Sunday, October 11, 2015

Our second world war -- Part 7

1945 cartoon in the Democrat. Scary stuff.
Many of the details surrounding the final months of World War II are common knowledge to us, a full seven decades or more after the war ended.

But that wasn't the case during the conflict itself. The War Department was reluctant to share insights into its activities, partly for reasons that were obvious for national security and partly because the complexities made it difficult to "dumb it down" for the average radio listener.

As a result, battles in faraway Pacific islands, aboard battleships and inside tanks, or troop transports ... all based on a need-to-know policy ... and many who endured on the home front were always in the dark about the war.

The standard propaganda painted everything in a positive light, generally because it's good for business, economically and morally.

The need for a lot of wartime rationing had effectively ended by the middle of 1944 but little attempt was made to impart that information. The scrap-metal drives had essentially ended and anyone who was involved in that had begun to pay attention.

D-Day invasion at Normandy in June 1944 was a morale booster for the military but the public back home had no such illusion. Americans had been aware of successes along the Italian front and had heard of the Nazi defeat in their ill-advised attack on Russia.

But the news was slow in coming.

Finally, the Democrat announced:

Victory Brings
End To Much
Of Rationing

Gasoline, and Many Canned Goods Are Off the List

"In an announcement made from Washington yesterday, the government hurled aside many wartime controls, but solemnly pointed out that reaching a fully prosperous peace at home will be neither quick nor easy.

"Reconversion Director John W. Snider frankly painted a picture of wide unemployment which he hopes will be only temporary -- 5,000,000 more within three months, perhaps 8,000,000 by next spring."

The report called for an immediate end to the rationing of gasoline, fuel oil, stoves, canned fruits and vegetables, catsup, grape juice, and chili sauce (chili sauce?).

"The armed services will discharge 7,000,000 men and women within a year or 18 months; perhaps 5.5 million from the Army."

Yep, unemployment loomed. Many of these soldiers and sailors had joined the military right out of high school when the war started and had never held a real job in the first place. Coming home, three or four years older now, they'd be facing a tough time.

As well, price controls were being lifted in a way to spur consumption of a variety of goods, such as jewelry, sports equipment, toys, cigarette lighters, pipes and cameras and film.

The need to ration shoe leather was also expected to end as the armed services numbers dropped drastically. Wool and cotton needs were also expected to decline, "thus freeing thousands of yards for the civilian market before Christmas."

Happy holidays, World!

Rent controls were expected to continue, though it's not clear why. Rail travel was also expected to be under a tight rein as soldiers returning home would need first-chance accommodations.

"Coal for use in this country will probably remain in short supply through next winter. Needs very likely will exceed supplies of meats, fats, oils, sugar and some other important foods."

To some end, the government was guessing. The enormous number of men and women coming home from war to a country that had spent more than 15 years in depression ... and a world that was beginning to modernize ... one that had sustained itself during a most difficult time ... nobody truthfully knew what to expect.

Economists essentially believed that America would somehow "buy itself out of trouble."

To some degree, that happened.

But first there was still the matter of the war in the Pacific, which was being gradually won.

The deal wasn't quite done, even after the atom bomb attack on Hiroshima.

A syndicated column in the Brookville paper wrote this hypothesis:

"As this Bulletin (Aug. 16, 1945) is being written, the world waits for the Japanese answer to the proposal of the Allies sent her last Saturday. The world may be at peace before these lines are being read. On the other hand, the insane militarists of the Japanese empire may determine to continue the slaughter of their citizens and the destruction of their cities and property for a brief period longer."

There was no mention of Hiroshima (Aug. 6) or Nagasaki (Aug. 9) in the article, for reasons that might have been obvious, might not have been.

"But the exhaustion of the Land of the Rising Sun must bring victory and peace within a matter of days at most. When this happens, when V-J Day arrives, there will be the deserved movements of prayerful Thanksgiving and complete rejoicing."

But caution was the word.

"It is our duty now to take everything in stride, and let the conversion from wartime endeavors follow an organized pattern, rather than hopeless confusion."

In a phrase, we trusted the government.


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