Thursday, October 1, 2020

Women in World War II

Women have always played a role in history, whether it be at the sidelines or in the forefront. In the period of World War II, women were increasingly beginning to take risks and step out into the public sphere, and women were even joining the military so they could serve their country. World War II historiography often ignores the women who did their part to lead to an American victory; the American public is taught about how women went to work in factories to produce war goods, and are taught very little else about women during this time period. However, women were just as patriotic as men, and many were just as willing to lay down their lives for their country.

World War II began with the German invasion of Poland in 1938; in December 1941 after the bombing of the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the United States would declare war and enter as an ally to Britain and France beginning with fighting in the Pacific. Men were called to fight, and women wanted to join the fray as well, and would enlist in various capacities. The most famous military organization for women to join was the WAAC, the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. As an auxiliary unit, the WAAC served in a variety of positions in order to free up the men for combat; the WAACs served as telephone operators, secretaries clerks, typists, stenographers, cooks, and more . In 1943, according to Elizabeth M. Collins of Soldiers, the magazine of the U.S. Army, the WAAC became the WAC, the Women's Army Corps, and allowed women to become soldiers. The WAAC and the WAC played huge roles in the military, as they allowed women, white and black, to join the military and serve in various capacities. However, also according to Collins, the WACs were not afforded the same benefits as regular soldiers—if they were injured, they would not be given the same care as a soldier; and if they were captured they would not be given the same rights and protections as a captured soldier . In One Woman's Army: A Black Officer Remembers the WAC, by Charity Adams Earley, she wrote about her own experience in the WAAC and then in the WAC in the 1940s. She would become the first African-American commanding officer of a battalion (the 6888th) and the first African-American commanding officer of the WAAC. Although autobiographical, it was important to include this book in the historiography of WWII because it shows the human experience of the war; it also highlights some of what the African-American WAAC recruits experienced and had to deal with in regards to racism and discrimination in the military. Women in the military had to endure sex discrimination as well, as Collins discussed in her article in regards to women being treated differently than the male soldiers if they were injured or captured. These stories help to advance the historiography of women's roles and experiences in World War II. 

In her monograph To Serve My Country, To Serve My Race, Brenda L. Moore tells about the African-American women who served in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II. Specifically, this monograph informs readers about the historic 6888th, which was the first African-American WAC to serve overseas. There were racial issues during the WWII era in the United States, and the U.S. government was pressured by the NAACP and other groups to deploy African-American women overseas to the European theater in 1945 along with their white counterparts; segregation was still prevalent in the U.S. military, so an all-black WAC regiment was created. The women of the 6888th served for many reasons, including patriotism and to challenge the system of racism they found themselves in; like other women who have served in the military in the past, sometimes disguised as men and sometimes not, other reasons for joining the WAAC and WAC included following a husband, brother, or father to war . The women of the 6888th served as postal directories in Birmingham, England, sorting backlogged and current mail to make sure the letters and packages arrived to where they needed to go. This was an important role to fulfill, as the letters and packages were addresses to soldiers, governmental officials, the Red Cross, and others; along with this fact, some of the generals realized the low morale of the troops who were not receiving letters from home due to this backlog and no one to process the mail. It was believed that it would six months or more for the backlogged mail to be sorted and sent where it was intended to go, but the 6888th would accomplish this feat in only three months, clearing over 65,000 pieces of mail every eight-hour shift . Many women in the WAAC and WAC enlisted to better themselves, particularly the women of the 6888th. Brenda L. Moore states that upon being sent back to the United States after the 6888th was no longer needed in Europe that many of the women remained in the active armed services; others immediately became a part of civilian life again; and everyone believed that their service in WWII would lead to such opportunities as education, full-time employment, and health case as a result of defending the U.S. Constitution . The WAC as a whole would be disbanded in 1978 when women in the U.S. Army would be integrated with men in all but the combat positions . 

The works of Charity Adams Earley, Brenda L. Moore, Judith A. Bellafaire, and others help to establish the importance of the WAAC/WAC and the 6888th in American history, and even in world history. Women have had a major impact of World War II, and the works of these women highlight the importance of women in the military at a time when it was sorely needed. Each of these works contributes to the historiography of women's history, gender history, and military history by highlighting the stories of people who are often left behind in the catacombs of the past.

