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During World War II, War Production Training Centers prepared young men and women for defense work. These centers continued the mission of the National Youth Administration (NYA) centers that had been established in 1935 to provide work relief to the nation's youth. At the onset of World War II in Europe the NYA was transferred to the Federal Security Agency, effective July 1, 1939, through the Administrative Reorganization Act of 1939. By 1942 NYA included a Defense Program to train youth for war work. On September 17, 1942, Congress voted to drop all NYA activities not contributing to the war effort, and the agency was transferred to the War Manpower Commission, Office of Emergency Management. Before this time, the NYA had been administered at the state level. Afterward, the agency operated through regional offices. Oklahoman Bruce G. Carter became assistant regional administrator for Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas. NYA administration was further streamlined with the creation of War Production Training Centers.

Oklahoma created eight centers or workshops located at Tonkawa, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Durant, Cordell, Shawnee, Chickasha, and Muskogee, and over twenty subsidiary centers such as Ardmore, Enid, Holdenville, Tishomingo, Clinton, Hugo, Okmulgee, Bristow, Guthrie, and Mangum. More than fifty-three semiskilled occupations were designated essential to war production. Youth trained in sheet metal work, pattern making, welding, radio operation and repair, foundry and forge, electrical, aviation and auto mechanics, woodworking, and industrial sewing. Tulsa, the largest center in the state, operated a bomber assembly facility. In 1942, 231 NYA youth who had trained at Weatherford were employed in aircraft plants in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and California. The Tonkawa workshop had the largest radio project in the United States. This program required that the youth pass IQ (intelligence quotient) and aptitude tests. They learned theory, building, operation, maintenance, and sending and receiving code, and they could not graduate until each trainee passed a federal communications exam. Each NYA trainee agreed in writing to enter a war industry, and each often worked one hundred sixty hours each month in the Defense Program, compared to one hundred twenty hours prior to the war.

Between 1942 and 1943 approximately twenty thousand Oklahoma NYA men and women were trained and entered war industries across the country. However, in rural states like Oklahoma, opponents alleged that the NYA drew young people away from the farm, hampering agricultural production. They also argued that the NYA had grown expensive, and that the War Production Board, also established in 1942, had superceded the War Manpower Commission in actual responsibility for mobilizing the nation's human and natural resources for defense. After congressional debates in July 1943, the NYA ceased in September 1943.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Federal Security Agency, War Manpower Commission, Final Report of the National Youth Administration: Fiscal Years 1936-1943 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1944). Kenneth E. Hendrickson, Jr., ed., Hard Times in Oklahoma: The Depression Years (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1983). Betty G. Lindley and Ernest K. Lindley, A New Deal for Youth: The Story of the National Youth Administration (New York: The Viking Press, 1938).

Tally D. Fugate

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