After the war was declared against Germany, all the men in the United States had to register for the draft. After we registered we were all given a number and a designation such as 1A, up to 4F. 1A meant you were eligible to be drafted right away, and 4F meant you were rejected. I was designated 1A, even tho I had been married since July 24th, 1937. At the time, I was working as a carpenter at Chanute Field, Rantoul. I was called on to appear for my physical exam on May 11, 1942.
On Saturday, May 9th, 1942 a big parade was held in downtown Champaign to honor the 40 draftees who were going to be called up. We started the parade from the Champaign National Guard Armory on the corner of Park and Second St. and it ended at the Flatiron Building, which at that time was at the intersection of Hickory and Neil St. The parade was also to start a war bond rally to be held the following Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. It was a nice warm day, and there was quite a big crowd on hand to view the parade.
Both Champaign and Chanute, in Rantoul, Illinois about 15 miles north of Champaign-Urbana, look very different now than they did in Snook’s day. While Hickory and Neil no longer intersect, you can see where they did in the detail of a Champaign map from 1940 above. Chanute was decommissioned as an Air Force Base in 1993 and, despite some use as a museum, now closed, and other civilian purposes, the facility is largely abandoned now.
During the war, Chanute Field became a technical training facility, specializing in military communications, training thousands of airmen including some of the future Tuskegee Airmen. As a soldier’s wife, Gee was eventually issued ID for Chanute, which allowed her access to rations.
For more information about Chanute Field/Air Force Base, here is a short bibliography of additional resources.
- 10 Weeks at Chanute: A Discovery in Ruins, Ren Garcia, Hydra Publications; June 1, 2017, 114 p. [WorldCat] [Amazon]
- Rantoul and Chanute Air Force Base, Mark D. Hanson, Arcadia Publishing; April 18, 2011, 128 p. [WorldCat] [Amazon]
- The Champaign County Historical Archive currently houses the former Chanute Air Museum archival holdings, which includes blueprints and maps for Chanute Field and Chanute Air Force Base, base publications, oral histories, aerial photographs of the base, subject files, photographs, scrapbooks, over 200 videotapes, and extensive archival donations from personnel connected to Chanute. Contact the Urbana Free Library for inquiries regarding access.