The Price of Freedom: Americans at War Home Collection Search

World War II

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Mobilizing for War

“We are all in it—all the way,” President Franklin Roosevelt told Americans during a radio broadcast two days after the United States entered the war. “Every single man, woman and child is a partner in the most tremendous undertaking of our American history.” Sixteen million donned uniforms. The millions more who stayed home were a vast civilian army, mobilized by the government to finance the war effort, conserve natural resources, and produce a continuous flow of war material.

When the United States entered the war in 1941, American defense industries were already churning out planes and ships, trucks and tanks, guns and shells, and supplies and equipment. Tons of goods were being shipped to Britain and other nations battling Axis advances. As America joined the fight and battlefronts multiplied around the globe, demands on war production skyrocketed. Civilian industries retooled, making tanks instead of cars, parachutes instead of stockings, even machine guns instead of Kleenex®. And as men went off to war, six million women took their places on factory floors and assembly lines.

The sheer mass—and seemingly endless supply—of American-produced war matériel would overwhelm the Axis enemies.

324,000 aircraft
88,000 tanks
8,800 warships
5,600 merchant ships
224,000 pieces of artillery
2,382,000 trucks
79,000 landing craft
2,600,000 machine guns
15,000,000 guns
20,800,000 helmets
41,000,000,000 rounds of ammunition

Data from The Oxford Companion to World War II (1995) and The World War II Databook (1993)


Exhibition Graphics

Aircraft production line

Aircraft production line

Women workers riveting a section of a B-17 bomber

Women workers riveting a section of a B-17 bomber

Launching a submarine

Launching a submarine

Welder

Welder

Shipyard worker Augusta Clawson, 1944

Shipyard worker Augusta Clawson, 1944

Woman worker checks bomb cases

Woman worker checks bomb cases


Related Artifacts

Women’s Coveralls
Rivet Hammer
“War Workers” Foot Care Kit
Welding Mask
Civilian Lunchbox
Identification Pin

Dressing for War

War production devoured cotton, silk, nylon, wool, leather, and rubber and little was left for civilian clothes or shoes. Regulation L-85, issued by the War Production Board in 1942, rationed natural fibers and forbade drastic style changes that might tempt buyers. It limited color choices and restricted the length of skirts and the fullness of pants and jackets; even cuffs were banned. Manufacturers substituted synthetics for some fabrics, but stopped making nylon stockings altogether in order to make parachutes. And they had to abandon rubber-based stretch fabrics and elastics in women’s foundation garments.


Exhibition Graphics

Clothing regulations from Women’s Wear Daily, 1942

Clothing regulations from Women’s Wear Daily, 1942

Advertisement from Vogue, 1942

Advertisement from Vogue, 1942

Advertisement for rayon hosiery

Advertisement for rayon hosiery

Advertisement for brassieres

Advertisement for brassieres


Related Artifacts

Rayon Victory Slip
Rayon Stockings
Woman’s Brassiere

“So They’ll Have Enough”

As natural resources, even agricultural outputs, were diverted to support the troops, Americans faced shortages and rationing. In 1942, the U.S. government began rationing gasoline and sugar. The next year, fresh meat, butter, cheese, and canned goods were rationed as well. Every month, households received a limited number of ration stamps with point values for fresh and canned foods. Stamps had to be redeemed with each food purchase. Shoppers could exchange meat drippings and bacon fat—used for explosives—for extra points. Even with rationing, foods were in short supply. Many families tended backyard “victory gardens,” canned their own vegetables, or substituted ingredients in favorite recipes.


Exhibition Graphics

Poster, When You Ride Alone You Ride with Hitler!

Poster, When You Ride Alone You Ride with Hitler!

Poster, Use It Up—Wear It Out—Make It Do!

Poster, Use It Up—Wear It Out—Make It Do!

