Friday, December 16, 2016

Was a small Vermont town on Hitler's hit list?

Springfield was once a major industrial town, channeling its river to power mills and munitions factories, making major contributions to America's effort in World War II. This made it a likely target should Germany have managed to bomb American cities.    

Video: Woman recalls being assigned to watch skies over Springfield for enemy aircraft

85 year old woman recalls life during World War II when she was Dorothy Johnson, a volunteer air-spotter watching the skies over Springfield, Vermont for enemy aircraft.
A 34 minute video from the New York State Military Museum.


  1. chuck gregory12/17/16, 11:46 AM

    Springfield before WWII supplied 38% of American industry's machine tools; hence, it was definitely on the bombing list.

    For those who don't know her, Megan Frappeia was a graduate of SHS and worked several years for Ken Burns' production outfit in Walpole.

    I hope that this movie helps jolt people into the realization that Springfield is in effect a Rust Belt town, killed by forces we didn't understand at the time, but which we can now understand and block when they try again in the future.

    People say we cannot stop "business" (in this case, Wall Street) from doing what it "always has done." In the Old World, they used to say that about kings.

    The American colonists proved that saying wrong, and we need to prove the current saying is equally baseless.

    Our alternative is to suffer the race to the bottom.

  2. I grew up in the "Rust Belt" back in its heyday. I worked for a company that was on Hitler's list, too. The forces that killed the Industrial Midwest were not hard to see or understand. It didn't happen overnight, either. My father (a tool and die maker) lost a job to outsourcing in 1971! He explained to me that roughly 60% of a company's operating costs are labor. When companies want to increase their profits, they look for cheap labor, whether it's wage and benefit cuts, hiring illegal aliens, or simply moving somewhere where workers come cheap. Not hard to understand, even for a seven-year-old. Being dependant on one industry, and only a few companies, killed this town, just like it killed Gary, Indiana back then. THAT'S a bottom you don't want to see! Springfield still has over 20% of its economy in manufacturing, which is better than many Rust Belt towns. Springfield probably bottomed out years ago, it just hasn't made it back. It won't either, if it believes it can be what it used to be. Those highly-paid button-pushing jobs are long gone. Creating a "service economy" that only serves the poor and addicted by bleeding the Federal Gov't. isn't the answer, either. THAT'S a race to the bottom. Don't get me wrong; I actually believe in most anti-poverty programs, I just don't believe you can create a healthy economy based on them. If you want to create a "service" economy here, create one that serves the middle class; at least they have some money to spend.

  3. chuck gregory12/17/16, 7:56 PM

    We need to employ an available tactic, not merely suffer what Wall Street decides is best for them at the expense of our economic life.

    I was quite disappointed at the attitude of all the candidates for the Legislature at their UU Church forum. Three of them said you couldn't interfere with business, "I wouldn't want the government to tell me what to do with my business," and "Black River Produce's [the largest employer in town] owners are nice guys. They wouldn't sell it."

    They sold it the next week.

    We can prevent Wall Street from undermining the next local investors who want to buy a Springfield business and get steamrollered by a company like Unilever, which had $17 billion to commit in its bid against the $324 million investors offered for Ben and Jerry's.

    But nobody in Springfield thinks they can do anything about it.

  4. There were a number of factors contributing to the demise of Springfield's machine tool industry, but none greater than incompetent management.

    Historically, machine tool manufactures would perform every operation in house. In the '80s & '90s industry transformed. Small, niche companies sprang up specializing in one process. Particularly, thermal processing, multi axis CNC, grinding, plating, fabricating, and panel wiring. These companies employed the brightest and most ambitious, well paid, young machinists. Entrepreneurs with a vision that recognized new, CNC machine tools could easily out produce conventional, manual machines on the order of 5X-10X:1. Their efficiencies and quality were impossible to match. Aerospace and defense manufacturers quickly adapted to out sourcing.

    Yet the pathetic morons managing the machine tool manufacturers in Springfield agreed to union contracts that prohibited out sourcing. Labor costs and scrap losses skyrocketed. Coupled with an unsustainable benefit package and a greedy union that refused to make concessions their fate was sealed.

