Home Front Activities: 1941 Committee

Home Front Activities: 1941 Committee

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During the Second World War the British government was constantly monitoring the success of its various policies concerning the Home Front. The government was also aware of the possibility that it might be necessary to introduce legislation to deal with any emerging problems.

It is December 1941. You have been asked to write a report on the 1941 Committee . This is to be divided into two sections.

Things you should consider include:

(a) Who was the main figure behind the 1941 Committee?

(b) According to Tom Hopkinson, why was the 1941 Committee formed?

(c) What did the 1941 Committee argue for in the report published in December 1941?

Things you should consider include:

(a) Why did the government become concerned about the activities of the 1941 Committee?

(b) Do you think the government should ban the 1941 Committee?

Home Front Activities: 1941 Committee - History

December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy,” signaled the United States entrance into World War II. The country needed to adapt in order to support the war effort. Food and clothing were rationed. People planted Victory Gardens to grow their own produce and stretch rations. Towns held scrap drives to collect household goods made of rubber and aluminum to provide materials for the defense industry. Many people also contributed financially by purchasing war bonds from the government.

Relocation of Japanese Americans during World War
Photograph by Ansel Adams

While America went to war to defend democracy and freedom, these ideals were not fully realized at home as racism and discrimination persisted towards immigrants and non-white Americans. Citing defense concerns on the West Coast in 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. This order removed over 100,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans from the Pacific Coast and placed them in internment camps for much of the war. Many parts of the United States were still heavily segregated and discriminatory towards African Americans. Often, they received less pay or were barred outright from working in various companies. Many African Americans participated in the “Double V Campaign,” which sought to win the war and gain equality for all people.

America’s involvement in World War II signaled changes on the home front and shifts in men’s and women’s roles. Many men were enlisted in the armed services, leaving a large number of jobs vacant. Wartime production demands for more planes, guns, and other military goods required an increase in the labor force. The US government called on women to fill these labor needs. Women were employment in a variety of jobs, which had previously been carried out by men. They joined the military, worked in defense plants, drove streetcars, worked on farms, and performed other roles on the home front.

The enlistment of men into the military included players from major league baseball. President of the Wrigley’s chew gum company and owner of the Chicago Cubs ball club, Philip K. Wrigley, decided to form a girls’ baseball league to take the place of the men’s league. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was formed in 1943 and lasted until 1954. The organization provided over 500 women the opportunity to play national baseball. The 1992 film starting Gena Davis, A League of Their Own, portrayed a fictionalized version of these women’s stories.

American Women's Voluntary Services members, 1942

During the war, women joined volunteer organizations to support the needs of the home front and the troops. Groups that volunteered their efforts in the war included: The United Services Organization (USO), the American Red Cross, the American Women’s Voluntary Service (AWVS), and the United States Citizens Defense Corps. The AWVS, founded on the British model of the Women’s Voluntary Service, was formed in January 1940. Its volunteers, which numbered approximately 325,000 women, engaged in a range of activities including: working in canteens, selling war bonds, taking photographs, and driving ambulances. The AWVS was an interracial organization which included African American women and other minority groups.

The United Services Organization (USO) was founded in 1941. It was created as a non-profit organization to support the needs of troops stationed throughout the world. During the war, it provided rest centers for soldiers where they could get a hot meal and socialize with others. The USO also organized special performances such as musical concerts and comedy skits with Hollywood celebrities to entertain soldiers.

American Red Cross civilian first aid class, 1941

Created in 1881 by Clara Barton, the American Red Cross was an organization that was already well established before the war began. During WWII, the American Red Cross carried out a number of vital activities, including the collection of blood for the medical needs of the military and the home front. The Red Cross organized eleven volunteer corps which carried out a number of different activities in wartime. The corps included the Arts and Skills Corps, the Canteen Corps, the Motor Corps, Volunteer Nurse’s Aide Crops, Prisoner of War Relief Corps, and the Victory Book Campaign.

USO volunteer at a YWCA, 1943

The Office of Civilian Defense (OCD) was created in May 1941 by the federal government. It organized the United States Citizens Defense Corps which oversaw and trained volunteers to help with civil defense on the home front. Members served in a number of different roles, including: air raid wardens, fire watchers, nurses’ aides, and rescue operations. They helped civilians with emergency food and housing.

What Happened?

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the naval and army installations at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

Hawaii was not yet a state of the United States. At that time, Hawaii was a territory of the United States and a base for the American Pacific Fleet.

The Japanese destroyed or disabled most of the United States fleet. Fortunately the aircraft carriers were at sea during the attack and escaped destruction.

Thousands of American lives were lost as the ships exploded.

On December 8, President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on the Japanese. His address was broadcast around the nation by radio:

TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES Yesterday, December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan

The United States was at peace with the nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or warmed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

Home Front Activities: 1941 Committee - History

By Herb Kugel

In 1941-1942, British journalist Alistair Cooke traveled through the United States. In his description of his trip, American Home Front 1941-1942, he reported stopping for breakfast at a restaurant in West Virginia where, “the sugar was rationed at breakfast, and there was a note on the menu requesting that … in the interests of ‘national defense,’ keep to one cup of coffee.”

Rationing struck the American public in 1942. It arrived with force and uncertainty and generated an economic crisis that could have caused America to lose the war. It came originally on August 28, 1941, without the approval of the United States Congress. The Office of Price Administration (OPA), which administered rationing during World War II, was established within the Office for Emergency Management by President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 8875.

Office of Price Administration: “Born in Strife and Lived in Turmoil”

The OPA’s initial function was to stabilize prices (price control) and rents as the U.S. government readied for America’s certain involvement in World War II. From this beginning, the OPA’s economic power soon grew mighty.

