The funeral for President George H W Bush emphasized the importance of serving whether in the military, in your community, in an elected office or at your local youth group. There is no doubt that the senior Bush lived a life of service throughout his lifetime, including his stint as a World War II pilot. With any war when our loved ones are called to fight, those who stay home serve in other ways. While their service might not be as glamorous or public, it is important.
Let’s look at the impact that World War II had on those who were called to serve at home. What documentation or family stories can you share about that experience?
So how did people who couldn’t serve in the military during World War II do their part to support the war effort overseas? Farmers were tasked with delivering record crops to supply the military. European countries were struggling as the war devasted crops. Their production of food supplies helped feed the army and to ensure there was enough food both home and abroad. Here’s interesting article on the impact to farming and farming regulations.
These gardens contained vegetables, fruits and herbs and served two purposes: to help keep the food supply strong and help individual families by providing a key food source. Victory Gardens became a way for the private citizen to “do your part”. Plus it was considered a morale booster—something people could physically do to help out the war effort. Victory Gardens existed in both World War I and World War II—although in the United States we tend to only remember them in World War II.
More about Victory Gardens.
To view more Victory Garden posters.
Rosie the Riveter
Did you have relatives from the Dakotas and Minnesota who traveled west to Washington and Oregon during the war? What was their motivation? Jobs! Relatives claimed they got as much as a $1.00 per hour working in the shipyards. I don’t know that I had an actual Rosie the Riveter but I did have one who inspected the rivets in the shipyards of Portland, OR and others that did clerical work related to the war production efforts. Many met service men, married and stayed out west after the war. These second or third generation Americans had a “pioneer moment” heading west for opportunities and hope of a better life. Have any of your ancestors had similar experiences? Remember to include them when you write your story.
All Americans were expected to do their part by complying with the ration system. This meant that you could only get so much gasoline or sugar or other types of food by using your ration stamps and cards. Was there a food shortage? Well yes and no. Factories that used to focus on food production were converted into making supplies for the military and there was a higher demand for food to support the troops. Check out this site which has information on rationing plus digitized copies of ration books “Guide to the World War II Ration Coupon Collection, 1942-1946” Do you have any ration coupons in your family historic memorabilia? Can you image this type of rationing today in our consumer driver world? How do you think it impacted your grandparents or great-grandparents?
When the primary breadwinner is overseas in another country fighting of freedom, the remaining spouse is left to care for the family and earn a wage. This is no different than today for our military families. However, there was a trend during the world wars for women to take non-traditional but higher paying jobs usually filled by men. With so many men away, there was a shortage of workers and women ably stepped in. Once the men returned it was more common for women to return to more traditional roles of that time. How did that impact the family? Something to consider and ask your family members that lived through this time. Are there any letters that tell more of the story?
As this week seems to be one of reflection, let’s remember the determination and service provided by ordinary citizens during World War II. Your family was part of that experience. What can you share in your family history to capture that time?
“The Greatest Generation got to save old tires, dig a Victory Garden and forgo sugar. The Richest Generation is being asked to shop.”
With a lifelong passion for genealogy and history, the author enjoys the opportunity to share genealogy tidbits, inspiring others to research and write their family story.