LETTER: Looking into West Point war effort
Published 7:59 pm Friday, May 10, 2019
The nation is in the midst of World War II anniversary commemorations and will mark the June 4, 1942, battle of Midway in the Pacific and the June 6, 1944, D-Day landings in Europe just a week after Memorial Day this year. While the sacrifice of the soldiers, sailors, coastguardsmen, airmen, marines and merchant mariners is in the forefront of those commemorations, the home front contribution to victory is also one to celebrate.
Most folks are probably aware of the major roles played by the textile mills in this area of Georgia and Alabama, but many won’t know about the defense work by a local West Point manufacturing firm. I would like to remedy that situation, and I need you readers to help me.
What is now a vacant city block between West 9th and 10th streets was once a bustling factory environment, dating back to the establishment of West Point Iron Works circa 1870 in downtown West Point. By the start of World War II, the business now known as West Point Foundry and Machine Company and owned by the Batson-Cook Company was busy making textile machinery for the nearby mills and was poised to expand along with the rest of U.S. industry to support the massive impending war effort. Before that effort ended in 1945, West Point Foundry had completed nearly $2 million dollars in contracts, primarily producing 20mm projectiles for the Navy and Army in its “Shell Plant.”
My wife’s grandmother worked in that Shell Plant, a fact I came across while speaking with her daughter, my wife Debbie’s aunt, Mrs. Pat Mayes. Apparently the company ran a bus into the countryside around West Point to transport workers from farm to factory and those workers, with many men gone off to war, were primarily women.
I have gathered some great background data on this West Point war work from the Library of Congress, the newspaper archives at the Troup County Archives and the Cobb Memorial Archives, and from visits to the folks at West Point Industries, the successor company to West Point Foundry.
What I seek are the recollections (and images) of those men and women who worked there, directly or by way of family members who recall their unique and valuable service to the war effort. I hope to be able to document that service in an article for this paper and local historical society newsletters before next year’s 75th anniversary celebration of World War II victory.
What better time to focus on West Point’s home front war work than Memorial Day 2019, when we honor those who gave their lives in World War II and across our history in defense of America?
Charles t. (todd) Creekman
Captain, U.S. Navy (Retired), Annandale, VA