The OPA became an independent agency under the Emergency Price Control Act, a law passed by Congress and signed by President Franklin Roosevelt on January 30, 1942. The organization was given the authority to place ceilings on all prices except agricultural commodities. It could ration virtually everything else, including tires, gasoline, and new automobiles, as well as such consumer items as sugar, coffee, shoes, silk stockings, meats, perfumes, and processed foods.

The OPA didn’t wait to exercise the power it knew it would be handed. Richard Lingeman reports in Don’t You Know There’s a War On? The American Home Front 1941-1945, that the OPA “got itself into the rationing business by ordering, on its own initiative, a tire-rationing plan.” The program went into effect on December 30, 1941, and was fully active in January.

The American Historical Society records that 8,000 rationing boards were created to oversee the tire-rationing program as well as the many other restrictions the OPA knew would soon follow. Lingeman reported, “More than 30,000 volunteers were recruited to handle the vast paper work involved in controlling prices on 90 percent of the goods sold in more than 600,000 retail stores and issuing a series of rationing books to every man, woman and child in the United States. As the war drew on, nearly every item Americans ate, wore, used or lived in was rationed or otherwise regulated.”

Stephen W. Sears reported in the October/ November 1979 issue of American Heritage, “In size the OPA was second only to the Post Office Department in bureaucratic complexity it was unmatched. It was, said one observer, ‘born in strife and lived in turmoil.’”

Rationing Rubber

The strife and turmoil commenced even before the OPA was formally activated. It began with a rubber crisis but rapidly expanded outward into gasoline. Whether the OPA had been legal in acting on its own in regard to tire rationing, the fact remained the government desperately needed tire rationing to begin at once. Just 660,000 tons of crude rubber had been stockpiled as opposed to an annual U.S. consumption of between 600,000 and 700,000 tons the War Department saw its rubber stockpile rapidly vanishing.

Japan’s seizure of vast rubber plantations during its conquests in the Malay Peninsula (southwest Thailand, western Malaysia, and the island of Singapore) and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) in early 1942 made the situation even more critical by cutting the sources to nearly 90 percent of America’s natural rubber supply.

After the OPA clamped down on the sale of tires, it followed with a ban on tire recapping and a shocked American motoring public of some 30 million drivers was slammed with an initial taste of what life under rationing would be like. Few drivers were allowed to obtain certificates to purchase new tires, and anyone who owned more than five tires was ordered to turn over the “extras” to his or her local gas station. While some drivers complied, others did not, and still others paid exorbitant prices for tires, doing this without concern about the government’s regulations or where the tires came from.

Even with the shortage, not every driver experienced difficulty in getting new tires in early 1942. Cooke reported on a unique tire contest he had observed: “[Getting tires] … was child’s play for a couple of ex-gangsters of my acquaintance (they bought their phonograph records where I bought mine) who, immediately after the order freezing rubber had gone out, started a snobbish game of seeing who could most frequently drive out in the morning with a new set of white-walled tires.”

A mechanic shows off two pairs of hardwood tires—the pair on the left is new while the other has been driven 500 miles.

Restrictions of the sale of new cars came next. This began on January 1, 1942, when a freezing order banning the sale of all new cars went into effect until a rationing program could be worked out. This program was to be made public by January 15, but that date was quickly pushed back to an unspecified date in February. However, on January 14, 1942, the government ordered the stockpiling of all cars shipped after January 15. Cars shipped to dealers could not be sold until specific permission was granted—if this permission was deemed “in the public interest.” The January 14 stockpiling order was followed a month later with a government order that placed all new cars in stock into long-term storage.

Gas Rationing and the Oil Crisis

Nevertheless, after these bold beginnings with tires and automobiles, the government began to shilly-shally about what it knew must come next. The next step—and it was critically important—had to be gas rationing, but Roosevelt was afraid to order it. Lingeman succinctly described a situation in which “the experts debated and the government from Roosevelt on down procrastinated about what measures to take beyond tire rationing….”

Various desperation-measure rubber-collection drives were tried, but the shortage remained critical while Roosevelt continued to hesitate even as work began on building synthetic-rubber plants. Finally, the president was forced into action. Gas rationing for the 17 states in the eastern United States was announced at the beginning of May as might be expected, it set off a storm of opposition before going into effect on May 15, 1942. While the struggle over eastern states’ gas rationing continued unabated, the OPA went ahead with rationing and the issuing of ration books for the entire United States.

Gas rationing in the eastern states had not been ordered because of the rubber shortage but because of a fearsome and expanding oil crisis. On paper, America’s oil future had looked secure as far as supplies were concerned. Stephen Sears recorded that “the United States was entirely self-sufficient in oil, and indeed was a major exporter of petroleum products. At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, North America accounted for 64 percent of the world’s crude-oil production. (The Near and Middle East’s share, by contrast, was a mere 5.7 percent.)”

Sears then reported the view of Dr. Robert E. Wilson, a Standard Oil Company of Indiana executive and a government consultant on oil production. Wilson had stated that the outlook for the American petroleum industry was very positive, so much so that “even satisfying the enormous demands of a mechanized army presents no serious problems.”

Dr. Wilson was wrong. There were “serious problems” and the outlook was grim. Wilson had omitted both the transportation of oil and German submarines from his thinking. Before the war, the eastern oil refineries depended on tanker delivery for 95 percent of their oil many tankers sailed along the Gulf Coast from ports in Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana and then up the East Coast to their various destinations. However, with the start of the war, German submarines, operating alone or in wolf packs, began sinking a great many American or American-leased tankers sailing this route.