Women in the U.S. military in World War II had more options than becoming a WAAC or WAC, women could also become WASPs. In The U.S. WASP: The Trailblazing Women Pilots of World War II by Lisa M. Bolt Simons, Simons writes about the women pilots during World War II. These women flew military aircrafts in non-combat situations, which freed up male pilots for military service. Although the purpose they served was for a non-combat role, these women played an important role in the ferrying of aircrafts and cargo from base to base, and their job could be dangerous nonetheless. The Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) was founded to free up more men for combat positions, similar to the founding of the WAAC and later the WAC, as well as notable positions in the military. The WASPs ferried airplanes from base to base, dropping off packages and mail, and other tasks that required the use of flight for time constraints. The U.S. military realized that there were not enough men to become pilots as was needed, but two women pilots, named Jackie Cochran and Nancy Harkness Love, knew that women were capable of flying planes just as well as men were and founded the WASPs . In 1941, Jackie Cochran went to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to volunteer her services and to request that female pilots serve in the war effort if the U.S. was to enter the war; Roosevelt loved the idea, but the U.S. military was not ready for it; Cochran also went to General Henry Arnold twice, who told her to ferry planes in Britain, she took his advice and brought 25 women with her . As a result of this small corps of pilots, women pilots would be welcomed into the military; serving in various non-combat air force roles. The WASPs were not treated the same as male military pilots were—there were no benefits of education or employment, and if they were killed while ferrying ships in the U.S. or in Europe, they had to pay to have their bodies returned home which was something the men did not have to do. Simon's work highlights the important role these women played in World War II, and it add to the historiography of women's history and military history because these women were forgotten in history and history needs to know the story of these brave women. 

Women had had a hand in wars in the United States even as the United States was fighting to become its own nation, separated from English rule. Women played roles in the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World War I, so women playing roles in World War II should come to no surprise. Women loved their country just as much as men did, and the women of the WAAC and the WAC were all volunteers; they were not drafted into the war effort as many of the men were but were there willing for various reasons. Some women traveled to the European Theater of the war and worked there to fulfill the WAAC and WAC roles previously mentioned, some were sent to the Pacific Theater, and some remained on the home front and served with the National Guard. However, women did more than serve in the WAAC and the WAC. Women also played a role in espionage. 

Espionage played a huge role in World War II, and often women were at the forefront. From code breaking to parachuting into enemy territory and working as a spy, women worked to advance the war effort from behind the scenes. Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy describes the experiences endured by the women codebreakers, cryptographers who intercepted and translated coded messages from the Axis Powers and others who meant to do harm to the Allied Powers. The young women that were sought after to be code breakers were well-educated—usually in their early-20s and graduated from the top colleges in the country; others were school teachers who were well-versed in various subjects; others were very skilled in various secretarial roles; and others were able to speak, read, and write multiple languages—which contributed to why they were chosen to be the code breakers. The code girls were recruited from the "Seven Sisters" colleges  (including Mount Holyoke, Barnard, Smith, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, and Radcliffe), and code breaking would make advancements during this war, as women in the United States and men and women in Europe trained in their colleges on how to intercept and break codes. These advancements that the first group of code girls made in intercepting and breaking the codes used by the Axis Powers. Mundy wrote this book using interviews she was able to get with some of the code breaking women. A good source of information for anyone who wants to learn more about the many roles women played in World War II, it highlights the efforts of women who remained in the home front during the war and what they were able to accomplish. The female code breakers were recruited by government officials in Washington, D.C., and their positions would eventually be traded from the U.S. government as an entity to the various branches of the military. Mundy's work shows how this secret army of women helped to advance the war effort and helped to bring success to the Allied Powers.  

