Allen shares the impact World War II had on the county, state

By: By Natalie Davis - The Anson Record

Former Anson County Sheriff and Historical Society President Tommy Allen recently shared the history impact of World War II on Anson County.

Allen, who was sheriff for 28 years, was deemed highly respected by Diane Welch.

“A couple of you have heard this presentation before,” Allen said. “This is going to be a review.”

Allen said although North Carolina’s and Anson County’s contribution to World War II was great, he didn’t know most of what he shared so it was a learning experience for him as well.

“Not all of us were around doing that time, and I’m not going to ask for the hands of those whom were around,” he said to attendees.

The Historical Society put all of information together into a presentation for citizens and other interested people.

“Most of this came from a book that you have in your library,” Allen said. “I thought it was the most interesting book.”

Allen said World War II had an extraordinary impact on the aspect of American life, that he finds hard to comprehend, and he hasn’t seen anything like that since.

“We’ve had the Vietnam War, 9/11, and I remember that day and how I felt, and it was just amazing to me, but the fact is that we were in a world war with two major actors, so to speak,” Allen added. “It was a turning point for American; more of a turning point than the Great Depression or the New Deal and it really ushered in the modern age.”

He said the war turned hard times into hopeful times, moved people, and it created the middle class of America, following the war.

“Perhaps, no other place in the nation had a greater impact from the war than the south, in particular North Carolina,” he added. “From 1940-1945, approximately 1.5 million people, including African-Americans, moved to North Carolina from other parts of the country.”

The rural population of North Carolina climbed 20 percent during that same period that people moved from the farms to where the jobs were being created, and to the many military bases the state had at the time.

“North Carolina was the most notorious state in the country,” Allen said.

It ranked 45th out of 48 states; 66% of the state was rural; only a third of the 67,000 miles of roads were even paved; over a third of the farms had no electricity; and only one farm had a telephone.

North Carolina had the highest rate of draft rejection to the United States selective service than any other state in the Union, and illiteracy and lack of education were the primary reasons they weren’t allowd to sign up.

“Another reason was poor health, especially the lack of dental care, and there were no regional hospitals in the state at the time,” Allen said. “Many rural citizens suffered from rickets and allegra (things created by malnutrition).”

He went on to say that, “They had very poor diets back then.”

Since the early 1800s, North Carolina had been known as the “Rip Van Winkle state” because few considered the state’s economy to be asleep, while neighboring states were bustling with production and trade.

“I remember this from my US history class,” he said. “We were just waiting to wake up and do something, and we did it during the war.”

Major changes were the construction of the military bases in the state, and 50 military establishments.

“Everybody in charge knew we were headed for war and we did not have a military machine,” he added. “Anson County hosted hundreds of thousands of soldiers, from before the war started until have the war.”

By the end of the war, Fort Bragg was the largest military base in the country.

“It led to many jobs and a great boost to the economy, including resources like lumber and supplies,” Allen said.

By Natalie Davis

The Anson Record