Cooke reported a conversation with a Texan, a man who operated a small fleet of tankers that sailed along the Gulf Coast then up the East Coast to New Jersey. The man confessed that he was a constant insomniac since the war began, “waking with a start and wondering how many boats I lost last night.” When asked how many boats he ran, the Texan replied sadly, ‘Well I have twelve. [At least] this morning I had twelve. By the time I get to New Orleans … I’ll have eight or nine maybe. I had twenty, three months ago.’ ”

The government solution was to link the rich Texas oil fields with the northeastern states through the construction of the Big Inch—a 24-inch pipeline beginning at Longview, Texas, and eventually extending to various refineries throughout the eastern United States. Gas rationing was urgently needed because the first stage of the Big Inch was not scheduled to be completed for another year. In spite of an obviously desperate situation, gas rationing was met by powerful protests from within Roosevelt’s cabinet as well as by outrage from the big oil interests when they heard details of the rationing plan. The government limited motorists to between 2.5 and five gallons of gasoline per week.

The Critics of Gas Rationing

Harold L. Ickes, Roosevelt’s secretary of the interior as well as his petroleum coordinator, slammed the rationing plan as “half-baked, ill-advised and hit or miss.” Many oil executives claimed East Coast gas rationing did nothing more than set the stage for future nationwide rationing. Powerful oil interests organized a propaganda campaign against East Coast rationing and on the May 10 weekend, the last weekend before rationing went into effect, over 200 members of Congress asked for and received X cards, which allowed the bearer unlimited purchase of gasoline.

However, for senior American planners, the issue was not only corporate greed, although that was bad enough. The main issue was America’s economic and military survival. Would America’s drivers have enough gasoline to go to and from work and, if not, what would this do to them, the economy, and the war effort? The situation was a government nightmare.

A service station attendant measures out the precious fluid in accordance with OPA’s A gasoline ration books, July 1942.

Sears stated: “All across the country new arms factories were springing up … far from public transportation. This was particularly true in California, center of the burgeoning aircraft industry. Seven out of ten war workers in the Los Angeles area depended on their automobiles to get to work at some plants the ratio was as high as nine out of ten…. Investigators at two hundred key industrial sites in fourteen states found 69 percent of the employees had no alternative to commuting by car.”

It became obvious that the private automobile was absolutely critical to the war effort, but still Roosevelt continued to vacillate. Cooke attempted to explain the American public’s deep concern over gas rationing to often extremely unsympathetic British radio audiences: “But consider that everywhere west of the Mississippi, cities were built on the assumption that the only way a human moved was by motor car.” He then reported a conversation with a Wyoming sheep rancher, who, commenting on the government’s request for motorists to share their cars with their neighbors, said forlornly, ‘My neighbor lives 97 miles away.’ ”

The government discovered a painful truth as many people in the eastern United States seethed in anger and did their best to break the gas rationing rules. If rationing was to work, the same rules would have to be applied equally all across the country.

The OPA’s Four Ration Books

However, as May 1942, ended with Roosevelt still waffling over nationwide gas rationing, the OPA had frozen or was readying to freeze the prices on practically everything. Virtually all consumer goods were either rationed or soon would be. Sugar would be rationed first and coffee would soon follow.

In her article about rationing, Mary Brandeberry described what happened with the first item rationed, sugar: “Individuals were required to go to local grade schools, where volunteers and teachers interviewed them, checked on the size of the family and how much sugar that they had at home. Then, based on what the rationing board heard, the individual was issued a ration book with a year’s worth of stamps.”

The plan had obvious flaws, the most obvious being that many board members knew the applicants personally, and some were even relatives. However, even with this, rationing soldiered on. The OPA had originally planned to issue five ration books but finally issued only four. The first page of the first book displayed warnings that violating the rationing rules and regulations could result in fines of up to $10,000 and 10 years of imprisonment. This was followed by a series of rules. The rationing book could only be used by the person to whom it was issued and if that person left the country or died, the book had to be surrendered back to the government. Any book found had to be returned to the OPA.

Brandeberry continued her description of the first rationing book: “Page two and three was actually the Certificate of Register. This certificate contained vital information such as the name and address of the individual, and his or her physical description such as height, weight, eye and hair coloring, sex, and age. The bottom of the certificate contained numbered stamps towards sugar, and later coffee. The last page of the book shows the signature of the person that the book belonged to.”

More Money, Fewer Consumer Products

The rationing system itself was fraught with difficulties, and the rules changed as the system went along. The rationing coupons themselves almost became a second monetary system, as the following from the University of Massachusetts Digital Collection illustrates: “Ration book four also introduced red and blue cardboard tokens, each valued at one-point, to be used as change for ration coupon purchases…. For example, if a can of corn was listed at 7 ration points, and the purchaser had only a 10-point stamp left for the week … [the purchaser] would lose three ration points as part of the purchase. When tokens came into use, the purchaser could receive three tokens, each worth one point, in exchange. An advantage of tokens was that they never expired, while the stamps did. Ration book four also included ‘spare’ stamps that were occasionally validated for the purchase of five extra pounds of pork.”

A shopper and her children watch as a clerk tears point stamps from a War Ration Book 2 to cover the processed foods being purchased.

While rationing struggled along, more and more American workers were earning more and more money as defense and defense-related industries geared up for the massive war effort. However, there was less and less on which these workers could spend their money as meat, clothing, and other items became rationed and as quotas were set for their production.

More and more dollars began competing for fewer and fewer new consumer goods as more production was shifted away from the civilian market and into the war effort. New radios, refrigerators, and stoves started to vanish from stores as tanks and airplanes began to roll from assembly lines. The rationing rules became comprehensive.

