Inco’s Sudbury Nickel Mines were Critical During World War Two (Part 5 of 7) – by Stan Sudol

Women Working at Inco During Second World WarWomen working for International Nickel

Since 1890, Ontario mining legislation had prohibited the employment of women in mines. Using its powers under the War Measures Act, the federal government issues an order-in-council on August 13, 1942 allowing women to be employed, but only in surface operations. On September 23, 1942, a second order-in-council was issued to allow women into the Port Colborne refinery.

Over 1,400 women were hired for productions and maintenance jobs for the duration of the war. They performed a variety of jobs such as operating ore distributors, repairing cell flotation equipment, piloting ore trains and working in the machine shop.

Twenty-one year old Elizabeth “Lisa” Dumencu, a resident of Lively, a Sudbury suburb, answered the call. “Women didn’t normally do this type of work, but we had to do our part,” she recalls. “It was really remarkable, but my husband Peter, worked even harder underground at Creighton mine.”

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Inco’s Sudbury Nickel Mines were Critical During World War Two (Part 4 of 7) – by Stan Sudol

Inco World War Two PosterThe Struggle for Union Organization

Before the war, among mining camps in Northern Ontario, Sudbury had earned the reputation of being a centre for “scabs” and “company stooges.”

Labour historian Jim Tester wrote in 1979, “Besides, they [Inco/Falconbridge] hated unions with a universal, almost pathological, passion.” He continues, “Inco had one of the best spy systems in all of North America, not exceeded by the notorious set-up at Fords. Inco’s reputation was known in every mining camp on the continent. In Kirkland Lake and Timmins there was a tremendous sympathy for the nickel workers of Sudbury. It was estimated that one in ten Inco workers was an informer.”

Inco hired people to intimidate union organizers handing out leaflets and disrupted meetings. The company even resorted to violence to keep the union out.  In 1942, two union organizers were severely beaten and hospitalized and their downtown office destroyed by a group of twelve company goons. Although it was the middle of the day, no police were around to stop the violence. Two of the twelve went public and the union printed and distributed 10,000 leaflets throughout the community telling the truth.

A portion of the leaflet read, “This may be what INCO wants — it may be what the Star wants — but it is not what we want, and not what Sudbury wants.

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Inco’s Sudbury Nickel Mines were Critical During World War Two (Part 3 of 7) – by Stan Sudol

Inco World War Two PosterCKSO Radio Propaganda (Part 3 of 7)

The enormous war time demands for the metal ensured that the men working underground would be pushed to their very limits. For the ones who stayed at the mines, absenteeism was becoming a major issue. In the fall of 1942, the International Nickel Company of Canada sponsored a local CKSO radio program called “The Victory Parade.”

The following three radio spots were written by W.J. Woodill. The radio ads were used to encourage the general public to buy Victory Bonds as well as attempt to combat miner burnout with guilt.

“Mrs. Housewife! Are you one of those women who does her part by encouraging her husband to do his part in this war? Or are you “A Worry bird”, one of those girl friends of Hitler and Company? You know, even if that husband of yours doesn’t bring home a full war kit and rifle, he’s still doing his part if he’s doing his full eight hours of work every day. That Nickel or copper he’s turning out is mighty important these days.”

“Yes this is a critical time! Your husband is working not for so many cents an hour, but working for Victory. Working to put the metal into the hands of industry so there may be tools of war available. It’s vital that he does his job with his full heart in it. That husband of yours needs a clear head and his full attention to his job. Do your part, look after his health and his peace of mind. Remember he is needed on the job every minute of his shift.”

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Inco’s Sudbury Nickel Mines were Critical During World War Two (Part 2 of 7) – by Stan Sudol

Inco World War Two PosterIncreased Nickel Production

In 1941 the Allied governments asked the company to increase production. International Nickel complied by committing $35 million to expand nickel output by 50 million pounds above 1940 production levels, reaching this goal by 1943 without any government subsidies. However, the Canadian government did allow the company to amortize within a five-year period, instead of ten or twenty years, $25 million worth of expansion expenditures.

That enormous task fell to American-born Ralph Parker, who at the time was the general superintendent of the mining and smelting division at Sudbury. It was one of Mr. Parker’s greatest achievements to organize the enormous program of enlarging the Sudbury mining and plant facilities without any loss of production.

To increase production of extraordinary war-time demands, Mr. Parker had to resort to “high-grading” which entails using above average ore grades and leaving behind lower grades that would have normally contributed to a longer, more profitable mine life. There was a real fear that the company would use up most of its reserves and have little to mine after the war.

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Inco’s Sudbury Nickel Mines were Critical During World War Two (Part 1 of 7) – by Stan Sudol

Inco World War Two PosterNickel Was the Most Strategic Metal

By anyone’s estimation, the highlight of Sudbury’s social calendar in 1939 was the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on June 5th, accompanied by Prime Minister Mackenzie King and a host of local dignitaries. This was the first time a reigning British monarch had ever visited Canada, let alone Sudbury, a testimony to the growing importance of the region’s vital nickel mines. The nickel operations in the Sudbury Basin were booming due to growing global tensions and increased spending on military budgets. Sudbury and the northeastern Ontario gold mining centres of Timmins and Kirkland Lake were among the few economic bright spots in a country devastated by the Great Depression.

In an April 15, 1938 article, Maclean’s Magazine journalist Leslie McFarlane described the three mining communities as, “Northern Ontario’s glittering triangle….No communities in all of Canada are busier, none more prosperous. The same golden light shines on each.”

During the royal visit, precedence was broken by allowing Queen Elizabeth the first female ever to go underground at the Frood Mine. Traditionally miners thought women would bring bad luck if they were permitted underground. There were probably many who thought the beginning of the Second World War on September 1, 1939 was the result of her subterranean visit.

The German invasion of Poland was to have dramatic effects on Sudbury. Many communities across Canada, Britain and the United States played exceptional roles in producing certain commodities and munitions for the war effort. However, it would be no exaggeration to say that in North America, Sudbury was among the top few communities that were absolutely critical to the war effort.

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Sudbury Nickel Always Important to American Military Might – Stan Sudol

Inco Advertising During Second World WarCanada and the United States have been economic and military allies for most of the 20th century, notwithstanding the bad chemistry between our leaders from time to time. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has done a reasonable job of repairing the damage in relations caused by the Paul Martin Liberals. However, throughout much of American history, many influential politicians were firmly committed to the expansionist ideology of Manifest Destiny. This is the belief that the United States has an “inherent, natural and inevitable right” to annex all of North America.

So it should not be a huge surprise to learn that the United States military had prepared a Joint Army and Navy Basic War Plan to invade Canada in the late 1920s, and updated it in 1935. The document called War Plan Red was declassified in 1974. However, the story resurfaced in a Washington Post (Dec.30, 2005) article by journalist Peter Carlson headlined Raiding the Icebox; Behind Its Warm Front, the United States Made Cold Calculations to Subdue Canada.

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