Events that shaped us 

E & J
200 24 Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

American Institute of Commerce
1801 E Kimberly Rd
Davenport, IA 52807

Rock Island County Farm Bureau
1601 52 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Hempel Pipe and Supply
951 S Rolff St
Davenport, IA 52802

McGladrey & Pullen, LLP
Certified Public Accountants and Consultants
220 North Main St Suite 900
Davenport, Ia 52801

McGladrey & Pullen, LLP
Certified Public Accountants and Consultants
600 35 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

1607 John Deere Rd
East Moline, IL 61244

John Deere Pavilion
1400 River Dr
Moline, IL 61265

John Deere Store
1300 River Drive Suite 100
Moline, IL 61265

Birdsell Chiropractic
1201 5th Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Arsenal aided victory

By Tory Brecht, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

Click here for larger view.
Tanks and trucks stand ready for repair or modification in venerable Shop M at the Rock Island Arsenal. The huge reinforced concrete building was constructed in 1917 to produce materials for World War I and became the hub of manufacturing on the Arsenal when the defense program of the 1930s became the war program of the 1940s.
Sore feet more than patriotic fervor compelled Etta Baker, then a 25-year-old Moline beautician, to apply for a job as a clerk on the Rock Island Arsenal at the height of World War II.

It was 1942, and her feet hurt from standing six days a week, cutting and styling hair. Plus, the government paid better.

But with a new husband in the Signal Corps in the European Theater of the war, and the knowledge that the effort of every American was critical to victory, Mrs. Baker soon was caught up in the can-do spirit.

``We felt we were helping the war effort,'' she said. ``It was your country. We were doing our part.''

She definitely was not alone.

The Arsenal, created as a western stockpile and manufacturer of weapons during the Civil War, reached peak activity during World War II. By July 7, 1943, 18,675 men and women were working on the island.

From officers to civilian clerks, the industrial might of the Arsenal was critical to Allied victory. Through the war years, the Arsenal produced nearly 85,000 machine guns, 715,000 machine gun barrels, 22,520 gun mounts, 26 tanks and nearly two million metallic belt links. At the height of production, 35 weapon barrels could be produced by each machine each hour.

The face of the work force also was changing, according to historian Roald Tweet, author of ``The Quad Cities: An American Mosaic.'' For the first time, significant numbers of women, minorities and the handicapped entered a work place previously closed to them, he wrote.

``It was an exciting time,'' Mrs. Baker said. ``You got to meet people from all over. We were a very close group.''

The work was long and hard, though. Mrs. Baker said employees worked six days a week and were not allowed to loiter or take long breaks. Only grave illness was an excuse for time off.

Dorothy Baxter lived on the island during the war, the wife of George Baxter, a proof officer responsible for test-firing weapons. She recalls security-conscience guards, 18-hour working days and dedicated workers on the civilian and military side.

``It was rather exciting when you look back on it,'' she said. ``There was a real sense of mission.''

Even with a war on, there were light moments. Mrs. Baxter recalls visiting a drugstore in Bettendorf -- across the river from where her husband test fired Howitzers.

``The owner came up to me and said, `Look what your husband did,' and pointed to a hole in the ceiling.''

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.