New exhibit highlights Des Plaines' role in WWII

Des Plaines' role in WWII comes to light in new exhibit

  • Steven Smith of Mount Prospect and sister Nancy Morrison of Palatine look at some of their parents' World War II-era artifacts, including their mother's Army nurse cadet uniform, Thursday night at the Des Plaines History Center.

      Steven Smith of Mount Prospect and sister Nancy Morrison of Palatine look at some of their parents' World War II-era artifacts, including their mother's Army nurse cadet uniform, Thursday night at the Des Plaines History Center. Christopher Placek | Staff Photographer

  • The Des Plaines History Center on Thursday night opened its latest exhibit, "World War II: Des Plaines and the War Against Fascism," which includes uniforms and other artifacts.

      The Des Plaines History Center on Thursday night opened its latest exhibit, "World War II: Des Plaines and the War Against Fascism," which includes uniforms and other artifacts. Christopher Placek | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted2/13/2015 5:30 AM

Enter the Des Plaines History Center and you find the stories of what it was like on the homefront during World War II.

Rose gardens turned into victory gardens with fruits and vegetables.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Residents went to work at the Benjamin Electric Co. on Northwest Highway and Douglas Aircraft Co. at what later became O'Hare Airport.

And German prisoners of war were housed at Camp Pine, a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp near the Des Plaines River, where relations with locals were often friendly in a town that had a strong German heritage.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. A new exhibit that opened Thursday night at the History Center showcases the role Des Plaines played in the war effort.

"We wanted to do this because generations come and generations go, and right now a generation is coming that does not have any direct connection to the war except through what we can teach them now," said Philip Mohr, the History Center's curator.

The exhibit, "World War II: Des Plaines and the War Against Fascism," features a number of artifacts of the day, including rivets from the Douglas plant that were used to fasten together parts of the C-54 metal planes built there.

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The rivets were donated to the History Center by longtime resident James Radlein, father of current 1st Ward Alderman Patti Haugeberg. Radlein went to work for Douglas after serving in the Army during the war.

"When you think Rosie the Riveter, what Rosie was doing was putting planes together with those rivets," Mohr said.

Radlein's Army uniform is one of four featured in the exhibit.

Also on display is the Army nurse cadet uniform belonging to Florence Kolb, who later became the first school nurse of Des Plaines District 62.

After graduating from Maine Township High School -- what is now Maine East -- Kolb was indentured to the Evanston Hospital School of Nursing under a government program that trained new nurses stateside, after more experienced ones were sent overseas.

The exhibit, which runs through the end of the year, is being held in conjunction with book discussions and Coffee Talk programs related to the war.

For more information, visit desplaineshistory.org.

Wartime: Exhibit runs through year's end

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