Vetoing the “Rubber Czar”

The government seemed on track except in the most critical area, gasoline. As summer arrived, even though the need was growing more desperate by the hour, the government had yet to define a nationwide gas-rationing policy. Roosevelt was in trouble and he knew it, but luckily he was handed a way out when Congress decided to “go it alone” and passed Iowa Senator Guy M. Gillette’s bill to establish a “Rubber Czar” whose job would be to head a special organization that would be independent of the War Production Board. This civilian agency would be charged with overseeing and coordinating the war economy.

The bill creating the czar had been shoved through Congress by the farm bloc and its real purpose was to force synthetic rubber to be made only from agricultural and forest products. Roosevelt knew that he could not let this bill become law—he could not allow two organizations, one frankly biased toward the farm bloc, to struggle against each other with America’s war economy as the prize.

He knew he must stop this bill from becoming law or risk critical damage to America’s war production machinery thus he vetoed the bill, but did it in a way that rather elegantly got him off the hook. In his veto message he announced the formation of a completely reliable and impartial fact-finding commission to thoroughly examine rubber, oil, and gasoline rationing in great detail. Sears noted that Roosevelt, “in one neat maneuver, had side-stepped, gotten out from under, and passed the buck” on gas rationing. Nevertheless, Roosevelt desperately needed a man who had unquestionably earned the nation’s complete trust and respect to run this committee.

Bernard Baruch: The “Park Bech Statesman”

Fortunately for both Roosevelt and America, there was such a man. He was Bernard Baruch, the 72-year-old “Park Bench Statesman,” the wealthy “Wall Street Whiz” who had been a presidential adviser, first to Woodrow Wilson during World War I, and then, between the two world wars, to Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. Now, he would advise Roosevelt (and Truman after the war). In an article, “Three Men on a Bench,” in Time, August 17, 1942, Baruch is described as a man with a “white-topped frame … long legs and [wearing] the inevitable high black shoes.” Baruch liked to confer with officials on a bench in Washington’s Lafayette Park because the park provided privacy and a relaxed atmosphere, thus he became known as the “Park Bench Statesman.” The “Three Men” in the article’s title referred to Baruch and his two fellow committeemen, James Bryant Conant, the president of Harvard University, and Karl Taylor Compton, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The report Baruch and his two associates issued to Roosevelt was blunt and frightening. In a September 21, 1942, Time article, “Outline of the Future,” the staff writer quotes parts of the Baruch committee’s report to the president: “We find the existing situation to be so dangerous that unless corrective measures are taken immediately this country will face both military and civilian collapse. The naked facts present a warning that dare not be ignored. If they are, the U.S. will have no rubber in the fourth quarter of 1943 to equip a modern mechanized army.”

In no uncertain terms, Roosevelt was warned that America could lose the war if he took no action and continued to allow various pressure groups to continue unchecked in their greed and total self-interest. Roosevelt got the message: He ordered full gas rationing to begin on December 1, 1942. He also ordered a ban on pleasure driving, as well as a 35-mile-per-hour speed limit on all of America’s highways.

Reducing the speed limit to 35 mph saved both rubber and gas.

Rationing had already stomped into the American way of life. For example, when it came out, the 1943 Sears, Roebuck and Company catalogue already contained a complete list of rationed farm equipment. Planting, seeding, and fertilizing machinery were listed, as were tractors, and dairy farm machinery and equipment. There was even a section in the catalogue titled “If you are a farmer or poultry raiser and want to buy a hand pump” and, conversely, a section on, “If you are not a farm or poultry raiser and want to buy a pump or other farm equipment.”

In this, as with other items, the rulings of the OPA were all-powerful though they were very often furiously appealed. Nevertheless, the bottom line for the nation as a whole was that the “Park Bench Statesman” had pushed Roosevelt into finally taking the action he knew he had to take.

In the government’s gas-rationing rules, individual driver gasoline rationing quotas determined an A, B, or C sticker that was required to be displayed on the bottom left corner of the windshield. In effect, it was a sticker that defined a driver hierarchy. An A-sticker driver was assumed to do no “essential” driving. The driver who received this sticker was given the lowest gas allocation: four, and then later three, gallons per week. Since the government estimated 15 miles to the gallon, an A-sticker holder was limited to 60 miles of driving per week. Many drivers, frustrated with the restrictions, simply put their cars up on blocks, drained the oil from their engines, removed the batteries, and covered the vehicles with tarps “for the duration.”

The B-sticker holder had some essential driving to do and received a supplementary allowance based on that need. The C-sticker driver also needed the car for essential driving (such as a physician making house calls) but was allocated all the gasoline needed. There was also a T-sticker for truck drivers, who also could get all the gas they needed. Taxi drivers and farmers had their own stickers.

Gas rationing quickly faced serious difficulties because the government did not take into account the personalities of many American drivers—personalities that expressed themselves through a mass influx of A-sticker drivers flocking to their local rationing boards with the most absurd reasons for demanding that their A-stickers be upgraded to B- or C-stickers. The gas ration sticker somehow had become a status symbol and many drivers argued furiously to have their A-sticker upgraded.

Crime and the Black Market

Crime was also a serious problem throughout the nation at that time. Ration books and stamps were regularly stolen, even from OPA offices. Counterfeiting grew into a real problem as both ration books and stamps were regularly forged. Some of this forging was of excellent quality as “top professionals” expanded their efforts from the counterfeiting of money to the excellent counterfeiting of ration books and stamps.

An inspector looks at evidence of a Black Market meat operation in a filthy building. The black marketeers spread lime on the floor in a poor attempt at cleanliness.

