roof of the

factory in Lansing Michigan and watch for signs of an air attack during the

war. REO was heavily into military truck production, so I guess that they

feared an attack on the plant.

Has anyone seen these pins?

DSCF0182.JPG

DSCF0183.JPG

Link to post
Share on other sites

Not that specifically. However, such various things took place all over the country in those days.

One of my cousins got most of the stuff, which is fine. He is also into family history, and has the place and money to preserve and display a lot of it. Our moms' parents had a ranch in Modesto California before the war, and our grandmother was a little active in local politics. Their ranch was selected to be one of the official aircraft tracking sites during the war. A soldier was on duty most all times, an official car assigned (not for grandparents' use!), a designated telephone, log books, charts, a poster showing all the aircraft they were likely to see, and other paraphernalia. My grandparents and older aunts were trained in how to identify and report airplanes. My mother was only twelve in 1942, and even she received training.  This so that they would fill in during shift changes or any other time the soldier on duty was otherwise involved (including outhouse visits). ALL aircraft were logged, reported and tracked over the designated phone. My grandmother also provided meals to the soldiers on duty.

The "spotting station" was a repurposed remnant from one of the older farm houses on the ranch when my grandparents bought the place in 1935. My grandfather dragged the piece of a house from its previous site with his tractor to where the army wanted it. I remember the place when I was very little. The phone was gone, but the wires still in place. The aircraft spotters guide was still on the wall, and a few other small items. When my grandparents sold the place in 1962 (?), my grandmother saved the pieces and charts left behind. When my grandmother died, my aunt got those things. After my aunt died, my cousin got a lot of the stuff. He has the last logbook which had been left behind, and I have been told, the aircraft poster that was on the wall. Somewhere in all my stuff, I have the binoculars that were left behind, as well as a small off-blue pinback with a yellow picture of a bomber, and some words about being an "aircraft spotter". If I ever find them amongst my buried personal stuff? I will give them to my cousin.

 

I have often wondered how many such spotter stations were set up all over the country? I have never found much history about them (I haven't looked online in several years now). But there must have been many hundreds of sites, probably all over the country. Certainly, both the East and West coasts must have been heavily watched. I was told years ago that the spotter station on my grandparent's place reported to a base outside Fresno California.

 

That was how it was done back before radar was a proven technology.

  • Thanks 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I have never seen one of these pins but recall the story of a family friend who worked for Nash-Kelvinator in Detroit. He had been selected to be a roofwatcher in 1942, and at the risk of repeating something wrong, it was actually quite involved. There was a test they had to pass identifying aircraft by silhouette - his wife was actually better at it than he was so he always took her with him. There were logs they had to fill out and a telephone number for Selfridge. My impression was (and I could be wrong) that it wasn’t so much sighting air attacks as it was having eyes on the ground able to report to radar crews (a very new technology) just WHAT it was they were actually seeing and WHERE. A large flock of birds for example could cause incredible chaos....

But again, that was just my impression.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

My grandmother was trained to identify enemy airplanes. She would have been in her late 40s during the war. Many years later, when we were watching television shows like "The 20th Century" (many of which were about WWI and WWII), she was still able to identify them.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, JV Puleo said:

My grandmother was trained to identify enemy airplanes. She would have been in her late 40s during the war. Many years later, when we were watching television shows like "The 20th Century" (many of which were about WWI and WWII), she was still able to identify them.

What State would she have been in?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Rhode Island. You have to wonder what the "authorities" were thinking. They had to be aware that the Axis powers didn't have anything that could cross the Atlantic...or at least do so and get back. I suspect that it was more a ploy to bring the war effort home to civilians.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, 16 million+ boys served in the armed forces of the United States during that war. That means 32 million parents (and how many grandparents?) were stuck at home with little or no knowledge of where they were at or what they were facing day to day.

YES, there were plenty of ploys employed by the government to occupy the worried and give them some feeling of control. Some kind of opportunity to take action in a way that could affect the outcome. The ‘scrap drives’ are a prime example of that. There are far more Packard engine blocks entombed in the bottom of exhausted Michigan gravel pits and on the bottom of Lake Michigan from those ‘scrap drives’ than were ever melted into some war machine — the biggest myth since a certain cherry tree (also never cut down) but I’m not telling that story here.