Service station on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, September 1942

Service station on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, September 1942

Meat-counter display with ceiling prices (highest allowable charges) and ration point values

Meat-counter display with ceiling prices (highest allowable charges) and ration point values

Jars of preserved fruits and vegetables

Jars of preserved fruits and vegetables

Victory garden poster

Victory garden poster

Poster, Grow Your Own Can Your Own

Poster, Grow Your Own Can Your Own


Related Artifacts

'Do With Less So They’ll Have Enough' Poster
Gasoline Ration Stickers
Food Ration Stamps
Coupon Cookery
Hills Brothers Coffee Jar

A Kid’s War

The war was unavoidable for kids. Many of their favorite characters from the funny pages and comic books went to war. Superman—classified 4-F when his X-ray vision skewed a preinduction eye test—encouraged them to use their pennies for victory bonds. Saturday afternoon movies and newsreels, even trading cards, tracked the war’s progress. Toys and games enabled them to play make-believe combat, but with wooden guns and paper soldiers because metal was needed for war production. And government campaigns encouraged youngsters to assist in scrap drives and civil defense efforts.


Exhibition Graphics

Leland Jackson in his bombardier suit

Leland Jackson in his bombardier suit

Children with newspapers

Children with newspapers

Italian-American children buying stamps and bonds at public school

Italian-American children buying stamps and bonds at public school

Toy tank

Toy tank


Related Artifacts

Boy’s Army Uniform
Daisy Pop Gun
Junior Commander Combat Set
Stamp Book
Superman Trading Cards
Trading Cards

Hollywood Goes to War

Early in 1942, Hollywood released its first patriotism-building, morale-boosting movies. Produced in close collaboration with the U.S. Office of War Information, the films pitted heroic Americans against villainous Nazis and fanatical Japanese, and depicted a home front united for victory. Screen stars like Clark Gable joined the armed forces. Many others served in special movie units as the hosts of training films. And Hollywood’s top directors made motivational pictures for troops. Meanwhile, movie stars like Betty Grable posed for pinups and promoted war bonds and scrap drives.


Exhibition Graphics

Clark Gable

Clark Gable

Poster, Combat America, 1944

Poster, Combat America, 1944


Related Artifacts

'Star Spangled Rhythm' Lobby Card
'Bombardier' Movie Poster
“Mr Winkle Goes to War” Poster
Clark Gable's Uniform Coat and Cap

American Internment Camps

Fearful of threats to homeland security, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. His order authorized the removal of “any or all persons” from areas of the country deemed vulnerable to attack or sabotage. Nearly 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans—two-thirds of them U.S. citizens—were forced from their businesses and homes. Most had only several days’ notice before they were relocated. They were held in internment camps in isolated locations for up to four years. Approximately 11,000 German nationals and 1,600 Italian nationals were arrested, with many interned.


Exhibition Graphics

Japanese American grocery store in Oakland, California. Thousands of Japanese and Japanese Americans in California were forced to sell their homes and businesses quickly—at an enormous loss

Japanese American grocery store in Oakland, California. Thousands of Japanese and Japanese Americans in California were forced to sell their homes and businesses quickly—at an enormous loss

Grandfather and his grandchildren, tagged with their family identification number, await transportation to an assembly center.

Grandfather and his grandchildren, tagged with their family identification number, await transportation to an assembly center.

Trucks carry Japanese Americans to an assembly center at Arcadia, California

Trucks carry Japanese Americans to an assembly center at Arcadia, California

Heart Mountain internment camp, Wyoming

Heart Mountain internment camp, Wyoming

Internees pass the time in an art class

Internees pass the time in an art class


A Star in the Window

Reviving a practice started during World War I, millions of U.S. families—one in five—displayed blue-star flags in the front windows of their homes. Each star proclaimed a son or daughter in military service. Many families displayed more than one flag or a flag with multiple stars. Each star symbolized a family’s love, pride, worry, and hope. If a loved one was killed, a gold star covered or took the place of the blue one, making known an individual’s sacrifice and a family’s loss. Service flags reminded passersby of the enormity and human cost of the war effort.


Exhibition Graphics

Blue Star mother

Blue Star mother

“My Star Has Changed to Gold”

“My Star Has Changed to Gold”


Related Artifacts

Man-In-Service Flag
Man-In-Service Flag
Man-In-Service Flag
Man-In-Service Flag
Gold Star Pin


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