A significant black market was another problem, with, for the most part, the black marketers selling meat, sugar, and gasoline. The demand for black-market gasoline was significant enough to cause armed criminals to attempt to hijack trucks on solitary roads many drivers started carrying guns.

Successes and Failures of Rationing

Yet, in spite of all its difficulties, did rationing work? Lingeman stated that “rationing was the most concerted attack on wartime inflation and scarcity, and by and large it worked.”

One way to examine the success or failure of rationing in this “concerted attack” was to consider the U.S. Government Consumer Price Index (CPI) calculations during the war. CPI is an inflationary pointer that measures the change in the cost of a fixed basket of products and services, including housing, electricity, food, and transportation. The CPI is also called the Cost-of-Living Indicator and for America’s war years––1942, 1943, 1944, and 1945––the figures were:

$1.00 in 1942 had the same buying power as $1.06 in 1943.

$1.00 in 1943 had the same buying power as $1.02 in 1944.

$1.00 in 1944 had the same buying power as $1.02 in 1945.

Using 1942 as a base year, inflation ran at six percent in 1943, and then remained lower and constant at two percent in 1944 and 1945.

Although the rationing system was widely hated and often abused, it worked. The massive American military machine rarely lacked for any essential item.

Jobs on the home front

As mobilization of war industries began in 1940, black Americans were still suffering from a 20 percent unemployment rate the unemployment rate of white Americans at the time was about 10 percent. Black Americans' family income was one-third of what white families made. Blacks worked mostly in unskilled positions, and only 5 percent of black males held professional, white-collar jobs, mostly with black-owned businesses in black communities. Blacks were at first denied access to the new, high-paying war industry jobs. Many companies had "whites only" hiring policies. In 1940, 100,000 workers were employed in the aircraft industry, but only 240 of them were black. These black employees were commonly assigned to low-paying, unskilled positions, serving as janitors and garage attendants, for example. Black women worked primarily as domestic servants or on farms.

Seeing such open discrimination by defense contractors motivated A. Philip Randolph (1889 – 1979) to take action. Randolph was a black union leader and president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the only all-black union. In January 1941 he called for blacks to march on Washington, D.C., to protest job discrimination. The march was set for July 1. Randolph expected between fifty thousand and a hundred thousand people to join the march. President Roosevelt feared that the event could cause violence in the nation's capital. He also thought it could set back his efforts to unite Americans for the war effort. On June 19, less than two weeks before the scheduled march, Roosevelt met with Randolph and other black leaders to search for a compromise. Randolph and the other black leaders bargained hard for a ban on racial discrimination in private industry and federal employment they also asked for an end to segregation in the military. When Roosevelt agreed to most of these terms, Randolph called off the march.

To make his agreement with Randolph official, President Roosevelt issued an executive order, Executive Order 8802. It was the first official action Roosevelt had taken on civil rights (rights of personal liberty granted by the U.S. Constitution, such as the right to vote and freedom of speech, assembly, and religion) since he entered office in 1933. In fact, it was the first civil rights action taken by any U.S. president since the 1870s, following the Civil War (1861 – 65). Roosevelt's executive order banned discrimination in defense industries and government but did not end segregation in the military. The order also established the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC), which was put in charge of investigating racial discrimination in the war industries. The FEPC was underfunded and held little power to institute changes, so it had to rely on publicity and persuasion. The commission sometimes threatened to draft into the military those business owners who were shown to discriminate by hiring whites when more qualified blacks had applied. At first the FEPC was placed within the Office of Production Management (OPM). Then it was moved, first to the War Production Board (WPB), then to the War Manpower Commission (WMC), and finally in mid-1943 to the Executive Office of the President. There it became more aggressive in pursuing cases of discrimination. FEPC received eight thousand complaints and resolved about one-third of them until it was disbanded in 1946.


By 1941 the Pacific Islands had been on the periphery of many wars between the great powers of Europe and America. Japan too had been slowly extending its influence along the edge of the western Pacific for much of the 20th century leading up to World War II. After the initial scramble for positions by the Spanish, Dutch, English and French, Guam had been ceded to America and German-Samoa had changed hands in the First World War. [6]

Christianity had been spread to every inhabited island and been adopted to varying extents. The interior of New Guinea was largely unexplored by Europeans. However, the rest of the Pacific was fully in the control of colonial powers, as the Pacific Islands were comparatively slow in the creation of Independence movements. [7]

Due to the vast amount of information recorded by the Allied armies in comparison with the local populations of the Pacific many of the events of the time are seen from their perspective. [8] It had been decided that Britain and its colonies would have a secondary role in the Pacific, so it was mostly Americans that passed through the Islands on their way to war. [9] They appeared in the Pacific largely unannounced due to security concerns. In the view of one French colonist "if martians had landed among us we would not have been more surprised". [10]

Most of the military personnel from the continental U.S. had never before left their homeland or experienced any culture other than their own. Americans experienced the Pacific Islands including the U.S. organized incorporated territory of Hawaii through cinema and books which divided the inhabitants into submissive hula dancers or cannibals. [11] Also the American military was segregated at this time further leading to the culture shock that awaited many in the Pacific Islands. American views on race also led to disagreements among the Allies, as New Zealand officers would have dinner with their Fijian counterparts, while Americans would not. [12] Similar racial tension was to lead to a riot in Wellington, New Zealand when American soldiers would not allow Māori into the Allied Services Club. [13]

