Wabash County Fights the Battle on the Home Front

By Eric Olson

November 6, 2012 Updated Nov 6, 2012 at 8:35 AM EDT

WABASH, Indiana--While American soldiers battled Germany and Japan overseas another battle raged here at home, the battle on the home front fought not with guns and bombs, but rubber drives and metal drives, victory gardens and war bond campaigns…as critical to victory in the war as the desperate struggles on distant battlefields.

The battle on the home front as it was fought in Wabash County Indiana is the subject of a fascinating exhibit at the Wabash County Historical Museum. This is how the war effort looked in hundreds of towns across the country. It began in the living room where families gathered around the radio for the latest war news, or a message about the war effort from President Roosevelt. This is a recreation of Wabash mayor Homer Showalter’s office. During the war the mayor wrote a weekly newsletter, on this typewriter, and sent it to all the Wabash soldiers overseas. It was full of town news, jokes and poems. Hundreds of soldiers wrote back to the mayor thanking him. Margie Stewart was a Wabash girl destined for stardom…went to Hollywood to be an actor..that’s her standing next to Judy Garland. Margie was chosen to be the pinup girl for the U.S. Army, posing for dozens of posters that gave soldiers advice on things like spending money wisely.

“And she was that girl, next door beauty,” says museum projects coordinator Emily Perkins, “the one that was obtainable, beautiful but obtainable and she was really meant to inspire them to think about what their life would be like.”

There are many touching stories here. Max Stevens was killed fighting the Japanese, leaving behind a young widow and a son he never met. And this wall near the exhibit has the names of every Wabash County soldier killed in the Second World War, boys mostly, who went off to defend a way of life, leaving behind anxious families who would do what they could, to bring them home safely. This is Eric Olson reporting.




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