The women code breakers worked behind the scenes, so to speak, to advance the war effort, but other women were not happy to work behind the scenes and became spies. In American Women Spies of World War II by Simone Payment, she describes the lives of several American women who became spies for the Allied Powers. The U.S. did not initially want to establish a spy network, trusting in its allies to pass along any information that was necessary to share, but with the intricacies and imperativeness of the war, the U.S. found it was necessary to establish a spy network during World War II, and would establish the Office of Strategic Services in 1942 . Payment writes about the women of the OSS, some are well-known even by today's standards, and some have been previously unknown but their stories were found by digging in archives and special documents. Some of these women include: Virginia Hall, Claire Phillips, Aline Griffith, Elizabeth "Betty" Pack, Josephine Baker, and Mary Bancroft. Of these women, two are amongst the well-known, and they are Virginia Hall and Josephine Baker. Virginia Hall was known as the "Limping Lady" because she had an artificial leg. She had lived in Europe after attending college, where she studied French, German, and Italian, and operated behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied France, after being recruited by the British SOE (their equivalent of the OSS) as an agent where she went undercover as a reporter for the New York Post . With this guise, she was able to spy on the German's activities and was able to pass along German movements and coordinate parachute drops. Josephine Baker was a famous dancer and singer in the 1920s and 1930s, and she would eventually move to France to perform; in France, she would become a member of a French resistance movement against the Nazi occupation where she would go so far as to hide messages in invisible ink on her sheet music. Both of these women, according to Payment and other historians, risked their lives to aid in the Allied war effort.

Women in World War were WACs, WASPs, and spies, but they still did more to advance the war effort by working on the Manhattan Project. The Manhattan Project was scientific research and development with the end goa to produce the first atomic bomb. In her book The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, Denise Kiernan wrote about the women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee who were enriching uranium for the nuclear bomb, but their job was so secretive that even they did not fully know what they were doing. Oak Ridge was a town created in 1942, it did not appear on any maps until after World War II had ended, there were about 75,000 residents in the town, and it used more electricity than New York City. All around the town were signs with a patriotic image and a message reminding those who resided in the town to not speak about the work they were doing; signs like these were typical of the war period on the home front, appearing in towns and cities all around the United States. Denise Kiernan interviewed ten women who worked at Oak Ridge during World War II and conducted extensive research to be able to tell about the women with secret jobs in a secret town. In Oak Ridge, the men and women there felt like they were doing their part to bring the war to the end; the scientists and engineers directly involved with the Manhattan Project knew the work they were doing would bring the war to an abrupt end, but the women who left everything they had known to come to Oak Ridge took various positions in order to advance the war effort and their own careers in the fields they had studied for. The women of Oak Ridge, according to the overall point of Kiernan's book, worked for a variety of positions for the combined efforts of the government and the military in relation to the top-secret Manhattan Project—they worked as janitors, pipe inspectors, secretaries and stenographers, transcriptionists, statisticians, mathematicians, chemists, and physicists all under lead scientists who would eventually invent, test, and deploy the two atomic bombs that would bring the Second World War to its end—the Gadget and Little Boy. Denise Kiernan, in partnership with Simon & Schuster, the publishing company for The Girls of Atomic City, made a video on YouTube where she talked about some of the details that both were and were not mentioned in her book; one point she drives home throughout the book is how secretive the work being done in Oak Ridge was, stating numerous times that the women involved knew what their jobs were but did not know what the over-encompassing project was. Denise Kiernan writes about several women throughout her book and their experiences with how secretive the project was. One such woman was Celia Szapka, who was a secretary for the Manhattan Project first in Manhattan and then in Oak Ridge. Readers are introduced to Celia as she's on a train on her way to Tennessee. As she looks out her window, she has one question: "Where was she going? Already many hours long, Celia's trip felt more endless because her final stop remained a mystery" . For the women like Celia, the project was so secret they did not even know they were going to a new town that would be given the name of Oak Ridge. Originally from Shenandoah in Pennsylvania, Celia was described by Kiernan as someone who was always up for an adventure, and her trip to Oak Ridge was not the first trip she made for a job where she was unsure of exactly what she would be doing. Celia left Pennsylvania for work in Manhattan as a secretary before taking the job in Oak Ridge. One quote that sticks out the most in regards to Celia's introduction in the book is, "She quickly learned that all the women on the train had been told that their new jobs served one purpose only: to bring a speedy and victorious end to the war. That was enough for her" . For some of the women who were making their way to Oak Ridge, they were unconcerned with what they would be doing despite having questions about where they were going; they knew that their work would benefit the U.S. war effort, that their work would bring an end to the war, and knowing that was enough for them. However, in the aforementioned video, Kiernan states that the people of Oak Ridge did not learn the true nature of the project until August 6, 1945 after the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan . It was then that the women realized that they were enriching uranium and that they learned the purpose of what they had been doing. Despite the devastation the bombings of Japan wrought, the women, the people of Oak Ridge, did their part to bring an end to the war.