Once the servicemen arrived they quibbled about their disillusionment with local women and never fully changed their preconceptions of local men. [14] [15] As John F Kennedy reported from the Solomon Islands "Have a lot of natives around and am getting hold of grass skirts, war clubs, etc. We had one in today who told us about the last man he ate". [16] In the Solomon Islands by this stage of the war the missionaries had been evacuated, which would have only increased misunderstandings between the Methodist locals and the new arrivals. While some foreign servicemen respected the locals for their fitness, friendliness and work ethic, most viewed the indigenous people as culturally and biologically inferior. However, as the American men were ordered to treat the locals fairly, and the visitors provided many economic opportunities, relations were almost always peaceful. [12]

In order to prevent the spread of diseases such as malaria to the American troops in Melanesia efforts were made to separate the two groups. Treatment was also given to locals for a variety of ailments in order to protect the servicemen. This along with the perceived positive treatment of African Americans led to a generally positive view of Americans among the populace of the Solomon Islands. This good opinion was only marred by infrequent theft of local goods, unwanted advances towards women and at least one instance of bestiality by American servicemen. [17]

Generally the effect of informal interactions between the visiting armies and the local inhabitants had a far more lasting effect than the formal military activities. The sharp distinction between colonizer and colonized once broken, particularly by shared military service were hard to restore. [18]

The home comforts the American military brought to the Pacific changed the aspirations of many local peoples. This included the eating habits of those in the Solomon Islands through to the fashion choices of women in New Zealand. [19] [20]

In those societies, like New Zealand, where a portion of the young men enlisted, as well as working in the fields and factories, women volunteered for Red Cross work and took up the professional positions left vacant by the men. [21]

In communities that had very little contact with Europeans before the war, the sudden arrival—and rapid departure—of such an unfathomable mass of men and machines had lasting religious effects, such as the so-called "cargo cults". [22] [23]

In New Caledonia employment by the military represented the first introduction to currency (46 cents a day) for many. This was accompanied with health care and training in many tasks including driving. This was seen as inappropriate and leading to arrogant behavior by some French colonists. Uniforms were also given to local workers as a way of creating discipline and a hierarchy. [24]

The indigenous New Caledonians (Kanak) noted with interest that the African American soldiers, while segregated, could outrank white Americans. They judged that this system was superior to the one they lived in under French rule. [24] Asian indentured servants in New Caledonia could not officially be employed by the Americans, however, they were heavily involved in the black market supply of goods and labor that developed. Their absence put pressure on the efficiency of the local nickel mines. [25]

The deforestation, dumping of ordnance and spread of invasive species throughout the Pacific all affected the environment. [26] [27] On some small atolls runways were built covering most of the available land. This, along with the introduction of rats destroyed the breeding location for many sea birds. [28] The war in the Pacific was partly one for resources, the nickel in New Caledonia made the island a target attracting a US occupation force. [9]

During the war resources that could be reused in America were often sent back for recycling. However, at the end of the war an estimated nine million metric tonnes of American equipment still needed to be returned from the Pacific. Most of it was sold to the colonial governments or abandoned. In New Guinea reselling this scrap would be the only profitable business until the 1950s. [29]

Home Front Activities: 1941 Committee - History

The fervor of the domestic front, mobilized by a massive propaganda effort headed by the Committee on Public Information, had three major battlegrounds: food, funding, and service.

"The women should stand behind the men who are shouldering the guns. There are thousands of Seattle women who have become "Hooverized," so to speak, and they feel much better for it… It is urgently demanded that waste be eliminated. This is an easy manner if one will only try. We follow the recommendations set down by Mr. Hoover and the food administration and find that we are able to do away with waste virtually altogether."

Seattle Times, October 1917, featuring Caroline Burke's work in food conservation

The U.S. Food Administration headed by Herbert Hoover encouraged households with its slogan, "Food will win the war." Though formal rationing was not instituted during World War I, housewives were encouraged to "self-sacrifice" voluntarily by cutting waste and adopting meatless Mondays, wheatless Wednesdays, and even porkless Thursdays and Sundays. Children too were told to "clean their plates" whilst thinking "of the starving orphans" of Europe. Liberty Bonds and Thrift Stamps helped to fund the war. Bonds were hawked by celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin and Al Jolson, by scout troops and by librarians. For example, 4.5 million Liberty Loan reminder cards were placed books at public libraries by more than 60,000 women volunteers throughout the country. Communities competed to raise funds for the war effort. By war's end, the four Liberty Bond drives raised more than $17 billion from over 20 million individuals.

An army of volunteers fought the war on the domestic front. National organizations such as the Red Cross, Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), and Salvation Army plus local groups such as the Women's Century Club held fund raisers, planted war gardens, and canned preserves. Care packages filled with soap, cigarettes, safety pins, and socks were sent to soldiers on the field. The Women's Century Club, which knitted 260 pairs of socks in 1918, was headed by Bertha Landes, who became mayor of Seattle in 1926.

Florence Dodge was a Franklin High School freshman in 1918. Her diary reveals the everyday life of a student:
April 2: Tests will soon be here and oh how I dread them!
April 7: I got A+ in my Algebra just think. A- in History and B in Latin. B+ in English. These are the exam results, pretty good aren't they?
September 9: I like school ever so much. I have Miss Perry for roll now.
September 20: We girls all worked at the Red Cross tonight and then partook of some ice-cream.
October 5: No School! Spanish Influenza. Government has caused churches, shows, dances, schools and such things closed.

