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Statesboro, Bulloch Co. stage first WWII blackout
Bulloch History
blackout

Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at places and events of interest in Bulloch County history.


 The Bulloch Herald reported on March 12, 1942 that the federal and state governments were setting up a system of agencies to control the war-time operation of the counties. As part of this, the Herald reported that they would soon begin a series of articles concerning this issue.

The articles would cover topics such as the new groups to be formed: air raid wardens, auxiliary police and fire units, bomb disposal squads, demolition and disposal crews, road repair crews, fire watchers, Nurses Aid Corps, staff corps, messenger services, Drivers Corps and the Emergency Food and Housing Corps.

The most important officer of all, the air raid wardens' duties would be to direct and manage all air raid blackouts, oversee the operation of air raid shelters, organized gas and bomb detection crews, and oversee the offering of emergency first aid. Curiously, Statesboro native Evelyn Lee Long Shearouse was a director and instructor of official air raid warden schools in Southeast Georgia.

The next most important addition to normal public services would be the auxiliary police and firemen units, each of which would create a volunteer corps of some thirty men and women, who would train each week so that they would ready to help the county's regular emergency services if it were to be attacked.

America's coastal cities did indeed illuminate vessels traveling along the coastline, and after a while German subs began using that backlighting to target and then sink those cargo ships without any warning. Therefore, the United States government soon implemented blackouts similar to those being observed throughout Great Britain in American coastal cities.

As early as July 1939, Great Britain's Air Ministry had released Public Information Leaflet No 2 (part of the air raid precautions training literature) warning of the need for popular discipline to ensure blackout regulations were enforced during the blackouts. Similar documents were made available to state and county governments across America.

Unfortunately, some American cities refused to obey blackout regulations, citing the effects it would have on their tourist revenues. German submariners serving along then subs along the American coastline referred to this continued illumination in their journals as "the second happy time."

Interestingly enough, German U-Boats did actually sink ships on two different occasions off of the Georgia coast near Saint Simons Island. This prompted both the Civil Air Patrol and the Georgia State Guards Boat Details to begin sweeps of the Savannah area coastline.

Although not on the coast, Statesboro's city government did decide to impose such blackouts, the first of which took place on Dec. 24, 1941.  According to Roger Hollend, the Statesboro air raid warden, it was 100 percent successful. The blackout began when, at 9:30, fire sirens rang throughout the city.

Immediately afterwards, both the Darby and Howard Lumber Companies sounded their own steam whistles. For the next half hour, Statesboro was completely blacked-out. Hal Macon, operator of the Georgia Theater, said the showing of movies would continue uninterrupted as long as all outside lights were turned off.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at rwasr1953@gmail.com.