Wartime in Baltimore

Veterans Day (November 11) is also known as Remembrance Day. This holiday is good opportunity to learn about what life was like during World War Two in Baltimore, since most of us are too young to have first-hand memories or knowledge of that time. In this academic paper, Lee McNulty wrote about local civil defense efforts:

“The State of Maryland, acting under the Federal authority, created the “Maryland Council of Civil Defense” on 1 August, 1941….

On the local level, the Baltimore Council for Defense created the Baltimore Committee on Civilian Defense (the BCCD). This group, organized in December 1941, was divided into four divisions; Planning, Public Relations, Enrollment, and Training. Areas of control included the police, the fire department, air-raid wardens, fire watchers, the medical corps, messengers, decontamination squads, and public works. The stated purpose of this organization was the planning for the safety of Baltimore citizens in case of enemy attack.”

Used with permission of University of Baltimore

McNulty explained the specifics:

“The greatest perceived danger in 1941 and 1942 was from air attack. A waterborne incident, most likely involving sabotage, was also anticipated. Accordingly, the two most widely practiced drills were air raid drills and harbor/bay security. The air raid dangers included bombs, gas, and incendiaries (fire-bombs). the preventative measures taken against air attack included blackouts, fire-watchers, and air-raid wardens.

All citizens, State and City, were expected  to participate in the blackouts. Rules and regulations for blackouts were promulgated by both the military and the State and then were customized by the City.”

Used with permission of University of Baltimore

Other aspects of the war were also closer than people may realize. Jacques Kelly wrote in the Baltimore Sun:

“There were 20 prisoner-of-war camps in Maryland. German captives were housed at Fort Holabird, Logan Field in Dundalk, Westminster, Edgewood and in Pikesville at what had been the old Confederate Home and Armory.

Fort Meade housed three political internees’ camps. This is perhaps a less well-known story. According to published accounts, Korman found that people of Japanese descent were housed in one section, Germans and Italians were in another and a group of German sailors from the German commerce raider Odenwald, captured by the crew of the cruiser Omaha in the South Atlantic and taken to Puerto Rico in 1941, were in a third part. The Sun reported the Germans and Italians were morose and not permitted beer or wine. The reporter praised the “industriousness” of the Japanese, who sought scraps of wood to make artwork.

Marylanders could not enter “prohibited zones” along the Atlantic Coast. Ocean City got a small dispensation, but only from sunup to sundown. No photos were allowed of shipping and military vessels.”