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Ohio and World War II (1939-1945)


Oil refining
Oil refining

Ohio remained isolationist until Japan attacked U.S. military bases at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. After that, Ohioans overwhelmingly supported the war; some 839,000 men and women from the state served in the armed forces. Included among them were Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King of Lorain, who served as chief of naval operations, the highest position in the United States Navy; General Robert L. Eichelberger of Urbana, who led American army troops in New Guinea; and General Curtis E. LeMay of Lakewood, commander of the 21st Bomber Wing of the Air Strategic Command, who directed bombing raids on Japan. On the home front, to meet the demands of war, Ohio’s agricultural production was increased by 30 percent, the mining of bituminous coal was increased 82 percent, and industrial employment rose by 68 percent, particularly in the production of iron, steel, rubber, aircraft parts, ships, tanks, jeeps, and other motor vehicles.

Ohio ranked fourth, after California, New York, and Michigan, in war productivity, and Cleveland, Cincinnati, Akron, Dayton, and Toledo were principal centers of war-related work. Additionally, tens of thousands of unpaid volunteers across the state staffed draft and rationing boards and served as community air-raid wardens and Red Cross workers, while an estimated 2.5 million “Victory Gardens” sprouted in urban and suburban areas to supplement the yields of Ohio’s farms.

Post-War Industrial Development


The industrial boom of the war years continued into the 1950s and 1960s.

Old industries expanded and new industries developed, notably the aluminum industry, centered in the Ohio Valley, and the chemical industry, divided between the Ohio Valley and northeastern Ohio. Between 1951 and 1969, Ohio manufacturers spent more on new plants and equipment than those of any other state, as Ohio rose to third place among the 50 states in industrial productivity. The opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 gave oceangoing ships access to Ohio’s port cities on Lake Erie.

Beginning in the early 1970s, the state’s older industrial base began to crumble.

Many Ohio plants had become old-fashioned and obsolete, and labor costs in the heavily unionized state were well above those in the South and West and far higher than those overseas. Energy costs soared as Ohio’s high-quality coal and natural gas were depleted and crude oil prices tripled, under the control of an international cartel led by Middle Eastern oil producers. Tire production all but stopped in Akron, and steel plants in Youngstown and Cleveland shut down. Across the state, industry after industry closed or drastically cut production, and unemployment soared.

From 1972 to 1982, the state lost nearly 250,000 manufacturing jobs, a decline of more than 18 percent. While some were replaced with service-sector jobs, most of those positions offered low pay and limited benefits. As manufacturing jobs drained off to Sun Belt states of the South and West, the term “Rust Belt” was increasingly applied to Ohio and the other older industrial states of the Northeast and Midwest. Ohio’s industrial decline bottomed out in the 1980s as the older, heavier industries were modernized, replaced, or supplemented with newer, high-technology industries. By the 1990s Ohio again ranked among the top five manufacturing states, producing automobiles, machinery, computers, chemicals, paper products, plastics, primary and fabricated metal products, soaps, and processed food. "Ohio" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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