Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Spirit of Umatilla joins the war effort

As Hitler and Hirohito expanded their empires in 1944, thousands of bombers rushed to the defense of Allied positions in the European and Pacific theaters during World War II. The citizens of Umatilla County rode into battle as well, at least in spirit, when a B17G Flying Fortress bomber joined the ranks bearing their name.

All over the U.S., Americans did their part to fund the war effort. Those who could worked in factories that provided the Allies equipment and supplies. Those who didn’t live in the factory boom towns did the next best thing: They bought war bonds to finance the conflict.

In February of 1944, Umatilla County residents received news from Guy Johnson, county war finance administrator, that a Boeing B17G Flying Fortress, the latest in high-altitude daylight precision bombers, had been put into service due to the success of local war bond sales. The “Spirit of Umatilla” had a wing span of approximately 104 feet, a top speed of more than 300 mph, carried 10 tons of bombs and could fly long missions at over 40,000 feet altitude.

Its mission was kept a secret, of course.

County war loan drive chairman George Mason also reported more discouraging news. The progress of the fourth war loan drive in Umatilla County was lagging behind previous efforts, with sales on Feb. 2 of only $49,758.75 — lowest sales for a business day since January 22. The county’s total sales for the drive had reached only $1,361,788.25, or 82 percent of the quota of $1.674 million, and sales of E bonds also were lagging. Mason encouraged all Umatilla County residents to buy as many war bonds as they could manage.

Over the course of the war, 85 million Americans purchased an estimated $185 billion in war bonds.

 EO file photo

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