Home Front During WWII America Essay

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World War II Home Front

The Home Front

World War II was a conflict which raged across the planet, from Europe to the Pacific, and everywhere in between. Battles were fought in thousands of places that no one had ever heard of, and many Americans died in places they did not even know existed. While there were many battle fronts, one of the least remembered but most important fronts was at home. While American soldiers fought across the globe, American society was working diligently to support those soldiers. The government took on greater importance than ever before and instituted new programs and projects that were meant to help win the war. While many of the things done by the government may not have been moral, or even legal, the urgency of winning the war became paramount. With the very existence of the United States at stake, the government instituted a number of radical plans including rationing, propaganda, and even the internment of Japanese-Americans in camps. In short, the entrance of the United States into the war precipitated a number of changes in American society.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Essay on Home Front During WWII America Assignment

Because the majority of available resources were needed to fight the war, and voluntary rationing was not effective, in 1942 the government instituted a program of enforced rationing. Most items used by ordinary Americans were in short supply and rationing was an organized way to provide whatever resources were available for public consumption. As stated in the wartime Sears and Roebuck catalogue, the reason farm equipment was being rationed was because "75% of this year's steel production is being used for war needs. Of the remaining 25% only a small portion can go into the manufacture of farm equipment." ("Sears Roebuck") The government instituted a number of different types of rationing, for instance, "Uniform Coupon Rationing" allowed an equal, but controlled amount of a product to all consumers. One example of a product which was rationed by the use of Uniform Coupon Rationing was sugar, each American was allowed to purchase the same, limited amount of sugar over a given time period. Another type of rationing was called "Point Rationing," and "provided equivalent shares of commodities by coupons issued for points which could be spent on any combination of items in the group." ("World War II Rationing on the U.S. Homefront.")

Other items were rationed according to need, for example, the amount of gasoline a person could purchase was dependent upon the varying need of various people. This type of rationing was termed "Differential Coupon Rationing." Finally, "Certificate Rationing" was the rationing of vital materials for the war effort, such as tires, cars, etc., and only allowed individuals who, after applying to the government, could demonstrate a critical need for such items; otherwise they were not available. When items were rationed, this required the use of different coupons, or stamps, for different items. Sugar was regulated through the use of "sugar buying cards," while meats, fat, oils, butter, and cheese were rationed using the "Red Stamp." "Blue Stamps" "covered canned, bottled, frozen fruits and vegetables, plus juices and dry beans, and such processed food as soups, baby food and ketchup." ("World War II Rationing.") The stamps used in rationing became a type of wartime currency with a "War Ration Book" issued to each family and the stamps themselves indicated when and how much of a particular item a person could obtain.

It was considered important to maintain the public's morale during the war in order to ensure maximum productivity and individual commitment to the war effort. It came under the auspices of the newly formed Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to, not only to gather and analyze intelligence, but to also conduct psychological warfare. As part of the psychological warfare effort, propaganda and information control became major parts of the duties of the OSS. Like today, during the war, Americans were bombarded with media, albeit a somewhat different media. From these various forms of media, many slogans and catch phrases appeared in American society. And while words were a potent weapon in the use of propaganda, images had even more power. Wartime posters urging Americans to work harder, save more, and help win the war were hung in "every subway station, train station, bus stop, on every billboard and street corner in every city, [as well as] every magazine and newspaper. (Navarro)

But it was the media of radio and motion pictures which were the most effective means of propaganda for the United States during the war. Hollywood director Frank Capra won an Academy Award in 1942 for his documentary entitled "Why We Fight;" and this was just the first in a series of documentaries made by Capra in partnership with the U.S. government. When it came to characterizations of the enemy for propaganda purposes, racism was a tool that was widely used. One commonly held idea was that the Japanese were somehow less human than those of European ancestry, for instance, the "British Under-Secretary of the Foreign Office Sir Alexander Cadogan referred to the Japanese as 'little yellow dwarf slaves'." (Navarro) "Yellow" referred not only to the perceived color if the skin of the Japanese, but also was widely used as a synonym for "cowardly." In American propaganda, the Japanese were often portrayed as animals, monkeys being the most common, but also rats and snakes.

The inherent racism present at the start of hostilities between the United States and Japan manifested itself within American society at home. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, "which authorized the Secretary of War to set up military areas where Japanese-Americans from the West Coast would be sent…" ("Granada Japanese Internment Camp") At the end of 1941, there were more that 100,000 people of Japanese ethnicity living on the West Coast who needed to be moved. Out of fears of sabotage and spying, "the government removed Japanese-American men, women, and children from their homes and placed them in internment camps in the interior of the country." ("Japanese-American Internment") It took just a few months for the U.S. Government to remove the entire population, two-thirds of whom were American citizens.

These unfortunate Americans, some of who were as little as 1/16 Japanese, were sent to what amounted to little more than a concentration camp. And like the Jews of Europe who were sent to Nazi concentration camps, the Japanese who were interned in the United States were forced to sell most of their possessions, at much lower than fair prices, before they were transported. All of their major assets were frozen by the government, and those headed for the internment camps had little more than what they could carry. The camps themselves were similar to prisons with bad food, little space, and public toilets. A single 25 by 20 room was assigned per family, with other facilities shared by groups of as many as 250 persons. ("Japanese Internment.") Unlike prisons, internment camps forced the internees to pay for their own food, which averaged about 45 cents per day. In order to earn money, internees were allowed to work on government owned farmland making about $15 per month. Conditions were so bad that at one camp in Tule Lake, California, detainees protested their treatment and held demonstrations at which they demanded the return of their Constitutional rights. As a result, internees were forced to take loyalty oaths and isolated if they refused. Executive Order 9066 was not rescinded until 1944, and the camps were not completely closed until 1946.

The United States' entrance into World War II necessitated a number of changes in the fabric of American society. Because so much of the available resources like oil, rubber, sugar, metal and gas were needed to feed the growing war machine; the "land of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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