Finally, servicewomen served the war effort as battlefield nurses. In And if I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in World War II by Evalyn Monahan and Rosemary Niedel-Greenlee, the authors describe the lives of the women U.S. Army nurses during World War II. These women voluntarily left their homes and left their colleges to serve as battlefield nurses; they served in Africa, Italy, France, and other war-torn areas where they were needed. Monahan and Neidel-Greenlee rely on interviews with veteran battlefield nurses in order to gain knowledge of their experiences during World War II, and there are bits and pieces of letters throughout the book from these women to various family members. Many of the nurses were young--in their late teens and early 20's, so their wartime experiences were some of their first experiences away from home. One such woman the authors write about is First Lieutenant Frances Nash, who was stationed in the Philippines. "When Nash and other army nurses arrived in Manila harbor in 1940, they looked more like debutantes than military nurses. They left the ship in chiffon dresses accessorized with matching or complimentary high heels, white gloves, and large-brimmed picture hats. Their trunks were free of khaki, since there was no military uniform for the military nurses of the day. Instead, they were packed tight with floor-length evening gowns, fashionable dresses for dinners and cocktail parties, as well as a range of outfits suitable for a variety of social occasions" . The women believed that the impending war would be swift, and they would see hardly any action. However, three hours after the bombings of Pearl Harbor, Japan attacked various army bases in the Philippines as well. As the military hospitals were close to the military bases where the Japanese were air striking, the army nurses were the first to arrive on the scenes, having run from the hospitals to the bases to perform their duty . On December 24, 1941, the nurses were being evacuated from Manila to Bataan; Nash was told by her commanding officer that she would be left behind with several others and would be evacuated at a later time, and to prepare to be captured if the Japanese moved on Manila quicker than the U.S. anticipated; while she remained in her military hospital, Nash destroyed papers she believed the Japanese would find valuable, until she and the others left behind were ordered to evacuate to Bataan as well . Monahan and Greenlee describe hospitals being attacked by Japanese air raids; they describe the nurses being sent wherever they were needed--be it Africa, Italy, or even the beaches of Normandy. Throughout their book, through reading about the women who served as army nurses and readings bits and pieces of their letters to hoe, the reader gets a sense of just how important these women were to the war effort. They worked to bandage up the wounded soldiers, they assisted the surgeons in the operating rooms, they ran onto the battlefields to collect the dead and dying and do what they could. These women risked their lives just the same as the men did, and did so knowing their families would not be awarded the same benefits for their deaths as the families of a male doctor or soldier would. 
  
The women of World War II, in particular the women who wanted to serve their country so much they joined the military or worked for governmental or military projects, were a special breed of women who are often left out of the narrative when it comes to the history of World War II; however, these were women who dedicated their lives to the war effort, and to try to ensure that the United States would be successful.

These historians and others who works are mentioned throughout this piece all worked to advance the historiography of women's history and military history by sharing the stories of the women who aided the American war effort in World War II. Although some of these sources were autobiographical, adding these sources into this paper was necessary because they also played a role in adding to this historiography of women's history and military history. History often forgets the women, and although General Henry Arnold promised once the WASPs were disbanded that the government (and history) would not forget them, the collective psyche of those who created U.S. and world history texts did forget about those women. All of the historians and the autobiographies utilized in this piece had played a role in advancing the historiography of World War II as a whole.




Bibliography

Collins, Elizabeth M. "20 Facts About the Women's Army Corps", http://soldiers.dodlive.mil/2016/05/20-facts-about-the-womens-army-corps/, accessed October 20, 2017.
Earley, Charity Adams. One Women's Army: A Black Officer Remembers the WAC (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1995).
Fargey, Kathleen. "6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion", (Center of Military History, 2014), https://history.army.mil/html/topics/afam/6888thPBn/index.html, accessed October 21, 2017.
Moore, Brenda L. To Serve My Country, to Serve My Race. New York: New York University, 1996.
Simons, Lisa M. Bolt. The U.S. WASP: The Trailblazing Women Pilots of World War II. North Mankato, MN: Capstone Press, 2017.
Liza Mundy, Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II (New York: Hatchett Book Group, 2017.
Payment, Simone. American Women Spies of World War II. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 2004.
Kiernan, Denise. "History in Five: The Manhattan Project's Secret City", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSf3GOMziOg, accessed November 1, 2017.
Monahan, Evalyn and Niedel-Greenlee, Rosemary. And If I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in World War II. New York: Anchor Books, 2007.