    There are other issues including, failure early on to adapt to the world standard in controls. Custom painting and wiring every customer's machine, and refusing to terminate unproductive workers.

    Machine tool manufacturing remains a huge industry. The world's largest machine tool company, Haas is located in California. Gleason, the largest gear machine tool builder is in Rochester, NY. Japanese companies Mori Seiki and Mazak are both built here too. Yet no one gives Springfield a second look. Hummmmm....

    1. As a certified CNC machinist and programmer, I understand fully the efficiency, repeatability, and speed of modern machinery. One CNC machining center can take the place of five (or more) skilled machinists, and do it with relatively unkilled labor. That's the problem; we've gone from manual labor to CNC, and now to robots. I'm old enough to remember when it was said that automation would set us free; robots would do the jobs for us! But we aren't free, are we? We now have to compete with machines that never sleep, never take a lunch break, etc. One company I worked for had "continuous improvement standards" which literally forced us to outperform the machines we ran. EVEN A MACHINE HAS A MAXIMIM PERFORMANCE LEVEL. But it was a non-union shop, so I did a $24.00 per hour job for $10.45, and did the work of three people, twelve hours per day, six days a week. THAT'S INSANE! Just another management scam to put the whip to our backs and thereby justify outsourcing! We, as Americans, need to rethink our "work ethic" in the face of globalization and automation. Wages need to rise, dramatically. Scrap the 40 hour work week for 30 hour one. Free trade? Supply side economics? GONE. Both labor AND management have to make sacrifices, instead of placing all the burdens on workers. Owning a business may be a right in America, but being successful in business is a privilege that must be earned. I hear a lot of conservative business people talk of patriotism, but how patriotic is it to turn your back on the country, and the people, who made you rich? Our President-elect speaks of "Making America great again" just like the "good old days." Does he understand that, back then, the top tax rate was 92%, and that half the workforce was unionized? I DOUBT IT!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Philip Caron12/18/16, 11:31 AM

    The Goldman Group destroyed Bryant Grinder. It was more than competitive before that; it was the undisputed leader in the industry. It had been profitable over similar several-year cycles for decades, union contracts notwithstanding. The Goldman Group applied "modern" financial metrics to the business and required quarterly profits, and if those were not made it downsized.

    I'll mention that the old manual grinding machines, if maintained, set up, and operated well, could produce accuracy and quality that the modern machines rarely could exceed. Production levels were another story.

  6. Getting back to the actual topic, there was extensive enemy activity in the U.S. during WWII. Much of this activity, and our efforts to combat it, remaimed classified for a long time. My grandfather was in the OSS, and was stationed in Texas. His job was to catch saboteurs trying to blow up the oil refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. It would have been nice to have spoken to him about it, but he died before I was born, and never told my father much. Hats off to Dorothy Johnson, and all those who stood guard on the homefront! You helped save the world!

  7. chuck gregory12/18/16, 5:19 PM

    If there was extensive activity in the US in WWII, it certainly would have spawned a niche market in historical works. The lack of destruction of infrastructure (apart from the two known ones, an ammo ship and, I believe, a Texas refinery) attests to the lack of enemy saboteurs and gives the reason for the lack of literature.

    1. No, Chuck, it was the skill and dedication of people like Dorothy and my grandfather that prevented the success of the sabotage. The reason that Hitler didn't blow up the company I worked for (Rockford Screw Products) is that the sabateurs were caught in Cleveland, and never made it to Rockford, IL. I have a BA in U.S. History, Chuck, so I know of what I speak. What, if anything, do you have? Maybe if you read something other than High Times magazine you'ld actually know something.

  8. Philip Caron12/18/16, 7:46 PM

    Others will recall the manufacture of big guns in this town for the war effort. There was a testing site in the area that became HoJo's Pits, and is now part of the prison property.

    As late as the first Gulf War, in the early '90's, Bryant grinders were used in production of military equipment, including cruise missiles. I recall some talk at the time of security measures to avoid possible sabotage, though I didn't see any measures actually taken.


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