Were the scrap drives successful? 100%. People stayed calm. The country was productive.

 

Now, the aircraft tracking stations... Perhaps the intent and purpose varied region to region but since Detroit, and as Wayne said California, had the spotters record and report ALL aircraft sightings I would be very surprised if the aircraft tracking stations were simply a ploy to bring the effort home.

Remember, there was no such thing as air-traffic control in those days. In 1938 there were how many airplanes in the US skies at any given time? 100’s? 1000’s? A dozen?

Come 1942/3 they were moving them in staggering numbers base to base throughout the US and Canada. Training going on... 190,000+ freshly minted pilots, most of whom had never before seen a plane with their own eyes in their lives and had probably only ever driven a Model T... and suddenly they’re over the US skies?

It was mayhem.

No, I’d bet the aircraft spotting stations throughout the US between 1942-5 were the real deal and over time and re-telling the word ‘enemy’ got a little too much emphasis put in there.

But I wasn’t there so I wouldn’t really know....

If Wayne has a photograph of the poster identifying all the aircraft the spotters were likely to see I sure would like to see that.

This is interesting stuff.

 

Edited by Ben P. (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites

Fears on both coasts at that time were real. At least to some extent. The Japanese sent balloons aloft carrying small bombs or fire starting devices. It was not reported at the time, but several of those carried by the prevailing high winds did reach the northwestern states, detonating in Oregon and Washington. Although a few stories were told, the US government did not confirm these until just a few decades ago. It was also confirmed a couple decades ago that a Japanese submarine was spotted off the coast of California in the early days of the war here. It is still denied that the blimps that patrolled the Western shores and apparently crashed might have been shot down by Japanese submarines.

Monitoring aircraft in the nation during those years was important for many good reasons, not the least of which was the possibility of terrorists scraping up an old surplus plane and flying a bomb to anywhere. Times were different then. There were not many planes in the sky like today. However, what there were were not regulated and monitored like today either. Radar did not become a trusted technology until late in the war. The spotter stations began being disbanded shortly before the end of the war when the first major radar stations were put into service. One of those was in the Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking San Jose California. It remained in operation until the 1970s.

German submarines off the Eastern coast I guess still remains the bailiwick of various conspiracy theorists and pseudo-historians. I have read that some government records released about twenty years ago indicated a likelihood that German subs were patrolling off the coast at least some. However, I have not seen enough to have a real opinion on that one.

 

2 hours ago, Ben P. said:

 

If Wayne has a photograph of the poster identifying all the aircraft the spotters were likely to see I sure would like to see that.

 

I wish I could show one! I haven't seen the poster myself since I was about ten, which was when my grandparents sold that ranch as my grandpa began to semi-retire. For a few more years, he continued to farm a small area he had a couple miles from the large ranch. A lot of family history was lost when the ranch was sold, remains of trucks, tractors my grandfather built during the depression, were disposed of. I was too young to do anything about it, and all the family adults did what they thought was best. I was very pleased about ten years ago when I heard my cousin had that poster off the wall of the spotting station. I Didn't know until then that it had survived.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Great topic, thank you all for your input. My aunt was an aircraft watcher during WWII, and there was another watching building still standing behind my high school up until the 1970's. They built Corsairs in Bridgeport, so I'm sure they got to see them fly over, just as we see Sikorsky helicopters fly over today on test flights. Bob 

Edited by 1937hd45 (see edit history)
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, wayne sheldon said:

German submarines off the Eastern coast I guess still remains the bailiwick of various conspiracy theorists and pseudo-historians. I have read that some government records released about twenty years ago indicated a likelihood that German subs were patrolling off the coast at least some. However, I have not seen enough to have a real opinion on that one.

 

German submarines off the East Coast were a real issue...a friend saw a tanker torpedoed within sight of shore within sight of shore and a group of spies sent to America came ashore on Long Island from a submarine. Patrolling the beaches was a regular activity for both the Coast Guard and the National Guard. There is a U-boat on the bottom off Block Island. My mom was laying on the beach, watching what she thought was a training exercise, as a Destroyer fired depth charges, only to find out later that they'd sunk a submarine. It was the last one of the war. The Captain had been ordered to surrender but was a fanatical Nazi and decided he wanted to go out fighting. Who knows how the crew felt about that but the boat went down with all hands.

