News from 1943 Headlines Milwaukee Journal
In this installment I’ll cover…
- Ration Guide
In looking at these two subjects I am very much aware of looking at a time that my generation has no clue of. I was born in 1953 and the only thing I remember my parents ever mentioning was the rationing-something that I never came close to experiencing (they were teens during the war years and my dad was drafted in 1945 as soon as he graduated from High School).
One of the criticisms that has been attached to every one of our wars since WW2 is the idea of the lack of shared sacrifice. From Korea, to Vietnam, to the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan war has become nearly an abstraction for America unless you are personally involved or know someone who is.
In World War Two that was not the case as these two topics show.
From watching movies about the war I knew there was such a thing as a war bond drive. For example, in the movie Flags of Our Fathers a couple of the Marines (and Navy Corpsman) who had raised the flag on Iwo Jima were recruited to be part of a war bond drive. People would come to where ever the drive was held for a chance to see America’s war heroes and the heroes in turn would encourage the people to buy war bonds to finish the job, that is finance the war industry that many of the same people worked in. Here’s a better definition from http://www.signalalpha.com/WW2_War_Bonds.html
The cost to the American treasury for the nation’s involvement in World War Two was over $340 billion. In 2003 dollars, the cost would total almost $3.5 trillion. To fund the war effort, the U.S. Government used many methods. One way included War Loans or War Bonds. To promote these efforts, the U.S. Government created and presented movies in the nation’s movie theaters. Unlike today, Hollywood created films lifting morale and supporting victory. Most times the film would have a patriotic theme. More than once the memory of the Japanese treachery at Pearl Harbor was evoked.
One of main articles in the April 22nd, 1943 edition of the Milwaukee Journal was titled:
Rallies Spur Bond Buying Toward Goal
Determined to Put County Over Top. Patriots Ask All to Invest More in the Future of America
Here’s the first few paragraphs of the story that follows:
Spurred by numerous rallies Wednesday night, bond sales continued to climb as war bond drive officials, private individuals and many organizations pledged an all-out effort to put Milwaukee over the top in sales during the last period of the $13,000,000,000 April war loan campaign.
At a rally and observance of Passover attended by 1,200 persons Wednesday night at Congregation Beth Israel, 2432 N. Teutonia av., $145,175 in war bonds was sold, making a total of approximately $402,000 in bonds sold at rallies sponsored by the congregation since Pearl Harbor. The feature of the evening was singling of folk songs, patriotic tunes and religious chants by three Chicago cantors, Pvts. Dale, Murray and Phil Lind, brothers and all members of the army medical corp at Camp Claiborne, LA.
Couple of observations here:
Another article on the front page mentions that the $13,000,000,000 is connected to the second war bond drive. By the time of the Normandy Invasion (June 6th, 1944) the US was on it’s seventh war bond drive. This means that war bond drives were scheduled with increasing frequency as the war went on. It seems one was started as soon as another ended.
Research shows that Americans were encouraged to invest at least 10% of their income into war bonds. War bonds were a type of loan. The buyer of a war bond purchased a bond with the promise the government would buy back or redeem the bond at a later time with interest.
Maybe we should have a war bond drive to reduce our national debt of $15 trillion? No, the government would just spend it on something else and drive the debt up further. I think it’s interesting to note that the American people paid for the war investing in war bonds rather than simply run up the debt.
It’s interesting that the Milwaukee Journal picked a Jewish Congregation to highlight. Certainly, the fact it was Passover had something to do with the choice. Passover celebrates the Hebrew exodus from slavery in Egypt. You might remember from part one in this series that Jesus at the Lord’s Supper was celebrating the Passover with his disciples. The front page of the Milwaukee Journal for April 22nd, 1943 had much religious symbolism for Jew and Gentile.
The article does not go into it but it’s no secret that by 1943 many German Jews had long since escaped from Nazi Germany (while they could in the 30’s) and some no doubt made their way to the German Jewish areas in Milwaukee. You probably did not have to convince many of the Jews of the evil we were fighting with the Nazis.
The address of the congregation is also note worthy. Milwaukee had a huge German population hence the name of the street Teutonia, meaning land of the Teutons, or Germans. One would wonder where their loyalties would lie. Remember that Japanese Americans were interned during the war while German and Italian Americans were not. It was clearly racial and anger over Pearl Harbor as well as fear of a fifth column that caused Japanese Americans to be held in camps resembling POW camps.
Ironically, it was German Americans who started a pro-Nazi group called The Bund.
The Bund was a German-American, pro-Nazi organization that was primarily active just prior to America’s involvement in WW2. It was heavily concentrated in New York City and Chicago. My father remembered it being active in Milwaukee and he knew of people involved.
