The Price of Freedom: Americans at War Home Collection Search

World War II

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So Others Might Fight

Mechanics

The most vital weapon employed during the war was often a wrench wielded by the soldiers who served as mechanics. An “ambidextrous corps of worker-fighters,” these men and women did whatever was necessary to maintain and repair vehicles and weapons systems. “Without them,” noted National Geographic in 1942, “not a wheel could turn . . . not a tank could run or a plane fly.” Mechanics were vital to naval operations as well.


Exhibition Graphics

Ordnance mechanics in New Guinea

Ordnance mechanics in New Guinea

Loading ammunition

Loading ammunition

Servicing trucks

Servicing trucks

Repairing a halftrack

Repairing a halftrack

African American mechanics

African American mechanics


Related Artifacts

“Take Your Place in the Ranks” Poster
Herringbone Twill Coveralls

Nurses

About 65,000 nurses served in the army and navy, and most were women. Hundreds worked just behind the front lines, contending with the perils of combat as well as its bloody results. Thousands more worked farther along the “chain of evacuation” on hospital trains and ships, aboard medical transport planes, and in station hospitals abroad and stateside. One nurse recalled “hours of giving injections, anesthetizing, ripping off clothes, stitching gaping wounds, of amputations, sterilizing instruments, settling the treated patients into their beds, covering the wounded we could not save.”


Exhibition Graphics

Poster, Nurses Are Needed Now!

Poster, Nurses Are Needed Now!

U.S. Navy nurse on Iwo Jima

U.S. Navy nurse on Iwo Jima

U.S. Army nurses

U.S. Army nurses

Evacuation hospital nurse, Philippines

Evacuation hospital nurse, Philippines


Related Artifacts

Navy Nurse Uniform Jacket
Army Nurse Corps Cap

Chaplains

Nearly 9,000 Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish army chaplains served during the war; hundreds more served in the navy. Although unarmed, many accompanied troops into combat. They were required to give regular “character guidance” and venereal disease lectures, but in religious services and personal conferences, they offered spiritual and moral support for scared, battle-weary soldiers. Chaplains rescued the wounded and attended the dying. They conducted services for the dead, assisted with registration of graves, and wrote letters of condolence to bereaved families.


Exhibition Graphics

Chaplain’s jeep

Chaplain’s jeep

Chaplain with soldier

Chaplain with soldier

Jewish services

Jewish services

Burial at sea

Burial at sea


Related Artifacts

Chaplain’s Chalice
Jewish Prayer Book
Song and Service Book for Ship and Field, Army and Navy

Red Cross Workers

Red Cross volunteers and staff offered a “friendly hand” to America’s fighting men and women abroad. Its camp service branch provided counseling, family information, even financial assistance. Its service clubs—often in makeshift quarters—offered recreation and meals, barbershops, and laundries. “Clubmobiles” brought coffee and doughnuts to troops in the field. Red Cross social workers and nurses served in military hospitals. Blood banks collected and distributed 13.4 million pints of blood during the war. Other workers coordinated relief programs for Allied POWs and civilian war refugees.


Exhibition Graphics

Red Cross poster, 1943

Red Cross poster, 1943

Blood drive poster

Blood drive poster

Red Cross workers in Germany distribute donuts

Red Cross workers in Germany distribute donuts

Volunteers packing food kits for American POWs

Volunteers packing food kits for American POWs

Gift boxes bound for U.S. troops in the Philippines

Gift boxes bound for U.S. troops in the Philippines


Related Artifacts

American Red Cross Uniform
American Red Cross Prisoner of War Food Package No. 10

Drivers and Flyers

U.S. military services operated a transportation network within the United States, across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and within war zones. Trains, ships, and aircraft—many flown by Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs)—provided essential connections. Trucks and their often weary, bone-rattled drivers were the last links in the logistical chain. Nearly 6,000 trucks, with mostly African American drivers, supported the Allied advance toward Paris in the summer and autumn of 1944. In an operation dubbed the Red Ball Express, they transported almost 500,000 tons of supplies in three months.


Exhibition Graphics

The Red Ball Highway in France, 1944

The Red Ball Highway in France, 1944

U.S. Army transport trucks

U.S. Army transport trucks

Loading a transport truck

Loading a transport truck

WASPs

WASPs

WASPs in training

WASPs in training


Related Artifacts

'They Look to Us for Supplies' Poster
Yank Magazine
Red Ball Express Patch
Women’s Pilot Training Patch
WASP Uniform Jacket

Instructors

Thousands of military personnel worked stateside as instructors. Many were the barking drill instructors central to basic training. Many more were chalk-toting lecturers who conducted classroom sessions or hands-on workshops. The U.S. military developed training programs and ready-reference field and technical manuals for hundreds of topics, from the operation of weapon systems to weather forecasting.


Exhibition Graphics

Training WACs

Training WACs

Training  marksmen

Training marksmen

African American drill instructor

African American drill instructor

U.S. Navy personnel in class

U.S. Navy personnel in class


Related Artifacts

Eisenhower Jacket
'Link Trainer' Picture Postcard

Clerks and Typists

Thousands of soldiers were assigned to secretarial and clerical support positions stateside and in combat theaters. They answered phones, operated switchboards, took dictation, typed correspondence and reports, and filed carbon copies in the burgeoning military bureaucracy. After 1942, most were women who had been recruited to “free a man to fight.” They served in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC)—later the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), the navy WAVES and coast guard SPARS, and the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve.


Exhibition Graphics

Clerks

Clerks

Clerks

Clerks

Clerks

Clerks


Related Artifacts

“Calling WAAC. . .” Poster
WAAC Handbook
WAAC Officer’s Cap
Typewriter
Summer WAC Jacket


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