 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Shopping Mall Fallout

The Second World War affected life on the American home front in a multitude of ways. One such way World War II changed life on the home front was the creation of nuclear weapons and the fear they caused. In August 1945, the United States deployed two nuclear bombs on Japan, one on Hiroshima and one on Nagasaki. In 1949, the Soviet Union would test its first successful nuclear bomb. The U.S. and the Soviet Union were tentative allies in World War II, not really trusting one another; the U.S. was manufacturing nuclear weapons in the Manhattan Project but did not tell the Soviet Union what it was up to, so the Soviet Union used spies to infiltrate the Project and to alert Soviet scientists as to what the U.S. was doing. With the knowledge of nuclear weapons held by both superpowers, both began to build up their arsenals, and an arms race emerged in the post-war years, becoming a major aspect of the Cold War, which began almost as soon as World War II ended, with the dawn of the nuclear age. A result of the creation of the nuclear weapons, as well as the growing suburban way of life and disposable income for families, came something that Americans would take for granted, and is now slowly going by the wayside—the American shopping mall. Yes, the American shopping mall was a post-war creation, and one that would change American society and the post-war home front.

After the successful launch of the Soviet nuclear bomb, Americans sought ways to protect themselves and their families, and turned to bomb shelters; some of these bomb shelters were underground, similar to steel-and-concrete reinforced foxholes, while others were inconspicuous public places such as schools and hospitals. As America was growing increasingly prosperous with its new status as a major industrialized complex and a global superpower, families experienced an increase in disposable income. This meant that more people would be shopping for pleasure rather than necessity.

The first shopping mall in America was designed by Victor Gruen, who had immigrated to the United States from Austria in 1938 to escape Nazi persecution. He was an architect and would design many small shops and boutiques in the U.S.; he would also design the first shopping mall and it would opened in Edina, Minnesota in 1956, and the mall, the Southdale Mall, would be commissioned by the Dayton family, the owners of Target. Gruen's shopping malls were designed to be self-contained downtown centers where any Americans could spend their leisure time, but with the devastation that nuclear weapons were capable of during World War II, and the Cold War being in full-swing at the time he was designing the first mall and several others to come, Gruen also wanted shopping malls to act as nuclear fallout shelters. Obtaining advice from numerous civil defense contractors, the Southdale Mall, and the others Gruen would design, would have features similar to shopping malls we see today—food courts, ample water fountains and restroom access, locking gates on store entrances, stores facing one another, numerous entrances and exits and even "hidden" hallways and access points, a central arboretum with real plants, at least two anchor stores, and other features. However, the most important feature in nearly all shopping malls in the U.S. as a result of World War II, which is still a major feature today, is where the mall is located—ten miles away from the city centers; if a hydrogen bomb were to be dropped on the major cities in any given state, those outside its eight-mile blast radius would survive. Malls tend to be outside the city centers so if a nuclear strike does occur, the people inside the malls at the time would survive the strike. 

The idea of shopping malls operating as nuclear fallout shelters never really became popular, but it is interesting to think about the effects of World War II on our lives even today.

Sources

David Nye, "Shopping malls were created with nuclear war in mind", Business Insider Oct. 30, 2015, http://www.businessinsider.com/shopping-malls-were-created-with-nuclear-war-in-mind-2015-10, accessed November 6, 2017.

Marni Epstein-Mervis, "How the Cold War Shaped the Design of American Malls", Curbed June 11, 2014, https://www.curbed.com/2014/6/11/10090762/how-the-cold-war-shaped-the-design-of-american-malls, accessed November 6, 2017. 

Monday, September 7, 2020

America in World War II, Part Three


Hello readers. We're going to jump right in to this post. 

As we examined in the previous post, it seemed like everyone, young and old alike, in America was mobilized for the Allied war effort creating what FDR called an "arsenal of democracy". Aside from the mobilization of the American homefront, America also mobilized its armed forces and civil defense volunteers. This post will take a look at how the American military mobilized to fight abroad and how civil defense volunteers mobilized to keep the homefront safe in case war reached the American mainland.


