When visitors come to the Iron Range and see the open pits, it’s always important to remind them that the ore which comes from these mines build skyscrapers, bridges, cars, washing machines and so many items.
But perhaps most importantly for our national security is what this iron ore contributed to the war effort in both World War One and World War Two.
So when anyone looks at the massive Hull-Rust-Mahoning pit, which has absorbed nearly 30 other open-pit and underground mines, it’s important to know where that ore went, both in war and peace.
The following article, written by Michael Lemmons, was published in the Hibbing Daily Tribune on July 22, 1993, as part of a special edition of the newspaper celebrating Hibbing’s 100th Birthday.
When World War II started with Nazi Germany’s September 3, 1939, attack on Poland, the Iron Range and the United States weren’t ready for war.
However, by early 1942, both were more than ready.
The Iron Range that contributed over 60 percent of all iron ore used in the American war effort against the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan, not only provided the ore to make steel for ships, planes, guns and tanks, but also provided its people.
And their knowledge.
In Hibbing, for example, through its 2,963 servicemen and servicewomen – nearly 20 percent of Hibbing’s population at that time – and on the home front, the town contributed in a mighty way. Of those Hibbingites serving in the armed forces in World War II, 251 were wounded, 105 died, and 8 were missing in action, 7 became prisoners of war.
For Naval Air Cadets from across the Iron Range who would eventually fight in the North Atlantic, the Coral Sea, above Okinawa or in the Mediterranean, Hibbing offered some of their pre-flight training at the Memorial Building.
Flight training was at the Hibbing Airport.
Those not in the service, mostly women and men excluded either by age, health or their job, contributed in vital ways to the Allied war effort by working in area mines, chemical research labs, schools, hospitals, and manufacturing.
Even children pitched in to win the war.
In 1944, the Hibbing Daily Tribune newspaper carriers collected 53,000 pounds of paper in a local paper drive. Neighborhood rubber, tin, iron, and aluminum drives were common across the Range in the war years.
Hibbingites bought over $10 million in war bonds during the war.
It is also interesting to know that three United States war ships were named in honor of the town and two of its citizens.
Nearly everything took a backseat to the Allied war effort, including Hibbing’s 1943 50th Birthday celebration. Instead, the celebration was held in the summer of 1946, the first summer after the war’s end.
Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. Japan, after American atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, agreed to an unconditional surrender on August 15, 1945, and formally surrendered on September 2, 1945.
In cemeteries here and overseas, or lost without even a headstone, were relatives and friends.
The war had disrupted life so completely. Now, people wished to return to some semblance of pre-war order. Following the massive general participation of American society during World War II, there was a desire to just do happy things, quiet things. Local high school and college athletic games, parties, weekend automobile races, picnics, time spent at lake cabins, furnishing a new house, buying a new car and attending the occasional air show were the norm in those years after the war ended.
Returning servicemen and servicewomen yearned to return to school, start families and buy the consumer goods previously denied them during the four years of tough wartime restrictions.
Now the ore of the Iron Range mines was channeled into the products of modern American life.
But no one should ever forget that the Arsenal of Democracy, which was the United States, was built on the red ore and human sacrifice of the Iron Range.
Look for stories of the three ships that honored Hibbing and the men they were named for in upcoming Years of Yore pages as we commemorate Memorial Day throughout May.