Minnesota's Greatest Generation

The War—Learn More

By 1941 Minnesotans had emerged from the dark days of the Great Depression. Employment was up, and folks were looking ahead with hope for a brighter future. On December 7th, that hope was dimmed when the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and the United States was drawn into World War II.

Just as they had during the Great Depression, Minnesota's Greatest Generation rose up to meet the challenges presented by the war. Young men enlisted in military service by the thousands, willing to risk their lives to protect their homeland. Young women eagerly took on new roles; some "joined up" in the new women's military service corps, many took jobs in defense plants or worked in other capacities to free up men for service.

On the home front, "patriotism" and "duty" became watchwords for a generation as the country united in the war effort. The deprivation and resourcefulness that had been a way of life during the depression served them well as they continued to salvage and sacrifice to benefit American troops. Large munitions plants, like the Twin Cities Ordnance plant in Arden Hills, offered thousands of wartime employees a tangible way to contribute to the war effort. Rural Minnesotans were touched by the war in a new way as German POWs arrived in the state and provided a source of labor on local farms.

World War II was a time of great loss and heartbreak. Through it all, Minnesotans held fast to their dreams, looking forward to peace and a chance to rebuild interrupted lives. The years of the late 1940s bore witness to new starts, as servicemen arrived home, married their sweethearts, started families and embarked on new careers.

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Minnesota's Greatest Generation Articles

Library Resource Topics

Minnesota History Quarterly