Recruitment

A little over a year prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, in September 1940, FDR and Congress for concerned with the growing threat of war. Due to this concern the nation's first peacetime military draft was approved. By December 1941, America's military had grown to nearly 2.2 million soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. 

America's armed forces consisted largely of "citizen soldiers", men and women who had been drawn from civilian life. Many were volunteers rather than draftees, and they came from every state in the nation and from all socioeconomic levels. Although many of these citizen soldiers voluntarily joined the armed forces, about 10 million more would enter the ranks via the draft, with most being drafted into the US Army. 

In 1940, the Selective Training and Service Act was passed, requiring all men ages 18 to 64 to register for the draft. Eventually, 36 million men had registered for the draft.

From the Selective Services pool, individuals were selected for examination by a draft board that would determine if a man was fit to enter military service.

After being chosen by the draft board, potential servicemen reported to induction centers where they went through physical and psychiatric examinations. Upon passing these exams the man was fingerprinted, signed his induction papers, was issued a serial number, and was administered the oath of office. The man was then shipped to a training camp for basic training, more medical examinations, inoculations, and aptitude tests. 


Training and Barracks Life 

Basic training is real boys became men in ordinary civilians became soldiers.

At the training camps new recruits underwent rigorous physical conditioning. They were trained to use and maintain their weapons; they were trained to work as a team; they took examinations to determine their talents and were taught more specialized skills; and those who were moving on to become paratroopers, anti-aircraft teams, desert troops, and other unique units were trained at specialized training camps.

Military life in the 1940s was much like it is today. Upon their arrival at the camps for basic training, recruits were stripped of the freedom and individuality they enjoyed and their civilian lives. Recruits were given identical haircuts, uniforms, and equipment; they were assigned to spartan barracks that afforded no privacy and little room for personal belongings; and their daily lives and vault rigorous physical and combat training, routine inspections, and overall strict military conduct.


Civilian Defense Volunteers

Americans didn't just volunteer get drafted into the war. Many Americans trains to keep the American mainland safe as well.

Civilian defense volunteers, as these individuals were known, trained to defend the nation from enemy bombing and/or invasion. They trained in first aid, aircraft spotting, bomb removal, and firefighting; air raid wardens led practice drills and blackouts; and a total of over 10 million Americans were trained as a civilian defense volunteers.


Americans from all walks of life aided in the military's effort at home and abroad. Next time on the blog, we'll examine the American shopping mall and its role in World War II and beyond. 

Saturday, September 5, 2020

America in World War II, Part Two

Hello readers! I'm getting away from posting about my book for a bit so I can get back to this blog and writing about history. As promised, this post will examine the methods the US took to mobilize for the war effort during World War II. 


After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, public opinion of the US entry into World War II was generally changed. The fear of a possible attack on the American mainland translated to a ready acceptance by a majority of Americans to sacrifice their personal comforts in order to achieve victory. This sacrificing of personal comforts took on many forms. In the spring of 1942, a rationing program was established that set strict limits on the amount of gas, food, and clothing consumers could purchase; families were issued ration stamps that were used to buy their allotment of everything from meat, sugar, fat, butter, vegetables, and fruit to gas, tires, fuel oil, and clothing. The US Office of War Information issued posters in which Americans were urged to "Do with less so they'll have more" ("they" referring to servicemen and women). While this was happening, individuals and communities conducted drives for the collection of scrap metal, aluminum cans, and rubber, all of which were used to produce war goods such as armaments. Individuals also purchased war bonds to help pay for the high cost of involvment in an armed conflict.


The Role of the American Worker

As America geared up for war, the face of the American worker changed. As tens of thousands of men enlisted to fight in the global conflict, women would step up and take their place at the factories.

From the outside of the war, it was clear that huge amounts of airplanes, tanks, warships, rifles, munitions, and other various armaments would be essential to beating the Axis Powers. US workers played a vital role in the production of various war goods, and a vast majority of these workers were women. Women began securing jobs as welders, electricians, and riveters in defense plants; until the US began mobilizing to join world War II these positions had strictly been for men only.

Women defense plant workers soon became part of America's iconography. In 1942 a Pittsburgh artist named J. Howard Miller created the famous Rosie the Riveter "We Can Do It!" poster. That image was popularized further by artist Norman Rockwell on a May 29, 1943 issue of the Saturday Morning Post. 

