The Redbud City: World War II rages in Shawnee and the globe

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
With the surrender of Italy in September of 1943, the tide of attitudes in Europe were clearly changing toward the Third Reich. It was a harbinger of future events for Germany.

PRING HELPED NAME THE COUNTY

Inventor, truant officer, farmer, railroad man, and politician were just a few of the occupations which John Richard Pring, who died Friday, July 30, 1943, at the age of 88, engaged in during his long and colorful career in Shawnee and the vicinity. Not only did he help name Pottawatomie County but he was closely connected with the history of the area since long before statehood.

Present at the first meeting and organization of the Democratic Party in the county, he helped to select its present name to gain Indian votes for his party. He first favored calling it Vest for the late Senator Vest of Missouri. The former Shawnee truant officer settled in the Potawatomi Nation at the present site of Dale in 1890. He leased land from the Indians and began cultivating a farm north of Dale.

He built a log house in 1888, which in 1943, continued to stand. Born in Indiana and reared in Missouri, he first settled in the Osage Nation near Pawhuska, moving to this area later.

After the opening of the country for settlement, Pring moved to Tecumseh when it was established and lived there for several years. When the railroad was built into Shawnee in 1895, he came to Shawnee and lived here since that time.

Following several years in which he worked in the shops of the CRI&P Railway Company, he was employed as truant officer for the Shawnee schools. He served in that capacity for 25 years, resigning in 1940 because of his age. The county pioneer, who pedaled a bicycle up and down the streets until his death, was active to the last in mind as well as body.

He was also an inventor and had several patents on a variety of things. Pring was also an ardent prohibitionist and militant in his fight against whiskey. He was constantly vigilant in watching the saloons to see that they complied with the law. His funeral services were at the First Baptist Church, of which he was a member.

CITY RENTERS IRKED AT INCREASED HIKES

Indignant renters were registering a steady flow of complaints to the county war price board, charging that some property owners were assuming a “take-it-or-leave” attitude about jumping rents excessively, it was revealed by Thursday, August 5, 1943.

In some instances, board officials said rents doubled. But since there was no OPA rent panel in operation in Shawnee, there was nothing the local board could do about it. Officials explained that they were helpless to exercise any action in the growing list of complaints, but said they were telling affected persons to write the office of price administration’s rent control division in the Key building at Oklahoma City.

The district OPA rent attorney suggested forming a citizens’ committee to combat rising rents and added that “in my opinion, if rents are too high, they’ll be cut back. It will be up to the national office, however, to decide on a rent control panel in Shawnee.”

The first step would be to set up rent ceilings and declare Shawnee as a defense area, after which a survey would be made. Rents would then be set back to a previous period before inflationary hikes were registered.

Italian surrender announced

On September 8, 1943, General Dwight Eisenhower publicly announced the surrender of Italy to the Allies. Germany reacted with Operation Axis, the Allies with Operation Avalanche.

With Mussolini deposed from power and the earlier collapse of the fascist government in July, General Pietro Badoglio, the man who had assumed power in Mussolini’s stead by request of King Victor Emanuel, began negotiating with General Eisenhower for weeks. Weeks later, Badoglio finally approved a conditional surrender, allowing the Allies to land in southern Italy and began beating the Germans back up the peninsula. Operation Avalanche, the Allied invasion of Italy, was given the go-ahead, and the next day would see Allied troops land in Salerno.

The Germans also snapped into action. Ever since Mussolini had begun to falter, Hitler made plans to invade Italy to keep the Allies from gaining a foothold that would situate them within easy reach of the German- occupied Balkans. On September 8, Hitler launched Operation Axis, the occupation of Italy. As German troops entered Rome, General Badoglio and the royal family fled Rome for southeastern Italy to set up a new anti-fascist government. Italian troops began surrendering to their former German allies; where they resisted, as had happened earlier in Greece. More than 1,600 Italian soldiers were murdered by Germans on the Greek island of Cephalonia, and the 5,000 that finally surrendered were ultimately shot.

One of the goals of Operation Axis was to keep Italian navy vessels out of the hands of the Allies. When the Italian battleship Roma headed for an Allied-controlled port in North Africa, it was sunk by German bombers. In fact, the Roma had the dubious honor of becoming the first ship ever sunk by a radio-controlled guided missile. More than 1,500 crewmen drowned. The Germans also scrambled to move Allied POWs to labor camps in Germany to prevent their escape. In fact, many POWS did manage to escape before the German invasion, and several hundred volunteered to stay in Italy to fight alongside the Italian guerillas in the north. The Italians may have surrendered, but their war was far from over.

These stories appear in Volume Two (1930-49) of the history of the City of Shawnee. The first five volumes, from 1830 to 2009, are now available for purchase at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society. They are now open, and you may visit them, or you may order them online at their website, or by calling (405) 275-8412. Each volume is $35, but a purchase of two or more volumes can be obtained at $30 each. We are offering a special deal. If you purchase any other volume, you may obtain Volume One (1830-1929) for just $20. Volume Six, (2010-2021) is at the binder this week and should be available near the end of this week. It covers Shawnee history up to the middle of June.