The goals of the Bund were a mixed bag but lined up with Nazism’s over all goals and complaints; that is anti-Jewish, anti-Communist and major objections to the Versailles Treaty which many Germans believed to be unfair (objectively speaking it was since Germany was solely blamed for WW1 while the entangling alliances were barely mentioned).
This is not to say that the Bund was a good thing because there was something to the unfairness of Versailles. It is to say it was an attempt to tap into German patriotism and nationalism and make common cause with the Nazis. It’s saying too much though to consider the Bund as a fifth column. They seemed to want to keep America out of the war all together and in that sense were part of the isolationist movement which kept the US out of the war until Pearl Harbor.
The Bund was really a minor blip on the national radar. Most German immigrants had been here since the 1880’s or even earlier and had little interest in politics in Europe. While cultural ties were still important to many, the politics of Europe is the reason many left. Ironically, even the Nazi Government in Berlin did not think much of the Bund realizing that 99% of German Americans were quite loyal to the USA.
My dad, who lived on the Milwaukee’s north side (Teutonia) of Milwaukee said all the people he knew of German background never gave the Bund a second thought and were loyal Americans even though many still spoke their native tongue. By 1941 the Bund was insignificant and now simply a footnote in history.
The article goes on to say that the City of Greenfield (suburb of Milwaukee) raised $2,587.50 from 300 people for war bonds. That’s about $75-$80 a piece.
As a side note to the Greenfield war bond drive I noticed that a main speaker at the above event was Ben Barkin. Ben Barkin was a Milwaukee celebrity for a great number of years. His advertising firm represented Milwaukee’s Schlitz Brewery. Together with Bob Ehlein, CEO of the brewery and others, Milwaukee became famous for it’s circus parade, the first of which was in 1963. This was and is a big deal in Milwaukee because it features a large number of restored circus wagons from a bygone era, all of which had to be recovered from junk yards all across America. Today the wagons are stored at Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin and once a year they are trained to Milwaukee for the big parade. It’s interesting to see that way back in 1943 Ben Barkin was doing his bit for the war effort in a war bond drive.
A little further down is mention of Marquette University where 625 students raised $13,846, 50. The article states that Milwaukee continued in the celebration of Hitler’s birthday (April 20th) “with booming sales” at “bomb sites” meaning that when they donated they signed their names on bomb casings marked “Berlin” or “Tokyo.”
The article goes on to say that many people bought extra bonds if they had a son in the military. It doesn’t say why but it’s easy to speculate that the personal connection provided an extra incentive to give their serviceman the means to win the war meaning, tanks, ships, guns, food, and everything else that could ensure victory and bring the boys home safely.
- 2. Ration Guide
The sub-article connected to the war bond drive has to do with the wartime ration guide.
Many things were rationed during the war such as scrap metal.
From what I can determine you received a number of points to purchase rationed items and just about everything was. Some things were limited as to how much you could buy with your points. Each week the newspaper printed limits and deadlines. Here is a sample from April 22nd, 1943, the Milwaukee Journal.
Use Stamp 17 until June 15th for one pair of shoes.
Stamp 12 is good for five pounds of sugar until May 31st.
Stamp 26 is good for one pound of coffee through Sunday.
Coupons for Fuel Oil is good for 11 gallons through September 30. (Most Milwaukee homes in the 40’s were kept warm with coal.
Use Stamp 5 for four gallons of gasoline through May 21st. That amounts to about a gallon a week if you had a car. Public transit and bicycles were popular.
Tires could be purchased only if you passed two inspections to determine need.
You can see that the items related to fighting a mechanized war were far more important than food. Since America was not really threatened by invasion the food supply was never seriously threatened like it was in Britain (by U-boats). An army on wheels and ours was required huge quantities of gas and rubber.
The final article connected with war bonds and the ration guide was titled:
Alluring Box Lunches of Girls Tempt Boys to High Bond Bids
Gee, that’s a long headline isn’t it?
The alluring box lunches were put together by alluring High School girls for High School boys, some of whom will be drafted by war’s end.
The girls pack the lunches with scarce alluring items, the boys bid on them in an auction, and get to share the lunch with the girl. Some girls packed more than one and some girls didn’t pack any because they didn’t think themselves alluring enough to get a substantial bid. One lunch went for $25.00 so I wonder how pretty you’d have to be to get that low bid. The high bid was $500.00. Where a High School boy got that got that kind of money I’m not sure. My dad had a paper route before he was drafted and I’m pretty sure he didn’t earn that kind of money!
The auction is another example of everyone getting into the act and doing what they could for the war effort. It’s that sense of shared-sacrifice I was talking about. Although it was only seventy years ago it seems as remote as the American Civil War. I doubt we’ll ever see that kind of unity and sacrifice again.
- Snap Shot in Time, Milwaukee Journal April, 1943 part 1 (broeder10.wordpress.com)