There's much more to be said about these workers and their continued iconography in American pop culture. American women entered the workforce in unprecedented numbers during the World War II era. Between 1940 and 1945, the female percentage of the US workforce increased from 27% to nearly 37%; and by 1945, nearly one out of four married women were working outside the home. More than 310,000 women worked in the US aircraft industry in 1943, making up 65% of the industry's total workforce; the munitions industry also recruited women workers. During the war years, the decrease in the availability of men in the workforce also led to an uptick in the number of women holding non-war related factory jobs; by the mid-1940s the percentage of women in the US workforce increased from 25% to 36%. However, despite how crucial these women workers were to the war effort, their take-home earnings were about 50% less than the earnings of their male counterparts. 


America's Favorite Past Time

America's favorite pastime, baseball, was affected by the war. In January 1942, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the national commissioner of baseball at the time, wrote a letter to FDR asking if professional baseball shut down for the duration of the war; FDR responded that baseball was good for American morale and at the sport should continue operations as it would provide a much-needed diversion.

During the war, 95% of all professional baseball players who donned major league uniforms in 1941 were directly involved in the war. Future Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, along with others, traded their baseball jerseys from military fatigues.

With so many male athletes going off to war, baseball belong to the girls in the early- to mid- 1940s as the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, or AAGPBL, was established. One of my favorite movies (of an admittedly large collection of favorite movies) is "A League of Their Own" which depicts some of the teams and women of the AAGPBL; the two main teams depicted in "A League of Their Own", the Rockford Peaches and the Racine Belles, were real teams. 

The AAGPBL was in league from 1943 to 1954 and consisted of ten teams and boasted a fanbase of nearly one million people. the aagpbl was founded by Philip Wrigley, the owner of the Chicago Cubs and the Wrigley Company.


Arts and Entertainment

Baseball wasn't the only cultural shift in America because of the war. 

Like professional baseball players actors and musicians directly join the war effort as well. For example, Clark Gable, who played Rhett Butler in "Gone with the Wind", served as a tail-gunner in the US Army Air Corps and flew combat missions over Germany.

Radio programming was tantamount during this time as a radio allowed for frontline reports from the war. Radio also allowed an escape via radio shows such as "The Green Hornet ", "The Lone Ranger", and others as well as brought music from popular big bands such as the famed Glenn Miller Band to listeners' homes. 

Moviegoing was still very popular during this time as well. Prior to the showings of each film, moviegoers watcged newsreel footage of the Allied war effort. Beloved cartoon characters Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck were featured making fun of America's enemies; Superman fought Hitler and the Nazis; and Private SNAFU reminded the public that "loose lips sinks ships". 

Music of the era was often upbeat and entertaining but usually had themes of war, such as the song "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" made famous by The Andrews Sisters.


Rationing and Recycling

Although touched upon very briefly previously, let's further examine the rationing and recycling efforts made on the American homefront. Along with the phrase "do with less so they'll have more", another well-known phrase from this era was "make it do or do without". Both phrases stressed the importance of how the average American could help the war effort.

War production created massive shortages of critical supplies such as various metals. Americans participated in scrap drives in recycled aluminum for the war effort. The US Mint assisted in the efforts as well; millions of miles of copper wiring and nickel were needed to communicate on the battlefield so the US Mint began to make pennies and nickels out of steel. 

Rationing became normal for the American household. Things like meat, coffee, and sugar were needed for soldiers K rations; sugar cane was also needed to produce gunpowder, dynamite, and other chemical products. Waste fat was also collected and rationed; a key ingredient needed to make the explosives for ammunition was glycerin, which could be collected from household waste fats. 

As many food items were being rationed to use for the war effort, many Americans began to grow their own food in "Victory Gardens". Millions of Victory Gardens appeared across the country with Americans producing over one billion tons of food. 


America's mobilization effort was astonishing; everyone played a role to ensure the Allied war effort was a successful one. 

Next time, we'll examine how the American soldiers and civil defense volunteers trained for war abroad and to keep those on the American mainland safe at home. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Another Book Review

Hello readers. I was informed about a second review of my upcoming book. It's linked here: https://www.lakegeorgeexaminer.com/revolution-in-the-adirondacks-review/

Book Review

Hello readers. With only one week left until my book with Arcadia Publishing and The History Press launches, I thought I would share the first review the book had received. This review was written by Patrick Lacroix, PhD, an instructor at Acadia University in Nova Scotia. 

