Inflation & Food Prices Facing rapidly increasing food prices and wage rates, Roosevelt submitted a bill to Congress on September 7, 1942. Roosevelt spoke to the American people that evening warning that farm prices may succumb to drastic inflation unless the government establishes further price controls. He also explained to the nation the need for the government to increase the federal income tax rates. The Office of Price Administration established price controls to control inflation. Congress passed a stabilization bill on October 2.
“Victory Gardeners” The federal government, through the Office of War Mobilization, encouraged citizens to participate in the war effort. One popular idea was the creation of victory gardens. 30-40% of all the produce grown during the war years were grown in such gardens.
Stabilization of the Economy As the war began, FDR attempted to stabilize the national economy by creating an Office of Economic Stabilization led by an Economic Director. In the process, the president assumes an unprecedented executive control over the American economy.
Victory Loan Drive To finance the war, the federal government encouraged citizens to purchase war bonds. By borrowing money, the federal government financed approximately 40% of the cost of the war. However, the high levels of deficit spending also boosted the national debt five-fold from 1940 – 1945.
Aircraft ProductionRanking behind the USSR, Britain & Germany in 1939, the U.S. became the top aircraft producer in the world by 1941. By wars end, the U.S. had produced 86,500 more aircraft than Germany, Italy & Japan combined & tripled the combined output of Germany & Japan.
Merchant Ship ProductionAnother insightful statistic illustrating the United States enormous industrial output is the gross tonnage of merchant ships built during the war. When compared withEngland and Japan, the second and third largest fleets respectively, the U.S. output is staggering.
Rationing The productive capacity of the United States during World War II surpassed all expectations. Americans at home were asked to conserve materials and to accept ration coupons or stamps that limited the purchase of certain products such as: Gasoline Rubber Sugar Butter Certain cloths American responses to rationing varied from cheerful compliance to resigned grumbling to instances of black market subversion and profiteering.
Home Front Propaganda Having sustained losses in World War I and only now coming out of an economic crisis, most Americans thought that energies should be spent here at home, improving America, instead of becoming involved in war overseas. However, the government recognized that American participation was necessary, and quickly stepped up pro-war propaganda. This was not extremely successful until after Pearl Harbor, when the war no longer seemed comfortably distant but very close to home. It was also necessary to begin stepping up production and conservation of materials for the war effort, because the Allies only tremendous advantage was their great production power. As the war began in earnest, America increased the flood of propaganda, utilizing especially the radio and visual media, most specifically posters.
Demonizing the EnemyDuring the war, both sides attempted to demonize their adversary. In these American posters, the Germans and Japanese are depicted in less than flattering light.
Women and the Homefront Not all women were asked to join the workforce, there was much public resistance to the idea of working mothers, contributed to the low rate of women aged 25 to 34 that participated in the labor force. An obstacle that the 1940s housewife ran into was the shortage of steel. In 1943 civilians were only allotted 15% of the nations steel production. This caused the rationing of such items as bottled, canned, dried, and frozen vegetables, as well as canned fruits, juices, and soups. Women who lived in big cities felt this squeeze more than ever, while women who lived on farms and in small towns were able to garden and preserve their own supply of fresh produce.
Women in the Workforce Before the United States entered World War II, several companies already had contracts with the government to produce war equipment for the Allies. At first companies did not think that there would be a labor shortage so they did not take the idea of hiring women seriously. Eventually, women were needed because companies were signing large, lucrative contracts with the government just as all the men were leaving for the service. Americans agreed that having women work in the war industries would only be temporary. The government decided to launch a propaganda campaign to sell the importance of the war effort and to lure women into working. They promoted the fictional character of “Rosie the Riveter” as the ideal woman worker: loyal, efficient, patriotic, and pretty. Women responded to the call to work differently depending on age, race, class, marital status, and number of children. Half of the women who took war jobs were minority and lower-class women who were already in the workforce. They switched from lower- paying traditionally female jobs to higher-paying factory jobs.
Double V Campaign The Pittsburg Courier designed this ad campaign to symbolize the efforts of African-Americans who were fighting for victory against fascism abroad and fighting racism at home. This slogan was adopted on a national scale to criticize the discrimination that African- Americans were facing in defense-related industries.
Executive Order 8802 As wartime mobilization was underway in the United States, American businesses and the federal government continued to practice racial discrimination in the workforce. Pressure by civil rights leaders and their threat to organize a march on Washington D.C. caused President Roosevelt to issue an executive order. In return, the organizers postponed the march which curbed a potential political mess for FDR during a period in which he was emphasizing American democratic ideals in his foreign policy.
Detroit Race Riot (1943) After the start of the war, employers in Detroit turned to a ready pool of African American labor from the South. The muggy summer evening of June 20, 1943 saw rioting. Exacerbating the conflict, rumors circulated among the black population that that "whites" had thrown a black woman and her baby over the Belle Isle bridge. Enraged, many African-Americans stormed white districts where they looted and destroyed stores and indiscriminately attacked anyone with white skin. Similarly, white mobs had been stirred up by a rumor that a black man had raped and murdered a white woman on the bridge. Eventually, 6,000 federal troops had to be called in to quell the violence.
Zoot Suit Riots A series of riots that erupted in Los Angeles during World War II between sailors and soldiers and Mexican American youth gangs. On June 3, 1943, a group of servicemen on leave complained that they had been assaulted by a gang of pachucos. The headed to east LA where they attacked all the men they found wearing zoot suits, often ripping off the suits and burning them in the streets. In many instances, the police intervened by arresting beaten-up Mexican- American youth for disturbing the peace. The government finally intervened on June 7, by declaring that Los Angeles would henceforth be off-limits to all military personnel.
Executive Order 9066 February 19, 1942: Executive Order 9066 allowed the United States military the authority to establish military zones from which they could then exclude any persons they deemed a threat to national security. Taken to an extreme, the military designated the entire West Coast of the United States a military zone and began the systematic, forced removal of over 110,000 Japanese- Americans from their homes and businesses. They were sent to relocation centers located in the deserts of the southwest and other parts of the United States.
Internment of Japanese Americans 120,000 Americans of Japanese heritage were sent to one of 10 internment camps—officially called "relocation centers"—in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas. More than 2/3 of the Japanese who were interned in the spring of 1942 were citizens of the United States. The U.S. internment camps were overcrowded and provided poor living conditions. Food was rationed out at an expense of 48 cents per internee, and served by fellow internees in a mess hall of 250-300 people.
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