75th anniversary of V-J Day
I am writing to express my appreciation for your paper’s assistance with my research on World War II “Shell Plant” operation in West Point. In your May 11-12, 2019 edition, the paper featured my letter requesting inputs from readers whose family members worked at the West Point Foundry and Machine Company to manufacture, primarily, 20-mm shells for the Navy’s Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannons aboard ship. Those weapons were very effective, particularly in the Pacific theater against attacking Japanese aircraft, but their high rate of fire consumed a lot of 20-mm ammunition–and that’s where the Shell Plant’s hard work paid off. I had come across the story when I learned that my wife’s grandmother was one of many local women who had gone to work at the Shell Plant as more and more men went off to war. As a result of your newspaper’s coverage, I was contacted by local residents whose parents (mostly their mothers!) had worked in the Shell Plant. With the help of Ms. Robin Brown at the Cobb Memorial Archives and Chattahoochee Valley Historical Society member Ms. Judy Bledsoe, I was able to put together the story of that remarkable war effort in downtown West Point. That story was featured in this summer’s edition of the CVHS newsletter The Voice.
This month marks the 75th anniversary of V-J Day—the Japanese surrender and the end of World War II. As we recall those events from long ago, an extract from Aug. 23, 1945, Chattahoochee Valley Times article provides local context:
“Despite the fact that the Government has canceled all its contracts with the West Point Manufacturing Company and with the West Point Foundry and Machine Company division of the Batson-Cook Company,…there is very little unemployment in this section today.
Only the local shell plant has been closed down, affecting some 128 employees, a number of whom, however, will be transferred to other departments of the Batson-Cook Company…. Included in some 128 people who were working at the shell plant when it was closed down immediately after the Japanese surrender, approximately 75 were women.
Late in August and early in July, some 45 employees were separated from the shell plant, which was the only actual war plant in the Valley, this plant having been constructed solely for the production of war material.”
The Shell Plant closed and the Foundry returned to the production of textile machinery for the local mills.
The women workers were, for the most part, discharged to resume homemaker duties while the returning servicemen were expected to take the remaining industry jobs in the region.
But the Shell Plant workers’ commitment to the victory that we celebrate this month has not been forgotten.
Capt. Todd Creekman
United States Navy (Ret.)