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The Ground Observer Corps
by John Reynolds, The Sunday Editor
The Ground Observer Corps was reconstituted in 1950 to become part of the first line of defense against air attacks in the post-World War II years. Volunteers like these carried on operations until the corps was deactivated in 1959.

Music: "Come Josephine, In My Flying Machine," 1910, performed by Ada Jones & Billy Murray from Internet Archive.

SCOTCH GROVE—This little hamlet last week got one of Iowa's first tastes of the 1950 brand of civilian defense. There are 55 residents in Scotch Grove, an unincorporated village southeast of Monticello. But today, more than 20 of the 55 are signed up as members of the Ground Observer Corps, a network of airplane spotters which would serve the country under the Continental Air Command in the event of national emergency.

GOC is very new—new to the U. S. and even newer to Iowa. Its operating chief in this state is 23-year-old Jerry J. Naylor, himself a resident of tiny Scotch Grove. Appointed last winter by Gov. William S. Beardsley, Naylor serves without pay as will all other members of GOC.

But last Thursday the news broke in Iowa that Naylor and the GOC are seeking to recruit some 2,000 or more airplane spotters in 15 Iowa counties in the northeast most corner of Iowa.

The observation posts to be set up in 15 counties in that area would be a part of hundreds throughout the country—hundreds of OP's situated in bands across the nation and manned by 180,000 volunteers.

Although GOC is new to America and new to Iowa, its background is far from new. It has been battle-tried. It got its baptism of fire in England in the blitz days of World War II.

Partially because Scotch Grove is small, typical and partly because it is Deputy Director Naylor's home town, it was chosen as a kind of proving ground for GOC organization.

Largely because Scotch Grove people were so highly cooperative, Deputy Director Naylor found no difficulty n organizing his home town.

J. M. Lange, long a resident of Scotch Grove, was chosen supervisor for GOC.

Leslie Balster, son of the man who heads the big implement and parts supplying house situated there, was named chief observer.

Then they went right down the principal residential street in Scotch Grove. And in the trim-looking houses under the long row of pines they recruited full strength for a GOC observation post.

Federal authorities recommended that 20 in all man each OP. This allows plenty of leeway for absences due to illness or injury and keeps a fresh, full-strength crew on hand at all times.

In the theory of GOC, spotters at Scotch Grove would report the movement of flights of enemy aircraft to a "filter center" in an undisclosed city.

There the information from Scotch Grove, along with similar reports phoned in by GOC observers in other OP's in the Iowa band, would be interpreted and plotted. Interceptors would be summoned to meet the invading force and air raid warnings would be returned to the area where the invaders were likely to strike.

It isn't a pleasant thought, remarked a GOC observer in Scotch Grove, to contemplate warlike planes over the rich fields of Iowa. But the same man allowed "we'd better be ready for 'em—if they do come."

Scotch Grove is a typical Iowa hamlet in some ways and very atypical in others.

Despite its smallness, it boasts two firms (Balster's and Farm Seed and Service Company—a Naylor enterprise), which do business for beyond the boundaries of Scotch Grove and even Iowa. In the little town—which has neither church nor jail and no city council, no commercial club—are one grocery store, three garages, two car dealers and one motorcycle dealer, an implement dealer, five gasoline outlets, one tavern. Biggest enterprises in Scotch Grove are the Farm Seed firm and Balster's, with the latter occupying most of the business buildings on the town's two principal streets.

The road to Scotch Grove is gravel. The trains (Milwaukee) come in and out twice each day; do a good freight-handling business.

Settled originally more than 100 years ago by Scotch immigrants from Canada, Scotch Grove is surrounded, generally speaking, by Scotch-Presbyterians on one side and German Lutherans on the other.

In Scotch Grove, there is harmony and, although there's no town council, streets are in good repair and lawns and sidewalks have been well tended.

By the very character of the little hamlet, you can peg Scotch Grove as a good place to put an observation post where you want alert spotter—anxious to see that Iowa's soil is protected, that Iowa's people and its enterprises are not harmed from enemy action.

The GOC burst on Scotch Grove as it did on Iowa—without much warning. Although there had been earlier announcements of Naylor's appointment, things up to last week had been pretty top-level—as far as GOC was concerned.

Naylor had been devoting about two days a week to the GOC, had been summoned to special conferences on the subject of airplane spotting and GOC organization.

Suddenly—with the Korean war as in impetus—GOC began getting top-drawer priority.

Now important GOC headquarters want to know how fast GOC in Iowa can complete its organization.

That the national guard has been given some part in the program in Iowa was evident from the fact that ING officers were slated to appear on a Cedar Rapids GOC program this afternoon. Heading that list was none other than Brig. Gen. Charles H. Grahl, the Iowa adjutant general. Lt. Col. B. R. Averill, chief of the reorganization section of the Iowa national guard, together with Deputy Civilian Director Naylor, has covered many Iowa miles in the last 10 days in the development of plans for the GOC.

It was second guessing to say how soon GOC could be organized completely in Iowa. But Deputy Civilian Director Naylor guessed that the biggest part of the job might be completed by the end of the month.

And on the basis of the interest and civilian promptness with which little Scotch Grove responded to the call, it appeared that Naylor's guess might be a good one.

From The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Sunday, July 9, 1950, and submitted by Sharon Oltmanns

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Last updated on Friday, 16-Apr-2021 16:54:39 MST