The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

July 29, 2013

Riveting history: Woman recalls days making bombers for World War II

JOPLIN, Mo. — Just call her Laura the Riveter.

On the heels of the country's most recent Independence Day celebrations, Asbury resident Laura Thompson has been recording, with the help of her children, her own nationalism -- particularly during her work as a "Rosie the Riveter" employee, manufacturing airplanes during World War II alongside millions of other American women.

"It was a big time of patriotism," said Thompson, who celebrated her 89th birthday earlier this week.

Thompson's wartime effort began in 1942; American involvement in the war had already been going on for one year. She was 18 and had just graduated from high school in Cane Hill, Ark., when she noticed an advertisement in her local newspaper.

"All of a sudden, they were wanting lots of people to work in the aircraft factory, and they didn't have enough (workers)," she said. "We were at the age (in which) we were out of school and looking for a job. At the time, the pressure was on for doing something for the war effort."

Thompson, one of her sisters and a female friend took the company up on its offer. They traveled to Wichita, Kan., and completed a six-week training course in how to build war airplanes.

Being like Rosie

After finishing the course, they were unable to get permanent jobs at the Boeing and Cessna factories in Wichita, so they took the bus to Kansas City, Kan., where North American Aviation was hiring.

North American began manufacturing planes in the 1930s. New plants were built in Dallas and Kansas City in 1941, with the latter plant devoted to the building of the B-25 Mitchell medium bomber "to help squeeze the life out of the Axis powers," according to promotional material from the company.

The B-25 Mitchell, produced by both the Kansas City plant and a plant in Inglewood, Calif., was a twin-engine medium bomber with a 75-mm cannon and two .50-caliber machines guns in its nose. It was first test-flown shortly after the bombing at Pearl Harbor in late 1941, and was the airplane used by American airmen and Gen. James H. Doolittle in the Tokyo raid in April 1942, according to Thompson's old North American employee handbook.

Because the plane was so highly rated at the time and used frequently in the war zones, the women who helped build it felt its importance, Thompson said.

In fact, a message from the company president in her employee handbook highlighted their work: "To a very great degree, the continued success of America's fighting airmen depends on your ability to perform well the job at which you have been employed. Don't let anybody kid you that there's anything more important in your plant than those parts or finished planes going out the door. They are the key to victory, and your most important contribution to your nation in its hour of need."

For the next three years, Thompson worked at the factory, responsible for just one part of the assembly of the plane, she said.

"I put this part on this jig so that it would be exact, riveted together," she said. "There was a person, an inspector, that inspected our work and made sure it was OK or we would have to do it over."

Text Only
Globe Life
  • 041314_cj glass1.jpg Carl Junction students create projects, win awards at national contest with glass arts

    The students are part of a new glass arts class at Carl Junction High School taught by Jessica Sellars, a graduate of the school who earned her bachelor's degree from Missouri Southern State University and her masters of art education from Pittsburg State University. The art teacher taught for 20 years at Coronado High School, located in Henderson, Nev.

    April 13, 2014 2 Photos

  • ryan richardson Ryan Richardson: K-9 unit receives protection from donors

    I know I write a lot about pet advocacy in this column, but for a moment, I want to write about pet heroes.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • 091108-Frankie-Meyer_c.jpg Frankie Meyer: Website helps locate library microfilms

    Family history researchers must be determined sleuths to learn about some ancestors who don't show up in easily-obtained records. This week, I learned about a free resource that will help in the search of elusive ancestors.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • images_sizedimage_032123610 Patty Crane: Reporter's mea culpa found in identity theft

    As I was browsing the library's list of new materials for March, "True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa" by Michael Finkel caught my attention.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • 091108-Frankie-Meyer_c.jpg Frankie Meyer Website helps locate library microfilms

    Family history researchers must be determined sleuths to learn about some ancestors who don't show up in easily-obtained records. This week, I learned about a free resource that will help in the search of elusive ancestors.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • images_sizedimage_312124454 Linda Cannon: Gardening book helps plan for spring

    In springtime, many of us think of gardening, so, come snow or sleet or whatever, it's time to get into those gardening books and see what improvements can be made to our yards (or decks or patios if that's all you have).

    April 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • ryan richardson Ryan Richardson: Pet deposits legal in Missouri, vary by state

    Building upon last week's column about what goes into moving and renting with pets, I wanted to touch on something that I wasn't too sure a lot of people were familiar with. I had a few people ask me about the legalities of a pet deposit and how it applies to residents in Missouri.

    April 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • 091108-Frankie-Meyer_c.jpg Frankie Meyer: Website allows access to news archives

    Between 1982 and 2011, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress worked together to develop a program called "Chronicling America." Each year, NEH gave monetary awards to institutions in various states to digitize 100,000 pages of old newspapers that relate to each state's history.

    April 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • 040214 LIFE barbershop2_c.jpg Barbershop choirs grow in popularity thanks to singing TV shows, pop culture

    Singers call it the "angel's voice." The phenomenon occurs when a group of singers reach an identical chord, voices blended together as one, the harmonics justly tuned and balanced, creating a new frequency of sound that can "literally raise up the hair on the arm," said Don Snow.

    April 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • 091108-Frankie-Meyer_c.jpg Frankie Meyer: Berries were big business in Southwest Missouri history

    Recently, I noticed some blooms on my strawberry plants on the patio, and I was reminded of my youth in the Ozarks when children often earned money by picking strawberries in the fields of local farmers. I, along with my sisters, brother and all the other children in the area, looked forward to the experience each summer.

    March 31, 2014 1 Photo


A Missouri Senate committee has endorsed a 1-cent sales tax increase to fund transportation projects. The proposed constitutional amendment passed the House earlier this month. If passed by the full Senate, the measure would head to the November ballot for voter approval. Would you vote in favor of it?

     View Results

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
NDN Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case