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Prairie Forge

The Extraordinary Story of the Nebraska Scrap Metal Drive of World War II

James J. Kimble

Publication Year: 2014

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt called for the largest arms buildup in our nation's history. A shortage of steel, however, quickly slowed the program’s momentum, and arms production fell dangerously behind schedule. The country needed scrap metal. Henry Doorly, publisher of the Omaha World-Herald, had the solution. Prairie Forge tells the story of the great Nebraska scrap drive of 1942—a campaign that swept the nation and yielded five million tons of scrap metal, literally salvaging the war effort itself.
James J. Kimble chronicles Doorly’s conception of a fierce competition pitting county against county, business against business, and, in schools across the state, class against class—inspiring Nebraskans to gather 67,000 tons of scrap metal in only three weeks. This astounding feat provided the template for a national drive. A tale of plowshares turned into arms, Prairie Forge gives the first full account of how home became home front for so many civilians.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xviii

There was no way that I could have known what was in store for me nearly ten years ago when I opened an ordinary- looking folder in the advertising archives at Duke University. The label affixed to the folder simply described its contents as involving a scrap metal drive of some sort...

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pp. 1-11

Bill Nicholas was on a quest. The high school senior’s adventure had started on what seemed to be a typical youngster’s prank. Still too young to fight the Germans, Italians, or Japanese, he and his school chums had chosen to spend a sunny day in the summer of 1942 driving around the..

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1. The Scrap Deficit, or How Not to Win a War

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pp. 12-31

Emory E. Smith knew enough about scrap metal and war production to be extremely worried about the unstable international situation. It was early in 1939, and the former commissioner of the War Industries Board was becoming increasingly alarmed as Nazi Germany rattled its sabers in...

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2. Henry Doorly and the Nebraska Plan

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pp. 32-50

Margaret Hitchcock Doorly might have seemed, at first glance, a rather unusual person to be playing an indispensable role in any event involving either scrap metal or warfare. Mrs. Henry Doorly, as the society columns of the day referred to her, was one of the leading ladies of Omaha and no...

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3. Summertime Scrapping in the City

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pp. 51-76

They said it was the smell of money. Visitors to wartime Omaha could hardly disagree, even if the air was disagreeable. After all, the city’s stockyards facility was among the largest in the world, processing millions of cattle, sheep, and pigs every year on its 200-acre site in South Omaha...

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4. Mobilizing Greater Nebraska

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pp. 77-99

The region of the Great Plains that the Otoe tribe once called Nibrathka has long embodied a sort of wilderness in the imagination of its visitors. Lieutenant Zebulon Pike’s 1806 description of this area of the country as being akin to an African desert set the tone for later impressions. In...

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5. The Second- Half Comeback

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pp. 100-122

Their hard-working team had failed to make a comeback in the second half. That painful memory was fresh in the minds of many wartime Nebraskans. On January 1, 1941, their beloved Cornhuskers had taken the field in Pasadena, California, to compete in the twenty-seventh annual...

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6. The Nebraska Plan Goes National

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pp. 123-145

On August 19, 1942, Leonard T. Kittinger sent a surprising memorandum to his boss, A. I. Henderson. As head of the Materials Division Salvage Section, Kittinger was one of the War Production Board’s (wpb) central figures on the subject of scrap metal collection. Part of his unit’s assignment...

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pp. 146-158

Henry Doorly had spoken about scrap metal on the radio before, but this was his largest audience yet. It was May 18, 1943, and the Blue Network show “This Nation at War!” was interviewing the publisher because the World-Herald had recently won the Pulitzer Prize for public service due...


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pp. 159-162


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pp. 163-198


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pp. 199-208


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pp. 209-217

E-ISBN-13: 9780803254152
E-ISBN-10: 0803254156
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803248786

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 874029820
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Prairie Forge

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Salvage (Waste, etc.) -- Nebraska -- History -- 20th century.
  • Scrap metals -- Recycling -- Nebraska -- History -- 20th century.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Economic aspects -- United States.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Nebraska.
  • Salvage (Waste, etc.) -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Nebraska -- History -- 20th century.
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