Answer Man

U.S. fought its way through Marshall Islands in WWII

The United States continues to use the missile testing range on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
The United States continues to use the missile testing range on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Provided

Q. I’d like to follow up on your recent answer about the United States giving Okinawa, Iwo Jima, etc., back to Japan. I’m told that during World War II the Marshall Islands helped the United States defeat the Japanese. There was an agreement between the Islands and United States, and I’d like to find out about that agreement.

— M.F., of Collinsville

A. I don’t know who told you the Marshall Islands “helped” the United States, but I think they need to reread their history books. In early 1944, it took a monthlong battle and hundreds of U.S. deaths for the American armed forces to wrest the Marshalls from the Japanese.

Japan occupied the Marshalls in 1914, then took over in 1919 when Germany, which had gained control in 1885, renounced all claims to them. By 1940, the Marshalls had become an important part of the Japanese Navy’s plans to control and perhaps extend Japan’s outer perimeter in the Pacific.

But by late 1943, the Japanese knew the Americans were going to target the islands as they fought their way to the heart of the country. On Jan. 29, 1944, the USS Yorktown and Task Group 58 began launching airstrikes. By Feb. 23, the United States had taken the Marshalls 10 weeks ahead of schedule and began the work of turning them into forward bases to be used in its continued march toward Tokyo.

Two agreements followed the war. In 1947, the Marshall Islands passed formally to the United States as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands established under the United Nations. In 1986, the Compact of Free Association with the United States went into force, granting the Republic of the Marshall Islands its sovereignty. In return, the United States, which had conducted dozens of nuclear tests there during the Cold War, was granted continued use of its missile testing range at the Kwajalein Atoll.

While we’re following up on things:

Flour power: My good friend Joe Reichert sent a note to set me straight on a recent answer that mentioned White Rose flour. While old Imbs Mill (then Richland Milling) ads apparently do include the product, Reichert said it was his family that developed the soft-wheat cake flour.

“My grandfather’s mill in Freeburg produced White Rose from the 1920s through the 1940s and into the ’50s,” said Reichert, whose grandfather also helped fund a White Rose minor league baseball team that played for a couple of years at White Rose Park near 46th and Main in Belleville in the early ’20s. “If Imbs Mill made it also ... they had to have done it under contract for us. I say that because we shipped a lot to the South ever since the end of the Civil War.”

Bounce back: In addition to a small trampoline amusement site at 4130 W. Main St. in Belleville, HoseChief wrote to remind me of a similar business in an air-inflated structure at 70th and West Main before Shopland opened in 1963. He says it was called Bounceland, but I could find no record of it in 1950s city directories.

Bohley for you: Doris Mehrtens Steiger offered another piece of the puzzle to an unincorporated area near Millstadt that once was commonly known as Bohleysville. She says she has lived on the Bohleysville Road for 75 years near where her grandparents resided and remembers being told that at least one Bohley ran a small country store in the area. Will Shannon, curator of the St. Clair County Historical Society, also did extensive research and found three Bohleys listed as landowners in Millstadt Township in 1891-1892 city directories.

Parks of light: After a recent answer about renowned “painter of light” Thomas Kinkade, Steve Austen of the Capitola (Calif.) Gallery, told me that before Kinkade died in 2012, he helped start planning a Dreamscape Mountain theme park, a “shining wonderland of hope,” for Fort Worth, Texas.

“His vision was that Mount Hood from Oregon would be the hotel at the center of the park,” Austen wrote. “Inside would be snow all year round for skiing and snowboarding and bobsledding.”

Although Kinkade’s brother, Patrick, says work continues, an Aug. 16 story in the Dallas Morning News says there has been no movement on the developer’s plan of building the $3.5 billion, 5,000-acre park in Texas or a similar one proposed for Muscle Shoals, Ala.

Bus fuss: With a new school year just starting, I’d like to make my annual plea to help reduce driver frustration (particularly my own). So please note: In Illinois, if you are driving on a four-lane street or road , you do NOT have to stop for a school bus that has stopped in the oncoming lanes. This includes Belleville’s West Main Street west of 28th. Yes, you must stop if the bus is going in your direction and everyone must stop on a two-lane street or road. But if the bus is stopped in oncoming traffic on a four-laner, please just go on your merry way.

Today’s trivia

What did Franklin D. Roosevelt have printed on some of his White House matchbook covers?

Answer to Tuesday’s trivia: The mythical North Pole isn’t the only place where elves are revered. In the very real country of Iceland, construction projects and roadbuilding have been delayed, altered or even canceled for fear of disturbing the Huldufolk — Iceland’s elvish “hidden people.” Some say they began as the unwashed children that Adam and Eve were trying to hide from God while others say they are fallen angels originating with Lilith. Whatever the true story, Icelanders are very protective of them. Their gardens usually sport a small house for the elves to live in. And when Alcoa wanted to build an aluminum smelter in 2004, they had to have a government expert certify that the site was not related to Huldufolk folklore.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or call 618-239-2465.