New Book Explores Milwaukee's Role During World War II

Dec 7, 2015

It was on this day, 74 years ago, that the Japanese bombardment of Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II.  There are several important Milwaukee names that have prominent connections with that war.

Former mayor Carl Zeidler enlisted in the Navy and was killed in the South Pacific.  World War I ace Billy Mitchell died before the Second World War, but had essentially predicted almost to the letter the attack on Pearl Harbor.  War photographer Dickey Chapelle was from Shorewood, and Mildred Harnack was the only American woman directly ordered to be executed by Adolf Hilter for her involvement in the anti-Nazi movement. And of course, five-star general Douglas Macarthur spent part of his childhood in Milwaukee and was an alumni of West Division High School (what is now Milwaukee High School of the Arts).

Milwaukee writer Meg Jones tells those and other stories of Milwaukee and the war in her first book, World War II Milwaukee.

From manufacturing to reporting, both the city's industries and its people played key roles during World War II.
Credit The History Press

"This isn't like the definitive be-all history of Milwaukee during World War II," explains Jones. "It's just highlighting some of the interesting stories, some of the unusual occurrences, some things were I was reading along and I was like, 'what?'"

For Jones, writing a book was new territory compared to her reporting on military and veterans issues. While the interest in the topic was strong, she only knew the bigger picture of Milwaukee in World War II. Jones framed the book based on her knowledge of a Milwaukee captain of the USS Arizona at the beginning of the war, and the role Douglas Macarthur played in commanding the USS Missouri and his signature on the Armistice with Wisconsin Made pens.

"I thought here are these two very influential people with Milwaukee ties at the beginning and the end of World War II for America, so then that kind of helped me frame the book," explains Jones. "Then I started thinking about the interesting businesses, companies, factories that were making stuff, and then I thought about the interesting people...journalists...I knew that there was also a strong pro-Nazi presence here in Milwaukee also during the 1930s. So things just kind of began falling into place," says Jones.

Milwaukee reporter Meg Jones is author of the new book, World War II Milwaukee, published by The History Press. Jones has also reported from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.