America's schoolchildren also served on the home front during World War I. The Committee on Public Information (CPI) worked with schools and organizations, providing lesson plans and activities for teachers through their biweekly newsletter, National School Service. "Public schools are the most important agency" to "stimulate the patriotism of the child" as well as to advance "the cause of democracy." Four major themes were stressed: food production and conservation, thrift through War Saving stamps and Liberty bonds, patriotism, and service through organizations such as the Junior Red Cross. Teachers were encouraged to incorporate "true incidents of the war illustrating patriotism, heroism, and sacrifice" into story times for the younger children. Older students could have discussions around questions such as "Why save sugar?" and "What kind of world is safe for democracy?" Children were also viewed as a conduit to adults: "Every school pupil is a messenger from Uncle Sam," encouraging parents to purchase Liberty Bonds and to participate in war efforts. Secretary of the Treasury William McAdoo appealed directly to children:

"No one has got quite so much fun out of the war as Billy and his inseparable companions, Fritters, George and Bean-Pole Ross. Clad in the khaki uniform of the Boy Scouts, with United War Campaign, Red Cross, War Saving, first, second, third, and fourth Liberty Loan buttons, small American flags and service pins spread across their chests, they have lived the war from morning to night."

Florence Woolston, in a 1919 New Republic article, writing of her 12-year-old nephew Billy

How could children contribute? "They could sell and buy war bonds and stamps, plant gardens, help on the farm, save peach pits, knit sweaters, build cabinets, post bills. They could send old newspapers to troops. They could make Christmas gifts. They could mail music to the front. They could raise pigeons. " More than 11 million children joined the Junior Red Cross, others worked via the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA and YWCA, and the United States School Garden Army.

Sacrifices on the home front during World War II

T he 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be celebrated in August and September. WWII began in 1939 but the United States did not enter the war until Japan attacked the U.S. naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941.

This attack began the largest combined effort of teamwork throughout the history of the United States. This teamwork led to the end of the war when Japanese Emperor Hirohito surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945 (the date in Japan) and U.S. President Harry Truman announced Japan’s surrender on Aug. 14 (the date in the USA due to time zone differences). Japan officially surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945, on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. All three dates are known as V-J Day or Victory over Japan Day.

Victory was possible with U.S. military personnel and citizens of all ages on the homefront joining forces to battle the enemy. Men, women, and children worked for the war effort on the homefront. As men went to war, women entered the work force. Children helped with scrap metal drives and victory gardens where vegetables were grown and shared by the community. Recycling was important since there were shortages of everyday items as well as major appliances, because factories changed regular production to wartime efforts. Ration coupons were needed to buy gasoline, sugar, coffee, meat, canned food, clothes and shoes.

During the war, “V” for victory was seen on a variety of items such as, jewelry, buttons, milk bottles, advertisements, etc. The radio was important for war news since televisions were not yet household items. Theater movies had war themes. Bob Hope and the USO entertained the troops. Secrecy was important in letters to and from the homefront and military.

Service flags were displayed in home windows with blue stars to represent living sons and daughters serving in the military, and gold stars represented those who lost their lives. Gold Star Mother’s Day is observed the last Sunday in September.

Nose art on warplanes and pin-up girl photographs were popular during World War I and II. “Kilroy was here” graffiti was popular during WWII and the Korean War. The famous Life Magazine photograph from August 14, 1945, of the sailor and the lady in white kissing in Times Square to celebrate the end of WWII is still popular today.

As a member of the “baby boomer” generation, I was born after WWII but I grew up hearing wartime stories from my parents. Daddy left his home in Bemis, Tennessee to serve in the US Coast Guard. Mother rode a train from Luray to Jackson, Tennessee to West Palm Beach, Florida to marry Daddy in October 1943. For me, stories about “the war” were a sad time but also a romantic time due to my parents’ young love and marriage.

Some jobs on the homefront were dangerous. Obviously, ammunition was needed to fight the enemy. Many ordnance plants were built throughout the USA. Wolf Creek Ordnance Plant was constructed in West Tennessee in 1941 to provide ammunition to England during World War II. Then, the USA entered the war and Wolf Creek Ordnance Plant became an important supplier to the US military.

This facility was located in Milan on the Gibson County and Carroll County line and was operated by Procter & Gamble Defense Corporation. The US Military operated Milan Ordnance Depot at the same location. The two facilities combined later and became the Milan Ordnance Plant. The facility was also known as Milan Army Ammunition Plant and Milan Arsenal.

Many sacrifices were made during the war by citizens on the homefront, and 14 civilian employees at the Wolf Creek Ordnance Plant in Milan made the ultimate sacrifice in five separate accidents during WWII. These accidents occurred on June 30, 1941 July 31, 1941 Feb. 13, 1942 March 2, 1944 and Aug. 9, 1945.

On June 30, 1941, Richard Ernest Milner died in the first fatal accident at Wolf Creek Ordnance Plant. He was a single man, 28, from Tyler County, Texas.

On July 31, 1941, Lewis Green Cantrell was injured while working on heavy equipment as a mechanic helper for Ferguson-Oman Co. at WCOP, and he died Aug. 4 in Clemmer Clinic in Milan. He was a 30-year-old from DeKalb County.

On Feb. 13, 1942, at 12:05 p.m., Solomon Rufus Haney of Scotts Hill was crushed between a truck and a building as the driver backed up to get a load of ammunition. Sol was my paternal grandfather’s brother. One of Sol’s sons was on the USS Missouri at the time of Japan’s surrender.

On Thursday, March 2, 1944, four civilian employees of P&G Defense Corporation were killed and 18 injured at the WCOP due to an explosion on line K. The men killed were Walton Eldridge Abernathy of Huntingdon Johnnie McWhirter Blackmon of Medina Aaron Thomas Blankenship of Medina and Theotis “Pud” Davenport of Milan.

Theotis Davenport was scheduled to report to the U.S. Army in less than two weeks. His foreman moved him from second to first shift to allow more time with his family.

