Last updated: December 5, 2022
Montgomery County, Ohio
Montgomery County includes the city of Dayton and large portions of what is today called Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The United States Army Air Corps entered the Second World War at a severe numerical and technological disadvantage. To help overcome these weaknesses, in 1940 the federal government allocated $300 million to improve Wright Field and to create an Air Corps with at least 5,500 planes. In 1941, only forty buildings existed at Wright Field, but by 1944, the airfield consisted of more than three hundred buildings. During World War II, aviation research continued with much attention focused upon improving the horsepower of airplane engines, airplane range and maneuverability, safety features for crews, and weapons. Workers at Wright Field helped to design and to construct such airplanes as the C-47 Skytrain, the C-54 Skymaster, the Curtiss C-46 Commando, the Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk, the B-24 Liberator, and the B-29 Superfortress.
Wright Field participated in diverse operations during the war, including Project Silverplate—the Air Corps contribution to the Manhattan Project, and Operations Overcast and Paperclip—designed to secure German technological advances. The base contributed to the development and advancement of parachutes; aircraft certification and operation procedures; aerospace medicine; weapons development; and aerial mapping. Other wartime projects included cracking the Nazi 4-rotor Enigma Code at the National Cash Register (NCR) complex.
Overall, wartime contracts in Montgomery County exceeded $1.645 billion. Employment exploded for all industries; for example, NCR’s employment increased from 8,000 workers in 1940 to 20,000 by 1945. Dayton’s African American population increased by 3,000 to 20,273, most migrating from the south to work in factories. Factories also steadily employed thousands of women in Dayton, with women comprise 50% of the manufacturing workforce by 1945. Factories worked three shifts, twenty-four hours a day. Numerous factories converted from producing civilian products to putting out war materials. Workers produced more than 20,000 three-blade Hamilton Standard propellers and 50,000 four-blade propellers for a variety of aircraft.
Montgomery County residents joined in scrap drives, grew victory gardens, lived with rationing and blackout regulations, and served in civil defense programs. Thousands of residents worked long hours on production lines, dealt with shortages of basic goods, lacked adequate housing, and often had at least one family member serving in the military. Cities across Montgomery County organized and stood up civil defense systems. Air raid shelters were designated or built. Air raid sirens were installed. Businesses and homes were encouraged to black out windows to prevent possible enemy air-raids. In 1944, the USS Dayton, a light cruise ship, was entirely financed by bond sales in the Dayton area.
The community is home to a number of institutions that commemorate the home front: including the National Aviation Heritage Area, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the Carillon Historical Park, the Dayton Metro Library, the Aviation Trail Parachute Museum, and the Wright Company Factory.
The Honor Flight Network originated in Dayton and now is in 45 states: this program honors U.S. veterans by bringing them to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials and monuments dedicated to their service and sacrifice. Memorials are found at Wright-Patterson AFB, North Dayton Patriots Memorial (established 1944), Dayton’s Gold Star Mothers World War II Memorial in Riverside Park, City of Centerville Veterans Memorial at Leonard Stubbs Park, Miami Township Veterans Memorial, City of Union Veterans Memorial, and the City of West Carrollton Veterans Memorial. The Charity Early Adams Elementary School honors the educator, soldier, andpsychologist who paved the way for African American women in the military.