Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Friday, August 05, 2016

EYES TOWARD THE SKY



In the summer of 1941, all eyes were turned to the sky, hoping that they would not see what they were looking for. In that last summer before World War II, the fear of an invasion by the German or Japanese air forces was all too real.  Accordingly, around the nation and in almost every Georgia county, air observation posts were organized.

 After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the fears multiplied beyond a near panic, especially on the west coast.  By the summer of 1942, those constant fears were quelled to some degree, but only a few people didn’t turn their heads skyward when they saw a plane, friendly or not.

Plans were already in effect to curtail electrical use in the City of Dublin by turning off residential street lights.  A local defense corps was organized to begin training in the event of an invasion.  Scrap aluminum drives were held to conserve the suddenly  precious metal.

On August 8, 1941, the State Defense Corps of Georgia named Dublin insurance agent, W.H. Proctor, to organize a corps of volunteers to serve as observers at fourteen local observation posts in Laurens County.  Each post would require a minimum of 20 persons, male or female.  The posts would be under the overall command of Dr. Charles Hodges, head of the local State Defense Corps unit.

Each post was commanded by a chief and an assistant chief.  Access to telephone lines was critical.  If an enemy plane was spotted, the observer would call a central location in Dublin, where the message would be relayed to state officials.

The initial posts were established in Dublin, Harmony School, Rentz, Cadwell, Alcorn, Buckhorn, Dudley, Montrose, Garretta, Chappell’s Mill, Blackshear’s Ferry, Brewton, Lovett and the home of N.P. Metts.

Within the first two days, the Dublin Post 31 was completed with F. Roy Orr as the Chief and Harry Hill as his assistant.  Other initial members were: R.H. Hightower, E.T. Hall, G.C. Moore, R.C. Garrard, Cordie Green, Arthur Adams, F.M. Aiken, Roy Pope, J.D. Sheppard, George M. Prescott, E.E. Cook, Albert Duncan, Drew Perry, T.A. Lane, T.E. Kellam, E.L. Black, Jr., L.C. Malone and O.C. Hattaway.

In the Buckhorn Community, J.W. Lord, Joseph R. Lord and H.W. Dozier served as the Chief and 1st and 2nd assistant chiefs.  Ralph T. Lord, J.O. English, Wilbur Lord, Homer Dorsey, J.M. Warren, W. H. Hobbs, L.F. Warren, Tom Kemp, M.C. Wall, Parks Daniel, Charlie Thomas, A.U. Hogan, R.W. Parker, J.D. Holliman, J.B. Howard, R.C. Hogan, Jr. and J.M. Wall rounded out the observation crew of Post 76.

Post 93 in the Thomas Cross Roads Community was headed by Ancil Chavous, O.C. Brown and J.M. Wolfe.  I.E. Wood, Arthur Wolfe, R.H. Lee, O.C. Brown, Jim Henry Montford, J.R. Fordham, J.P. Ellington, Olaf Thomas, R.H. Roach, J.D. Hogan, Jim Will Ward, Ike Jenkins, A.W. Barfoot, J.H. Mathis and P.P. Payne rounded out the observers.

N.P. Metts, W.M.. Dixon and T.D. Bailey headed the Chappell’s Mill Post No. 95 along Highway 441 North with the aid of Freeman Barron, C.C. Wright, Drew Horne, W.P. Perry, J.D. Hogan, J.L. Allen, J.O. Cannon, H.B. Cannon, W.F. Towson, J.F. Starley, W.J. Renfroe,C.H. Hudson, S.J. Garner and J.M. Allen.

  In the first week, more than half of the post had chiefs.  In addition to Roy Orr in Dublin, Walter B, Daniel of Garretta, A.W. Dominy of Alcorn, N.P. Metts of Chappell’s Mill, Y.H. Thompson of Montrose, Sam Hinsley of Buie’s Mill, C.J. Bedingfield of Cadwell and Hugh Grant of Rentz had volunteered to serve as chiefs in their home areas.

Mock air raids were scheduled for October, although most of the rural units were not ready due to a failure to receive orders for operating procedures.

Just six days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Fiorello La Guardia, head of the Office of Civilian Defense placed a full page ad in the Dublin Courier Herald and other papers around the country instructing Americans in an air raid to keep cool, stay home, put out their lights, lie down and stay away from windows.  LaGuardia, the iconic Mayor of New York City, urged all Americans to volunteer to serve as air raid wardens or serve their country in the Civilian Defense Corps.

  Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Col. Irvine F. Beiser, in command of the Georgia State Defense Corps, urged the citizens of Georgia to establish an ARP (air raid post) for every 32 square miles amounting to 1106 in the state.   The Colonel suggested that each community appoint an air raid warden for every 500 people in addition to tripling auxiliary police forces,  offering more emergency medical services and first aid training in every home and improving maintenance of public transportation and communications.

Air raid wardens were charged with the responsibility of observing which lights were showing during a blackout, warning occupants of buildings, directing pedestrians to shelter, reporting to the control center of any fallen bombs, reporting fires detecting and reporting the presence of poisonous gas and assisting victims in damaged buildings.  Each air raid warden served 500 people.  Although he or she possessed no police powers, it was their duty to work with all law enforcement officers.

In late February 1942, a rally was held at the Dublin City Hall to insure that all wards of the city were fully manned.  Mayor Dee Sessions invited all officers of the Civilian Defense Corps to be present as well as all citizens who were asked to serve as auxiliary policemen and firemen.  Nearly 90 Dubliners were charged with the responsibility of managing the volunteers during an air raid.  All officers were required to attend 30 hours of air raid training.

On March 11, 1942, Freeman R. O’Neal, Laurens County Commander and Georgia Power executive, began the implementation of air raid plans with the assistance of executive officer, Stanley A. Reese.  O.F. Ludwig, a local electrician, was appointed as the area air raid warden of Dublin.  A board of officers, composed of  T.C. Keen, comptroller, M.A. Rogers, personnel officer, Coke Brown, property officer, and Mrs. J.A. Middleton, billeting officer, were appointed to aid Warden Ludwig.

Other civilian heads were Martin Willis, Chief of Firefighters, Chief J.W. Roberston, Chief of Police workers, W.P. Tindol, Chief Air Raid Warden, Dr. R.G. Farrell, Chief of Emergency Medical Services and  E.B. Mackey, Chief of Public Works and Utilities.  Eugene Cook, a future Attorney General of Georgia, was named as Vice Chief Air Warden.   H.H. Dudley was the head of the African American efforts in Dublin.

After the first hundred days of the war, at least 448 persons in Dublin and Laurens County were undergoing training for civilian defense with an additional 213 citizens  enrolled for civilian defense duties.  Seventy five men and twenty five women were training for air warden duties.  Other students included: 171 auxiliary firemen, 136 auxiliary policemen, 5 men and 25 women who served as emergency medical personnel, 10 men and 1 woman worked as staff corps members, 20 men trained as demolition and clearance workers and 10 women aided the war effort as emergency food and housing workers.

By early May, the first air raid sirens arrived.   Ten months into the war, W. H. Proctor notified all of the air raid volunteers that they could “take it easy” for a while.  Proctor thanked the men and women who “have kept a constant vigil at their posts.”   The directors of the area center in Savannah proclaimed that the air raid defense system along the Atlantic Coast was so effective that further participation of inland residents was no longer necessary.  Despite the furlough, the system remained in place under the direction of Proctor and his three assistants, F. Roy Orr,  T.R. Napier  and Emory Whittle.

As the tide of the war turned in 1944, the role of air raid wardens and air observers came to an end.



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