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Evansville The World War II Years


World War II changed the face of Evansville, Indiana. In December 1941, the city was still recovering from the Great Depression, yet within three months, a series of blockbusterannouncements transformed the region. Several corporations received major defense contracts to manufacture parts and ammunitions, while two new installations were launched: a shipyard to construct Landing Ship Tanks and a factory to manufacture P–47 airplanes. Industrial employment rose dramatically, producing social, economic, and racial tensions as thousands of newcomers poured into a city that lacked adequate housing and publicfacilities. The citizens of Evansville persevered, and most workers stayed following the end of the war. One federal official commented that the city—not just its many defense plants—deserved the coveted Army-Navy "E" (for excellence) award.


Darrel E. Bigham is director of Historic Southern Indiana and professor of history at the University of Southern Indiana. He has authored several other books on Evansville and its region for Arcadia. His most recent monograph is On Jordan's Banks: Emancipation and Its Aftermath in the Ohio River Valley.