The Home Front
During World War II most women stayed home to take care of the kids and other daily tasks when their husbands went to fight. Women were not allowed to fight in the war, like they can today, but they did fly planes and became nurses. The women helped out as much as they possibly could at home. They were mothers, nurses, schoolteachers, Rosie the Riveters and they even worked for farmers. They had booklets on how to shorten skirts and make clothes for their children. They had to learn how to cook with rations and deal with loved ones at war or the loss of loved ones.
With all the young men gone to war people were needed to help with farm work such as: taking care of animals, planting, tilling, harvesting the crops, and many other things that farmers must do to keep the farm running smoothly. Many women stepped in and helped their husbands with whatever was needed because their sons were gone to the war. Young women, usually the daughters or even sometimes college students, assisted with the farm work at home.
Families at home were contributing to the war effort by saving everything that was required by the government. Because of the strain that the war placed on American supplies, rations were instilled. Each person received ration booklets allowing them to receive only a certain amount of supplies. The government rationed items such as: tires, cars, bicycles, gasoline, fuel oil, kerosene, stoves, rubber footwear, shoes, sugar, coffee, meats, cheese, canned milk, and typewriters. Also farming communities had rations put in place on: planting and seeding equipment, plows, harrows, cultivators, sprayers, harvesting machinery, haying machinery, farm elevators, silage blowers, tractors, engines, farm wagons, trucks, farm fencing (barbed wire, woven wire, fence posts), domestic water systems, farm pumps, windmills, irrigation equipment, and dairy farm machines (milking machines, cream separators, milk coolers, and metal milk cans with covers). One of the gentlemen I spoke with told how they hid tires and other supplies because all old supplies were still considered valuable and were supposed to be turned in to help the war effort.
Eating habits were greatly changed by the war; the women had to learn how to cook with less than what they were used to. The government issued new cookbooks with recipes that called for meatless, sugarless, and economical recipes. Families were also advised to grow Victory Gardens, to ease food rationing and it also provided fresh food to eat during wartime. Having a garden helped to fill the gaps created by the food rationing.
During the war they had bomb shelters, curfews, and rolling black outs. During the years of the war Americans were afraid of being bombed. Many people built bomb shelters to hide from enemy planes. Many nights citizens were advised to stay in the bomb shelters or in their homes. Because of the bomb threats citizens were given curfews and told to turn off their lights. Also because of the war, many Americans experienced black outs due to the shortage in power and possible blown circuits.
Communities helped as much as they could with the war effort. They would get together to help support the war efforts by sending letters, making scrapbooks, and/or mapping out where the men were. Families would correspond by sending letters to their loved ones either abroad or back home. When the loved ones abroad would reply they couldn't give out their location and the letters would be censored before they could be sent home to make sure that there was no secret military war information. Some families made up codes so that they could find out where their family members were. The letters would sometimes take a very long time to reach their destinations. When visiting the museums in Brookings, Volga, and Hendricks I saw a few scrapbooks made by family members and community members. One of the many scrapbooks I saw had around twenty-five pages of letters, Christmas cards, pictures, sports highlights, and assembly pamphlets. Every night some families would listen to the radio and when they heard where the troops were they would put a pin on a map. They did this until the war was over and by the end of the war they had pins located all over Europe.
The young men left school to go to war while the young women stayed in school. After school, they could go to college, get married, become a teacher, and/or start working. If they wanted to become a teacher they could go to six weeks of school in the summer. These 16-20 year old girls would be given a job, but once they got married or pregnant they had to quit. Some girls went to college in hopes of achieving bigger and better things.
Having their loved ones overseas was hard on everyone. Many of the loved ones passed away while overseas fighting. Some of the soldiers' bodies were never found because planes went down or ground soldiers were killed by guns and grenades. Quite often the men didn't come back, but the ones that did had potential wounds or trauma.
When speaking with a gentleman, he told me about the day the war ended. He was 12 years old and he was let out of school early. He didn't realize what was going on he just knew that something special had happened. Bells were ringing, and people were cheering. The end of the war was a big celebration for Americans.
World War II started in 1939 and continued through 1945. In this short amount of time, many things happened on the home front ranging from gas rations to women helping around the farms. It was a hard time in American history, but it made us stronger.