 

About 40 years ago it was announced that the German government was going to have it raised. It's in fairly shallow water but nothing came of that. It is supposed to be off-limits to divers as a war grave but that has never been enforced and odd bits like engine gauges show up in shops from time to time.

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Stories here on the east coast are the Germans who spoke English would come onto North Carolina's shore at Hatteras/Nags Head and buy some supplies every now and then...🤔

 

I have not heard of any stories of German subs coming into the Chesapeake Bay, however.

 

This spotting was the beginning of the Civil Air Patrol, which still exists today. An auxiliary of the Air Force. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

JV P, I find that very interesting! I had read a few things similar, but without someone I know being involved a bit, I tend to put it in the unconfirmed mental file. About forty years ago, before the government released confirmation of Japan's balloon bombs, I met someone through a friend that during the war had seen the site and damage caused by one of those up in Oregon. He was with some military personnel and sworn to secrecy at the time. There is a lot of crazy stuff out there. One often doesn't know what to believe.

 

Just as a blanket statement, Japan and the Japanese people today should not be blamed for the things done by their government in the '30s and '40s. History is very important! We should ALL learn it, and learn from it in order to avoid the mistakes of the past. And while I thoroughly believe that many of the things and relics of the past should be preserved, shown and treasured, the offenses of the past need to be put into and left in the past. Only through international friendship and teamwork can we as a human race grow and develop into a bigger and BETTER people on our little rock in space.

The same is true for the German nation and people.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, wayne sheldon said:

Just as a blanket statement, Japan and the Japanese people today should not be blamed for the things done by their government in the '30s and '40s.

I agree. Anymore than we should be blamed for what happened to our Native American friends 150 years ago. Thankfully the mentality of this nation has and is still changing. 

I still have very fond memories of my time in Japan. 

As I recall there was a submarine that fired at Fort Stevens on the Oregon coast. 

Edited by Fossil (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites

Whitehead & Hoag of NJ were in business at least since the 1920s and had been serving /providing the auto industry with celluloid ( plastic face ) pins for some time for sales promotions. I have several for assorted manufactures/products that have found their way to me over the years. They made a variety of pins for many different subjects , industries etc. nothing huge , most about 1 inch in diameter.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

I guess this is what Roof Watchers did ?

 

 

Civilian protection. Fire watchers from points of vantage on roof tops and streets maintain unceasing vigilance for fallen incendiary bombs. They immediately seek to control them with equipment stored nearby

 

 

In 1940, at the age of 16, I was allowed to serve with the men as a "Fire Watcher." This entailed spells of duty on the roof of buildings to smother any incendiary bomb in our section with sandbags or, if a fire had already started, to drench it with water using a stirrup pump and a bucket of water until the fire brigade took over. The Luftwaffe followed this fire raising exercise by dropping HE bombs that caused the fires to spread even more. There were many fatalities and casualties amongst the ordinary civilians as well as the Police, Fire and Ambulance services who were taking the injured to over-worked hospitals. We took pride in the fact that with our limited resources we had seved all the buildings in our section.

'This story was submitted to the People's War site by Gareth Watts of the CSV action desk, Leicester, on behalf of Teddy Briggs and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions'

 

Ww2 Air Raid Warden High Resolution Stock Photography and Images - Alamy

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

  The rooftop watchers were very much in evidence in the hills of central Maine during WW2, my hometown historical society has logs and ID posters from the period.

  The program was reinstated at the start of the Korean conflict and was somewhat active in the early cold war years.

 

  The sub Mr Puleo is referring to caused a considerable amount of mischief, sinking the USS Eagle PC56 and a few days later the SS Black Point. I sailed with the son of one of the surviving crewmembers of the Eagle, the wreck of which was finally located a few years ago.

  The Captain of the   SS Black Point lived in a Portland suburb after the war.

  Different times indeed.

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...