sacrifices for war effort
shopping the mega-malls of today, reading the reams of media ad materials
and watching hours on hours of screened commercials, it's hard to
believe that at one time in the past, most the these products were
On April 11, 1942, four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor, the government began rationing all items needed for the war
effort and established the Office Of Price Controls to freeze prices,
begin rationing and enforce the new rules with strict penalties for
Questionnaires were sent home with students for families to fill out
in great detail. From this information, the local Ration Board determined
the amounts of items your family would require for living. It was
the first time America experienced rationing.
More than 122 million ration books containing ration coupons were
mailed each month to the American citizens. Strict rules, enforced
by the government with offenders punished by law, had to be obeyed
by all. The changes were often traumatic.
Current rules plus availability of items information were published
in local newspapers under titles like, 'Town & Farm In Wartime' or
'Ration Book Reminders.' Samples of how to fill out the many forms
were also published and local people named who could help applicants.
Ration Books and coupons became a form of currency. Lost or misplaced
books or single coupons became a major headache to owners and theft
became a problem. Immediately a 'black market' began buying and selling
stolen coupons. Along with rationing, prices of all goods and materials
were frozen for the duration of the war. Complaints and requests for
change had to be pleaded before the Price Control Office.
Gas rationing was started more to save rubber than gasoline because
the Japanese had seized the Dutch East Indies which supplied 90 percent
of American raw-rubber supplies. The last new car rolled off the assembly
line on February 10, 1942, when factories converted to making war
vehicles. Distribution of consumer goods to the public was severely
curtailed with the remaining supplies diverted to the war effort.
An example of these extraordinary changes came if your car needed
gas. The station owner asked for your ration book of gas coupons.
All coupons had to be attached to the book. The station owner had
to compare the car and owner identity, the gas type posted by sticker
on the windshield and if the gas was allowed by a dated coupon. Only
four gallons were allowed and afterward the car owner and station
owner had to sign the back of the coupon along with date and car identity.
If you needed a tire, you had to bring an old tire with ID number
intact. Inner tubes were often cut, a section removed and then vulcanized
back together to make it fit a smaller size tire. All rubber items
required coupons in order to be replaced or repaired.
Almost all food items required coupons with items identified by a
point system. Everyone saved paper, especially newsprint, along with
burlap, fats and cotton rags. This was one of the first examples of
recycling by the American public.
Rationing gave the citizens the personal satisfaction of sacrifice
for the war effort. Perhaps that is what has been missing from the
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" >
October 17, 2006 Column