First Blackout Drill of WWII
Even Oak Park, situated in the heart of the American Midwest, felt the far reaching effects of World War II. On August 12th, 1942 the Oak Leaves published a story titled “Oak Park Holds First Blackout Drill of War.” Held by the 6th Defense Region (parts of Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin) and lasting from 10 to 10:30 pm, the blackout was intended to deny horizontal navigational points to enemy ships and aircraft. Though enemy action in the Midwest was currently non-existent and highly unlikely in general, blackout drills were necessary precautions for any population centers to practice. On the East coast German U-boats torpedoed hundreds of ships that made easy targets, silhouetted by the bright lights of coastal cities.
However, the people of Oak Park did not just help the war effort by blacking out their homes. Four days later, on August 16th, 1942 the Oak Leaves published a story titled “25th Evacuation Hospital Leaves Oak Park for Training.” 32 doctors and 46 nurses from West Suburban Hospital, organized as the 25th Evacuation Hospital, started leaving Oak Park on Sunday August 16th for basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri. In October 1942 the 25th Evacuation Hospital was stationed on Espritu Santu, one of the major staging areas for the Southwest Pacific Theater where they remained for the duration of the war.
Individual Oak Parkers were also among those celebrated for their sacrifices during the War. On August 13th 1942 the Oak Leaves published a story titled “Distinguished Service Cross to Village Hero.” It details the story of one Lieutenant James J. Orr. Lieut. Orr attended Oak Park River Forest High School and was employed by the Oak Park branch of Marshall Fields. He was killed on January 1st when his bomb laden plane suffered a fatal malfunction. Lieut. Orr managed to heroically guide the plane away from the crowded residential neighborhood he was flying over and crash it into a nearby empty stone quarry, saving the lives of numerous residents who would have been killed by the explosion of the bomb laden plane. For this sacrifice he was given the Distinguished Flying Cross.