Illinois at War, 1941-1945
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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February 19,1942


Defense councils at the county, township, and city levels consisted generally of two principal divisions: Civilian Protection and Civilian War Services. Civilian Protection was charged with protecting the local population from enemy attack and Civilian War Services concerned itself with all those auxiliary activities in which citizens could contribute to the war effort.

Civil Protection included enforcing blackouts, detecting impending enemy attacks, sounding alarm warnings, and coping with attacks by providing a variety of emergency services. Legions of volunteers worked variously as air raid wardens, auxiliary policemen, bomb disposal technicians, medical corpsmen, rescue squad members, nurses' aides, auxiliary firemen, drivers, messengers, emergency food and housing corpsmen, demolition and clearance crewmen, gas decontamination corpsmen, road repairmen, fire watchers, and headquarters staffers. Men and women, young and old, participated. Volunteers were certified after they had received the required instruction which was offered most often in classes taught in the evenings by other volunteers who had taken their training at regional or statewide conferences. Each service had its own emblem which was displayed on the armbands of certified volunteers.

Preparedness levels differed from place to place. In some communities vigilant air raid wardens continually staffed lookout stations and maintained careful logs of their activities. They in turn were backed up by a well trained group of volunteer specialists who were ready to sprint into action at a moment's notice. While in other localities civil defense measures existed only on paper if at all.

Aurora had twenty-two volunteer air raid wardens and their observation post was located at the Leland Hotel at the corner of Main Street and Island Avenue. Several of their members planned to attend an all-day Illinois State Council of Defense training session which was to be held in Springfield on March 15.

Points to Consider

Describe the Aurora observation site.

What would be observed from this position?

Why were telephone communications important for this operation?

Why was the location of this observation site not being publicized?

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