Doing Our Part: Clay County in WWII


From the home front to the front lines of combat, Americans did their part to help win World War II and Clay County was no exception. Doing Our Part: Clay County in WWII tells the stories of the men, women, and children of Clay County who were affected by the war and how it changed the fabric of everyday life. Families sending loved ones off to war, scrap drives and rationed food became part of daily life from 1942 to 1945.

MSTC Dragon students during the Onion Holiday.

MSTC students bringing in the harvest during the Onion Holiday.

Visitor Services Coordinator Markus Krueger states, “One aspect of the war that we are going to explore is the acute shortage of farm laborers caused by thousands of local men going to war and thousands of other workers being lured away by high pay in factories in other parts of the country.  When an unexpected early frost threatened Clay County’s crops in early October of 1942, the students and faculty of Moorhead State Teachers College did their part by calling off classes and declaring a three day “Onion Holiday.”  More than 200 college students went into the field to pick 20,000 bushels of onions, 5,000 bushels of potatoes and more than 200 tons of sugar beets.  It is a story reminiscent of the role of college students in emergency flood fighting efforts in 1997 and 2009.  The students took great pride in the Onion Holiday, writing several articles in the school paper, making a print cartoon (attached) and having an onion picking theme for the Sadie Hawkins dance.  Other ways of making up for the labor shortage included bringing in Mexican and Hispanic-American agricultural workers from Texas, county extension Farm Help offices for placing workers in every community, and employing German prisoners of war to work in the fields.”


Marrion Walsh in her WAVES uniform.

Marrion Walsh in her WAVES uniform.

This exhibit will be on display until December 31, 2015. Within those two years, the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County will be presenting several community-wide programs that coincide with this exhibit such as a Victory Garden program and canning classes. Announcements will be posted on this website, Facebook page and on community calendars. Visit the events page for more information or contact Jeff Swenson at 218-299-5511 ext. 6737 or