On Aug. 9, 1945, many people lost their lives due to the conflicts of World War II. On this date, U.S. airmen dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Thousands died from this bomb and from the bomb that was dropped three days earlier on Hiroshima, Japan. Also, on August 9 in the town of Milan, TN a shell exploded on ammunition loading line C at 1:20 p.m. at WCOP. Seven men lost their lives and thirteen people were injured. They were civilian employees of P&G Defense Corporation.

William Emerson Maness of Jackson, John Dee “Penn” Gorman of Alamo, Floyd “Joe Billy” Mitchell of Bradford, Edward Andrew “Edd” Voorhies of Trenton, and Frank McCree Johnson of McLemoresville died on Aug. 9 in Gibson County and Carroll County. R. V. Johnson of Lexington died from his injuries on August 10 in Henderson County. Frank Victor Bedwell of Lexington died from his injuries on August 13 in Gibson County.

William Maness was my maternal grandfather. I only know him from his portrait that hung on my grandmother’s wall and from the stories told by my grandmother, my mother, and my uncles. My mother described him as a kind man and a hard worker with blue eyes and dark, wavy hair. She said that at the time of his death he was planning to work two more weeks at the Arsenal and then leave to farm full time since some employees were being too careless at the plant. He said that reject bombs were being re-worked on the production line.

Dr. Robert L. “Bob” Stump Jr. was the Chief Medical Officer of the Milan Ordnance Center as a civilian employee of P&G in Milan when the Aug. 9 accident occurred. His name is listed as the physician’s signature on the death certificates for the men who died Aug. 9-13, 1945. Dr. Stump currently lives in Valdosta, Georgia where he celebrated his 100th birthday on Feb. 13.

In a phone interview on March 13, 2013, Dr. Stump explained that production line C produced cluster bombs. A cluster bomb was one large case which held 250 small bombs. Employees would pack a bomb and latch it closed.

The plant and the hospital on the property were shut down when the armistice was signed. Everyone was sent home and told to return two days later. Employees began being laid off.

As the world rejoiced that the war had ended, widows from the Milan Arsenal accidents were left to find jobs, learn to drive or find transportation, find care for their young children, and continue the best they could. Young children of the victims no longer have memories of their fathers or they only remember the tragic accidents and funerals that were quickly held.

May we always remember the sacrifices of the brave men, women, and children who worked on the homefront during World War II.

More details are available on each of the deceased in the July 2015 “Family Findings” quarterly published by Mid-West Tennessee Genealogical Society.

III. Wartime Research and Development

World War II saw a greater than ever emphasis on the importance of technology. All of the countries involved raced to develop superior technology, and the U.S. federal government established several top secret research programs that proved vital in the war, the best known of which was the Los Alamos laboratories. Less well-known was the secret project to develop the new radar technology that was established in the Boston area at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The project was officially known as the Radiation Laboratory in order to keep secret its actual purpose. In 1943 a history program was established to document this project and a young historian named Henry Guerlac was hired to guide it. While many of the laboratory records are highly technical, the records of the history office are more accessible to lay readers and provide an intriguing instance of history being recorded as it happened.

Selected records from the Office of Historian, MIT Radiation Laboratory (Cambridge, Massachusetts), Records of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, Record Group 227, NARA-Northeast Region (Boston):

    , Radiation Lab Associate Director for Personnel, to Henry Guerlac, January 5, 1943 , regarding conversations with different scientists, various dates, 1943-1944 , Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), August 20, 1944 , May 11, 1943. Bainbridge was later at Los Alamos and oversaw preparations for the first nuclear test , 1941 , 1943 , June 6, 1944 , nd in use in Germany, February 1945

Targeting Hollywood and Alger Hiss

The HUAC investigations delved into many areas of American life, but they paid special attention to the motion picture industry, which was believed to harbor a large number of Communists. Not wishing to get on the wrong side of Congress or the movie-going public, most film industry executives did not speak out against the investigations. In addition, many of the major studios imposed a strict blacklist policy against actors, directors, writers and other personnel implicated in Communist activity.

The film industry investigations reached their peak with the events surrounding the Hollywood Ten, a group of writers and directors who were called to testify in October 1947. The all-male group of screenwriters, producers and directors (Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Larson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott and Dalton Trumbo) refused to cooperate with the investigation and used their HUAC appearances to denounce the committee’s tactics. All were cited for contempt of Congress and sentenced to prison terms, in addition to being blacklisted from working in Hollywood.

HUAC also sounded an alarm about Communists infiltrating the federal government. The most infamous case began in August 1948, when a self-confessed former member of the American Communist Party named Whittaker Chambers (1901-61) appeared before the committee. During his dramatic testimony, Chambers accused Alger Hiss (1904-96), a former high-ranking State Department official, of serving as a spy for the Soviet Union. Based on allegations and evidence provided by Chambers, Hiss was found guilty of perjury and served 44 months in prison. He spent the rest of his life proclaiming his innocence and decrying his wrongful prosecution.

Hiss’ conviction bolstered claims that HUAC was performing a valuable service to the nation by uncovering Communist espionage. The suggestion that Communist agents had infiltrated senior levels of the U.S. government also added to the widespread fear that “Reds” (a term derived from the red Soviet flag) posed a serious threat to the nation. HUAC’s work served as a blueprint for the tactics employed by U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s. McCarthy led an aggressive anticommunist campaign of his own that made him a powerful and feared figure in American politics. His reign of terror came to an end in 1954, when the news media revealed his unethical tactics and he was censured by his colleagues in Congress.

By the late 1950s and early 1960s, HUAC’s relevance was in decline, and in 1969, it was renamed the Committee on Internal Security. Although it ceased issuing subpoenas that year, its operations continued until 1975.

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