Between 1975 and 1986, about 750,000 refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos resettled in the U.S. They passed through two initiatives: the Refugee Parole Program and the Orderly Departure Program. Voluntary agencies, sponsors, and programs managed by the Indochinese Refugee Resettlement Office offered help. As a result, Minnesota was one of ten states that accepted the largest numbers of refugees.
On July 27, 1972, two armed, masked men walked into the Orono home of Virginia Lewis Piper and walked out with the forty-nine-year-old woman handcuffed and blindfolded. The next day, her husband, Harry C. Piper Jr., a prominent Twin Cities investment banker, personally delivered a $1 million ransom to the unidentified kidnappers. Four decades later, no one has served a day of prison time for the crime. Except for about four thousand dollars in scattered twenty-dollar bills, the Pipers’ million-dollar ransom has not been recovered.
With the fall of Fort Sumter in 1861, Minnesota became the first state to offer troops to fight the Confederacy. Josias Redgate King is credited with being the first man to volunteer for the Union in the Civil War.
On April 12, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson called upon Americans on the home front to help fight what would become known as World War I. In response, many Minnesotans turned to backyard gardening to increase their food supply. Homegrown vegetables filled pantries and stomachs and allowed “citizen soldiers” to conserve wheat, meat, sugar, and fats that were essential for U.S. troops and their European allies.
Though he lived in a Democratic city and a Democratic political era—the Great Depression and World War II—the conservative Republican Melvin Maas represented St. Paul in Congress from 1927 to 1945, with one short interruption. He also received two World War II combat decorations, was awarded a Carnegie Hero Fund medal, and served the public for two decades after leaving politics.
Conservative lawyer John F. McGee was the dominant personality on the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety, the body that governed Minnesota during World War I. Under McGee’s leadership, the commission demanded unquestioning support for the war effort and suppressed possible German American dissent. After the war, McGee became a federal judge who was well known for the heavy sentences he imposed on bootleggers.
In 1942, the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) was established in Minnesota. The school trained soldiers as Japanese linguists to support the U.S. military in World War II. The MISLS became a point of pride for Japanese Americans who faced discrimination during the war. A unique institution, the school had a strong impact on the outcome of World War II.
When the Minnesota National Guard was federalized in the spring of 1917, the state was left without any military organization. To defend the state’s resources, the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety (MCPS) created the Minnesota Home Guard. The Home Guard existed for the duration of World War I. Units performed civilian and military duties.
The Minnesota Motor Corps was the first militarized organization of its kind in the United States. Comprised of volunteers and their vehicles, the corps existed for the duration of World War I. It provided disaster relief, transported troops, and aided police. The Motor Corps’ services proved crucial, but many viewed it as a state-sponsored police force that infringed on the rights of citizens.
Since its founding in 1859, the Minnesota State Fair had been an essential yearly tradition in the agricultural state. However, after the United States entered World War I in 1917, the fair took on an entirely new significance. Organizers reframed the event as a “Food Training Camp” that showed Minnesotans how to produce and conserve resources vital to the Allied war effort.
The World War I draft rally held in New Ulm on July 25, 1917, was an exciting event; it featured a parade, music, a giant crowd, and compelling speakers. The speakers urged compliance with law, but challenged the justice of the war and the government’s authority to send draftees into combat overseas. In the end, people obeyed the draft law, while the state punished dissent. Three of the speakers lost their jobs; the fourth was charged with criminal sedition.
The Ninth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment played an important role in defending its home state as well as in operations in the South. Its three years of service for the Union culminated in the Battle of Nashville, a battle in which its members fought side by side with men from three other Minnesota regiments.
General Lauris Norstad helped engineer World War II victories for American air forces in Africa, Europe and Asia from 1942 to 1945. As Supreme Allied Commander in Europe from 1956 to 1963, he faced an even more dangerous challenge—the very real threat of nuclear holocaust.
When the James–Younger gang rode into Northfield on September 7, 1876, with the intention of robbing the First National Bank, they did not expect any trouble from the local citizens. Unbeknownst to them, the townspeople would soon be nationally applauded for defending their town from some of the period’s most notorious outlaws.
At the close of World War I, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) was the only centralized veterans’ organization prepared to help returning soldiers re-enter civilian life and to assist the families of the deceased. The American Legion formed soon after the war in order to serve veterans returning from Europe. Minnesota’s department of the Legion answered the call, creating programs that assisted veterans and led the way for the organization.
Built around 1820, the Round Tower at Fort Snelling is probably the oldest standing building in Minnesota. Though the U.S. Army originally built it as a defensive point for the fort, the tower has served many different functions over its long history.
The Second Battery of Minnesota Light Artillery fought in some of the major battles in the Civil War's Western Theater. In their three and a half years of service, the Second's officers and men had the unique experience of functioning in all branches of the army-artillery, cavalry, and infantry.
Minnesota raised two companies of sharpshooters during the Civil War. Both were in the elite Berdan’s Sharpshooters brigade. The Second Company of Minnesota Sharpshooters, however, served out most of its three-year enlistment with the premier regiment of the state: the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
On Wednesday afternoon, November 25, 1863, the Second Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment participated in one of the most dramatic assaults of the Civil War. They were fighting the Battle of Missionary Ridge, one of several important battles they had been involved in throughout their two years of service in the Union Army. This battle would prove to be the most significant in the history of the regiment.
The Seventh Minnesota Infantry served on Minnesota's frontier in the troubled summer of 1862 and through the first half of 1863. The regiment eventually headed south, taking part in a key battle that virtually destroyed a major Confederate army. They also participated in one of the final campaigns of the war.
During World War I, African American Minnesotans wanted to serve their state and their nation. Historically, however, the U.S. military had been racist in its recruiting. It allowed African Americans to serve only in segregated units. Facing this institutional racism, the African American community of Minnesota asked Governor J.A.A. Burnquist to form an all-African American battalion of the Minnesota Home Guard. The Sixteenth Battalion became the first Minnesota-recruited African American military unit in state history.
The Sixth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry performed crucial frontier service during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and into 1863. Their first experience in the South involved horrible attrition due to disease. Yet the regiment held together, and they took part in one of the final Southern campaigns in 1865.
Bravery at the Battle of Tippecanoe and during the War of 1812 distinguished the military career of Colonel Josiah Snelling, but he is best known for commanding Fort Snelling in the 1820s. It was the first permanent U.S. government outpost in what would become the state of Minnesota.