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Determining the Facts

Reading 2: B&O Employees Do Their Part!

The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and its employees played an integral part in the World War II effort at home and abroad. In 1941, the B&O employed 47,000 men and women. By the end of the World War II, over 17,000 had left their jobs to serve the United States military. Responding to a request from the federal government, the B&O established the Military Railway Unit, 708th Headquarters, Railway Grand Division, and provided numerous experienced railroaders for military service. By the end of the war 201 B&O employees lost their lives, two of whom earned the nation’s highest military award: the Congressional Medal of Honor.
 
All of the nation’s railroads, including the B&O, experienced a dramatic increase in freight and passenger traffic during the war years. In order to help the B&O and other railroads cope with an increase in demand and a shortage of labor, many workers pushed back or returned from retirement. The B&O also hired women to work in what were typically considered male occupations in shops, along tracks, on trains, and in offices. From January to August 1943, the B&O recruited 450 female high school graduates to work in their offices. In addition, the B&O collaborated with the U.S. and Mexican governments to temporarily hire over 2,800 Mexican nationals.
 
In addition to their efforts moving troops and military supplies, B&O employees supported the war effort in many ways. Railroad employees participated in war bond drives. In 1944, over 4,400 employees authorized personal payroll deductions and by the end of the conflict they had purchased nearly $1,300,000 in war bonds. The B&O Agricultural Development Department encouraged workers and their families to plant “Victory Gardens” along the right-of-way. Two B&O Mt. Clare Shops employees invented “boxcar tankers” which consisted of four steel-lined wooden tanks inside a boxcar. These makeshift specialty cars could carry 2,200 more gallons of oil than standard tankers. The B&O also hauled ship building materials to the Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyard in Baltimore where Liberty ships like the Daniel Willard (named after the late B&O President) were manufactured. 
 
In his August 1945 victory message, B&O President Roy B. White announced to the men and women of the B&O:
 
The most important material factor in our hard-earned victory has been the industrial power of the United States. Production of ships, planes, guns, tanks, and other implements of war mounted with incredible speed and volume, turned the tide of battle, and saved thousands of lives and much potential suffering. Fundamental in this production job has been the services of the American railroads.  Nine-tenths of all the war freight shipments and nearly all the troop movements have been made by rail… The Baltimore & Ohio has played its full part in the doing of this job, and I am grateful for what you, as individuals, have done to make this fine record and I share your pride in it.
 
Questions for Reading 2:

 

1.      Cite several facts in support of the assertion that B&O employees “did their part” to support the war effort.

2.      According to B&O President Roy White, how did the efforts of the railroads result in the saving of lives?

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