PEND OREILLE COUNTY TRIVIA
Courtesy of the Pend Oreille County Museum
This fall, November 11th, we will commemorate one hundred years since the Great War (World War 1) ended in 1918. A number of our readers no doubt had parents, uncles or other relatives who served in that war. It lasted four long bloody years for the Allies in Europe and for our country from 1917-1918.
One interesting tit-bit of little-known history included a number of servicemen from Pend Oreille County who serviced for one year in the U.S. Army Spruce Production Division located in Washington and Oregon. About 28,000 soldiers from all over joined about 1,000,000 experienced lumberjacks and private sawmill owners in cutting and milling spruce lumber which was used in manufacturing of wing spars and other parts for light weight military airplanes. The strong spruce wood did not splinter when hit by bullets. From the beginning of the war, the US sawmills had been supplying the Allies with spruce wood
but when the United States joined the conflict the demand jumped. Then when more and more mill crews and loggers signed up for the military, the army stepped in and created the Spruce Production Division. At first the private mill owners were reluctant and labor unions were hesitant about the army looking over their shoulders; however eventually the troops worked side-by-side with the civilian owners, crews, and everything worked out.
During that one year the production went from over 2,000,000 to over 22,000,000 board feet monthly. The wood was used to make spruce airplane parts for 16,000 US. training planes, 4,000 French, 258 British and 59 Italian planes.
The troops were lodged in about 235 camps which they built, or in tent camps or in hotels if near towns. The army enforced minimum work hours, paid good wages and supplied food. The men built roads and logging railroads to reach the spruce stands along the Pacific coast. About 18,000 troops were in the actual logging and mill work while others worked at a “cut-up” plant at Vancouver, Washington. This "cut-up" plant provided wood ready for the airplane manufacturers, since most mills in the Pacific Northwest were not equipped to meet airplane specifications. At Vancouver Barracks, personnel took care of bookkeeping, communication and supplies for the project.