Focus on Fostoria - June_6_04

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Fostoria Focus - June 6, 2004

War Industrial Facilities – Fostoria
Is in the Book

By Leonard Skonecki

Cleaning house is fraught with peril.

It's not that you might get hurt. It's that you'll run across something that catches your eye and then the cleaning grinds to a halt.

My pal Cliff Cockie found that out. He was rummaging through some things and a piece of the past jumped out.

The past sometimes comes wrapped in strange packaging. Cliff found a booklet with the eye-popping, best-selling title – "Alphabetical Listing of War Industrial Facilities Financed With Public Funds, Through June 30, 1944." Now that's guaranteed to make you tune in next week.

The name of the author of our magnum opus also falls on the ear like pleasant music. It was penned by the War Production Board, Bureau of Program and Statistics, Industry and Facilities Division, Facilities and Contracts Branch.

Good old Uncle Sam, he's sure one flowery son of a gun.

During World War II, factories all over America were making trucks, tanks, rifles, bombers, uniforms. If you needed it to put the stop on Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo, some plant somewhere in the good old U.S. of A. was putting it together.

Two Fostoria companies are listed – National Carbon and the Fostoria Screw Co. To be listed, a company had to have received at least $25,000 from the federal government to expand its war production capacity.

We learn that the Fostoria Screw Co.'s expansion enabled the company to make "fuses and component parts."

The money came from the War Department (Department of Defense today). The financing could come from several agencies – the War Production Board, Office of Petroleum Coordinator, Maritime Commission, even the British Ministry of Supply Mission.

The Fostoria Screw Co. received a total of $96,000. All of the money went for new equipment and none to construct new buildings. The booklet says no new employees were added.

National Carbon appears under Union Carbide & National Carbon Corp. They manufactured "charcoal, whetlerite."

Carbon's money also came from the War Department. It was a tidy $2.5 million. $2,256,000 went for "structures" and $249,000 purchased new equipment. The booklet says 210 new workers were hired.

Whetlerite was used in making the carbon filters in gas masks. It helped the filter absorb the gas.

Italy, the United States, the Soviet Union, France, Japan, and Germany all had stores of mustard gas, phosgene and other chemical weapons. Some of these were left over from World War I. Others were developed during the war.

According to the Oxford Companion to World War II, the gas could be delivered in bombs or artillery shells. Sarin. the gas used several years ago in the Tokyo subway, was developed by the Nazis.

President Roosevelt twice made public statements that the United States would not be the first to use any kind of chemical weapons. He did, however, warn the Axis powers that if they used chemical weapons against Allied forces, the U.S. would retaliate with chemical weapons of its own.

To back that threat up, the United States produced an 87,000 ton supply of toxic chemicals by war's end.

Chemical weapons, so fearsome in WWI, weren't used in WWII. First, the threat of retaliation kept the Axis honest.

Second, WWII was a different kind of war. The static trench warfare of the First World War had been replaced with faster, mobile, mechanized warfare.

In addition, the whetlerite component made in Fostoria was just one aspect of improved protection against chemical weapons. Chemical weapons just wouldn't have been as effective.

Cliff also found a couple other items of interest. One was a book of matches touting the Seneca County Commission candidate Harvey G. Newcomer for the May 9, 1944 primary.

The cover said "Vote for H.G.. Newcomer – Your Vote And Support Appreciated – Close Cover Before Striking." The inside said, "Check The Record – Vote Republican."

For the record, most voters didn't care for Harvey's. He got creamed.

There were two Republican seats up for grabs in the primary. Harry Stultz got 1,620 votes and Bloom Myers got 1,313.

Harvey was a dim and distant third with only 874 votes. Got to give Harvey credit, though. Two other Republican candidates did worse.

The last item looks exactly like a book of matches, same size and design, but isn't. It's pink with blue printing and advertised Ballreich's Beehive Store, 202 S. Main, "Your Westinghouse Store." The place sold furniture, appliances, home furnishings, rugs, carpets and linoleum.

When you open the cover, you don't find matches, you find a "petite nail kit," tiny disposable emery boards. These are in mint condition. Never smoothed a fingernail or touched up a cuticle.

So the loyal Focus readership may consider this a cautionary tale.

Remember. Be careful when you're cleaning. Never know what might be under all that dust.