Dakota Datebook

WWII Scrap Drives

Friday, November 25, 2011


Devils Lake announced that it had surpassed its collection goals during a recent scrap metal drive on this date in 1942. Scrap drives, in which people collected and salvaged all manners of things, became a common feature of the home front during World War II.

In September of 1942, the U.S. Government issued a challenge to local communities to pull together and complete an intensive drive. North Dakota State salvage director, E. E. Campion, called on everyone to help meet the challenge, but especially targeted the state’s businessmen. Government officials believed that businessmen were in a strong position to aid the drives, given their resources and influence. Campion asked the state’s roughly 20,000 businessmen to look through damaged, discarded, and used merchandise as a potential source of material. The director claimed he was “…sure that if the merchant knew that the old stove laying broken up and useless would make ten 4” shells, that the abandoned radiator will make seventeen .30 caliber rifles, and that the leaky wash pail will make three bayonets, he would collect every bit of savagable scrap in his shop or store room and start it on its way to becoming valuable war material.” In Fargo, citizens heaped up scrap material into an enormous pile stretching along two blocks of Broadway in October. Not to be outdone, residents of Devils Lake set a goal to collect 895 tons. By November, they announced that not only had they surpassed their goal, but had actually more than tripled it, delivering 3,024 tons of metal for donation. Officials admitted that the donation was only achieved by sacrificing the Civil-War era cannon that that had been placed in the Ramsey County fairgrounds and the large metal capstan from the historic steamboat, the Minnie H. The Minnie H had been the flagship of Captain Edward Heerman and had ferried locals between the north and south shores of Devils Lake from 1883 until 1908. The ship’s anchor and other metal relics that survived the War’s scrap drives are on display today at the Pioneer Daughter’s Museum in Fort Totten.

In October, even without the final tallies and donations, the government announced that the drive had accumulated enough scrap metal to build fifty-two first-line battleships, with North Dakota donating 13,559 tons to the cause. By November, the state’s donation was equivalent to nearly sixty pounds of metal for each North Dakota resident!

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job


Mouse River Farmers Press. September 3, 1942: p. 4.

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, June 15, 1942: p.1.

Toledo Blade, October 16, 1942: p. 2.



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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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