American Home Front
During World War II, the American home front was nearly as important as the actual military fronts in the various theaters of combat. If it were not for the home front and all the work in the factories, the military would not have been able to conduct the war as it had, or as successfully. It is common sense that a soldier that isn’t well equipped can’t do his job properly. The home front was one of the most integral parts of the successful Allied armies.
When America entered World War II in December 1941, it was totally unprepared. Public opinion was almost universally opposed to entering the war until the attack on Pearl Harbor, and this stance of isolationism made it very difficult for President Roosevelt to prepare the nation for the impending conflict ahead of time. His attempts to develop the American armaments industry went slowly and he could not get legislation for a standby draft passed until 1940. This sluggishness in being prepared for conflict is a direct result of the denial that almost all Americans were under, ignoring the fact that events in the world would affect them. Being so far removed from all the effects of the war, and the bombings, lulled the Americans into the conviction that they could not be touched and that if they just kept out of the war, the war would leave them alone. This sense of safety kept the American public from viewing the war objectively, and consequently, they acted as if it did not matter.
Then they were attacked. The shock of the attack on Pearl Harbor destroyed the feeling of security felt by Americans even while the smoke was still clearing from the bomb blasts on Battleship Row. The war had come to America, and suddenly, the giant that was America, was awake and bent on defending itself. With the realization that safety was no longer a given came the understanding of America’s responsibility to face its enemies and defend itself against aggressors, as well as helping others to do the same.
Once war was declared, the United States began to mobilize the entire economy. More than 12 million men were brought into the armed forces to conduct military operations, and the industrial capacity of the United States was revived to become the most formidable production machine ever known. The population was mobilized like never before, with paper drives and victory gardens. A ration card system was instituted. People were encouraged to conserve on everything from gasoline to dairy products, sugar, oil, and many other commodities as well. Tin and other metals were collected and melted for use. War bond rallies were also used to help finance the war in ever increasing measures. This was the first total war and complete mobilization that the entire country had ever known.
The mobilized United States economy was a formidable machine that produced vast amounts of material. The American arms industry literally buried the Axis powers in tanks, planes and ships. For example, during the war, America produced 274, 979 aircraft between 1939 and 1944. Germany, which was proud of its fine air force, built only 110,202 aircraft, and Japan only 67,757 during the same period. These numbers are deceiving as well. America built massive numbers of heavy bombers, which means that by weight, the United States built triple the amount of pounds of aircraft than both Germany and Japan combined. This is but one example of the way that American industry outstripped all of the other powers in dramatic ways during the war.
The incredible response of the American citizenry and the economy, to the declaration of war, and the war effort at home, is typical in American history. Americans rise to the task set before them. A brief overview of American history will show that Americans will sacrifice for something that is considered worthwhile. In the Revolutionary War, Independence was considered worthwhile, and the sacrifices required of the colonies by that conflict were considerable for almost all, and tremendous for many. Nevertheless, Americans sacrificed and won freedom. The Civil War is another example. Rightly or wrongly, the sacrifices made by the Southern States to gain what they considered to be worthwhile almost defy belief. The colonization of the West is another example. Those who went west for a new life were greeted with the prospect of nothing but a life of hard toil. Nevertheless, people flooded west. What is important to the American people is that they see the benefit to be gained by the trials they are going through. No one sacrifices for the sake of sacrificing.