Abby Roberts

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Abby Roberts

As the Montana representative for The National World War II Museum Salute to Freedom exhibit, I selected images that represent Montana’s contribution to World War II through two key areas: mining and training war dogs. The need for substances such as copper and zinc skyrocketed during the war and brought the mining industry in Montana out of a long period of economic sluggishness. Many Montanans contributed to the war effort by becoming miners. The "Butte Miners’ Paycheck Notes," which include messages for miners that were distributed along with their paychecks during the war, demonstrate the crucial role the miners played. Camp Rimini was important because sled dogs and pack dogs were trained there to serve in the Army K-9 Corps. Montana helped the nation significantly during World War II by mining necessary materials and training war dogs.

Mining. Robert I. Nesmith was the chief photographer of the Copper Commando newspaper during World War II. He took hundreds of pictures in Montana that displayed the everyday work of miners. I chose the following images from a collection at the Montana Historical Society in Helena: “Miners in a Cage about to Go Down,” “Fred Schmook and Phil Larson Setting Up,” “Sign 73 EMPLOYEES ABSENT,” and “Surveying.” These photos provide an intimate, unvarnished look at what life was like at this time in Montana.

“Miners in a Cage” is one of Nesmith’s everyday life photos, depicting a few miners about to descend into a mine and assist the war effort. “Fred Schmook and Phil Larson” similarly shows this same idea. “Sign 73 EMPLOYEES ABSENT” is a great example of just how important all of the miners were. It disgraced the miners on this sign by implying that, by not showing up for work, they were most certainly aiding Hideki Tojo, Adolf Hitler, and Benito Mussolini (the Axis Power leaders of Japan, Germany, and Italy). “Surveying” is a shot that shows the landscape, town, and railroad near a mine. Robert I. Nesmith’s photos are eye-opening to painting a picture of mining in Montana during World War II.

Butte Miners’ Paycheck Notes. The three comics that are included show different drawings that were attached to miners’ paychecks to motivate them. The bottom one says that miners are just as important as the soldiers in combat. The middle one says that since the miners have contributed to the production of substances to create weapons, they are fighting just as hard as soldiers. The top one has America (in the form of Uncle Sam) telling the miners that work in the Butte mines is the best way to increase production for the war and to win it.

War Dog Training. Camp Rimini is another feature in Montana that relates to the Second World War. Now a ghost town just outside of Helena (the capital of Montana), Camp Rimini was once a training camp for war dogs. I chose “Training Run at Rimini” because it does display a few dogs, but also that Montana is always a peaceful winter wonderland even during times of nationwide stress and doubt. I read an article called "Training Sled Dogs at Camp Rimini 1942-1944" by Karen Fischer and knew that I needed to acquire an image of it from the Montana Historical Society. Fischer states: “Rimini’s long winters and deep snow...were also ideal for training men and dogs in Arctic rescue and survival techniques, so the camp became the source of the teams and equipment used by the Arctic Search and Rescue Units of the Air Transport Command.” Camp Rimini was another one of Montana’s contributions to aid the United States during World War II.

Montana was an important state when it came to helping out during World War II. Our state provided a large amount of needed war materials to create weapons, vehicles, and other tools used by soldiers on the front. Another little-known way is that war dogs were trained at Camp Rimini, near the state capital. Although our state isn’t very popular or populated, World War II was a time when Montanans showed that they were spirited Americans who were willing to contribute and fight for the United States of America and defend freedom around the world.