Blackout Baby Born
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, plunged the U.S. into World War II. Almost overnight, the entire nation mobilized for the global conflict.
North Dakotans were deeply affected. Sixty thousand North Dakotans joined the military and another forty thousand journeyed to the West Coast to work in defense plants.
The home front experienced a time of adjustment as civilians tightened their belts to conserve resources. The U.S. also prepared its citizens to defend themselves from bombing attacks. While it may seem unlikely to modern sensibilities that North Dakota could have been struck by bombers in World War II, U.S. civil defense authorities still mobilized against such an eventuality. President Franklin D. Roosevelt fed fears of attack when he admitted that the bombing of Detroit and the shelling of New York City were possible. The philosophy of civil defense was that it was “a lot better to be prepared for an air raid and not have it come, than to have it come and not be prepared.”
North Dakotans participated in practice blackouts to foil bomber attacks. In Wahpeton and all across North Dakota, the first blackout came on this date in 1942, when all citizens in a nine-state region had to extinguish all lights in houses, businesses, farm homes and vehicles so they would be invisible to enemy planes. It was training for the possibility that “real air raiders” might one day “reach this area.” All citizens were urged to: keep cool, stay home, put out lights, lie down, and stay away from windows.
Richland County Civilian Defense had local air raid wardens watch for compliance from 10 to 10:20 p.m. Wahpeton’s twenty-minute blackout that night was “one hundred percent” complete, even though there were a “few difficulties during the first minute or two.” The city became enveloped in “total darkness” as residents either turned out the lights or covered their windows.
At St. Mary’s Hospital, the staff complied with the blackout, even in the maternity ward, where Mrs. Reynard Thompson gave birth to a baby boy at 10:05, just five minutes into the blackout. Her husband was far away in Alaska serving in the Navy, and the attending physician had to be called to the hospital from his post in the Civilian Defense blackout control room. By all accounts, the baby boy was safe and healthy, nonetheless.
No bomber attack ever came to Wahpeton, but its citizens, including an expectant mother and her baby, cooperated in making the first-ever blackout of the city a “complete success,” on this date in 1942.
Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSU Moorhead History Department.
“Blackout Practice Is Complete Success In Wahpeton Community,” Richland County Farmer-Globe, December 18, 1942, p. 1.
“All Patriotic Folk Cooperating Completely In Black-Out Of Area,” Richland County Farmer-Globe, December 15, 1942, p. 1.
“Richland County Black Out First Time In History,” Richland County Farmer-Globe, December 8, 1942, p. 1.
“Child Born During Blackout At Wahpeton,” Fergus Falls Daily Journal, December 19, 1942, p. 7.
“Blackout Covers 9 States Tonight,” Bismarck Tribune, December 14, 1942, p. 1.
“Blackout Signal Here Will Be Short Blasts,” Bismarck Tribune, December 4, 1942, p. 3.
“Blackout Instructions Are Issued,” Bismarck Tribune, December 9, 1942, p. 1.
“What To Do In An Air Raid,” Fergus Falls Daily Journal, December
“President Warns Foe Could Shell Or Bomb New York,” New York Times, February 18, 1942, p. 1.
“Roosevelt Says U.S. Cities May Be Attacked,” Fergus Falls Daily Journal, February 18, 1942, p. 1.
“Attack on the U.S.,” Time Magazine, March 2, 1942, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,773056,00.html,
accessed on November 29, 2010.
“Air Warden School Opens Wednesday,” Fergus Falls Daily Journal, July 7, 1942, p. 2.