For those interested in getting a copy of my book themselves, pre-order information is in the previous blog post.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 3, 2020

Interview and Preorder Info!!

Hello everyone! Today, my author interview aired on "Author Conversations", the podcast for Arcadia Publishing and The History Press. 


The book is available for preorder on the Arcadia Publishing website. You can preorder the book here: https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781467142618


I'm so excited to be an author for Arcadia Publishing and The History Press. I grew up reading books published by this company, and now I'm among its ranks. 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

America in World War II, Part One

Hello readers! It's been a while since I wrote a real blog post, rather than information about my upcoming book and the recent interview I had regarding its release. 

 We left off with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Americans to bring World War II to an end in the Pacific (by that point, Germany and Italy had already surrendered). This post will be the first in a series of the role the United States played in World War II. There's going to be a lot to unpack over the next several posts, so let's just jump right in! 


Neutrality and Isolationism 

When the events that would lead to World War II began in Europe, many Americans took a hard stance against getting involved. With the extreme loss of life and swift economic downturn brought about by the end of the Great War (and other factors, as discussed in previous posts), the US wanted to remain neutral and isolate itself from the events that were unfolding in Europe. The US would pass a series of Neutrality Acts between 1935-1937. 

The series of neutrailty acts created an embargo on all war item shipments, stated that US citizens were not allowed to travel on ships going to or from beligerent countries, and that those who were from beligerent countries were not allowed to take out loans in the US. The 


Changing of American Attitudes 

While the world was plunged in to chaos and war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to help the Allied forces of Britain and France. At the time, with American opinion on the war still being that they should remain neutral and isolated, the only concession the executive and legistlative branches made were in the establishment of the Lend-Lease Act. 

Prior to FDR's signing of the Lend-Lease Act, there were two laws in effect that would have prevented the US from aiding the Allies. The Neutrality Act of 1939 allowed beligerents to purchase war materials from the US but only on a "cash and carry" basis, meaning beligerents could purchase war materials from the US as long as they paid immediately in cash and had arranged for their own ships to transport the materials. The Johnson Act of 1934 was another act meant to keep the US neutral and isolated at a time of war; it prohibited the extension of credit to countries that hadn't repaid US loans made to them during World War I. 

The American military opposed the division of war materials and supplies to the Allied forces. The Army's Chief of Staff at the time, General George C. Marshall, anticipated the possibility that Britain would surrender once France fell and that American supplies would end up in German possession. General Marshall and others believed that US national security would be better served by utilizing American supplies for the defense of the Western hemisphere. 

On September 2, 1940, FDR signed a "destroyers for bases" agreement; the US gave Britain more than 50 obsolete destroyers in exchange for 99-year long leases on territory in Newfoundland and the Caribbean to be used as US air and naval bases. FDR came to this agreement to assuage the concerns of his generals and of the public.

In December 1940, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill told FDR that Britain would no longer be able to pay forrials. As a response, FDR signed the Lend-Lease Act which allowed for the US to "lend" Britian war materials while deferring payment. The US knew that it couldn't expect to receive payment from a virtually bankrupt country; instead, the US would receive payment in the form of a "consideration". This "consideration" would primarily consist of a joint action directed towards the creation of a liberalized economic order in the post-war era.

Over the course of the war, the US would sign lend-lease agreements with more than 30 countries. The Lend-Lease Act served its purpose of allowing the US to indirectly enter the war against the Axis forces until the American public were ready to enter the war themselves. 


Pearl Harbor 

Although the US began involving itself in the war on the side of the Allies in 1940, the US would not physically involve themselves in the war until after December 1941, which was marked by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In July 1939, FDR announced that the US would no longer be supplying Japan with gasoline, iron, and other trade items that had a potential to be used in its war against China. 

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the Pearl Harbor naval base on Honolulu, Hawaii. America would declare war on Japan; shortly after, Germany would declare war on the US, forcing the US into a two front war, fighting in Europe and in the Pacific. 



Now that we know why the US entered the war, the next post will examine how the US mobilized for the war effort.

Women in World War II

Women have always played a role in history, whether it be at the sidelines or in the forefront. In the period of World War II, women were in...