300,000 Airplanes, Scrap Drives, & Cheerful Giving – Civilians in War, Part 3

Civilians support armies. It’s as simple as that. And when armies don’t have home front support…well, there’s a historic example about fifty years ago (unfortunately). But rather than use a negative example, let’s take a look at World War II which may be the all-time best example of civilians supporting their armies and cause.

Aircraft manufacturing, WWII

Building Airplanes

300,000 Airplanes

We’ll start today’s study with American manufacturing during WWII. By the end of the conflict, United States civilian men and women and had built approximately 300,000 aircraft alone…that doesn’t include tanks, jeeps, guns, ammo, etc.! Getting a job in a defense factory was a big deal and showed patriotism. And, by the end of the war, the US was the largest manufacturer by the end of the war too.

Suppose for a moment that civilians didn’t step up to work in the factories and build those airplanes. Two things would’ve happened. #1-no new airplanes get built or #2 -soldiers have to be taken from the fighting lines to build the aircraft. Not a desirable situation!

One thing that I find remarkable about American industry during WWII is the civilian’s willingness to work and serve in this way. Unlike Nazi Germany where people may have felt forced into the factories or production was accomplished by the inmates of concentration camps, American civilians willingly went to work to “Keep ’em Flying.”

Save Everything…and Go Without Stockings!

American factory workers weren’t the only ones striving for victory on the WWII home front. Through the years, as I’ve had opportunity to interview older family members and friends about their experiences during the war, one thing they’ve emphasized is how everyone in American society was doing something to support the war effort.

Communities, churches, boys’ and girls’ clubs, and other organizations sponsored “drives” for scrap metal, paper, rubber, and other items.

Cooking grease was saved and returned to the butchers so it could be recycled and used to make explosives. Even the tiniest pieces of foil were saved and turned in to be melted down and used again. Food rationing and victory gardens were accepted without much complaining – freedom was worth it. Gasoline and tires were rationed to provide the necessary fuel and equipment for the army.

And…one of my favorites…the ladies went without their silken stockings because the material was needed to make parachutes!

These are a few examples of how Americans were behind the war effort and from the home front were actively supporting their soldiers in the field.

War Posters: A Study in WWII Culture

Propaganda is its own war, and the battlefield is the mind and heart. World War II was no exception – all sides had extensive propaganda campaigns to keep civilian morale and support of the war high. (By the way, this “warfare” continues to be important; we are seeing it via social media with the current conflict in the Middle East.)

But rather than discuss the controlling factors and pro’s and con’s of this warfare, let’s look at some American WWII posters and discover some other facets of the civilian role. They say a pictures worth 1,000 words…so here’s “a few thousand words.” 🙂 Each poster tells a story of civilians doing their part in a war that preserved liberty and changed the world.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that civilians don’t have a role in war!

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. What other parts of the American civilian WWII experience played a major role in the Allied victory?

(Spoiler Alert: We’ll talk about morale from the home front next week and its key role on the battlefields.)



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