War Time Production

It was primarily up to the United States to supply the allied war effort. America became “The Arsenal of Democracy.” American wartime production is reflected in the following statistics: In between July 1940 and July 1945 America built

  • 296,429 bombers
  • 71,062 naval ships
  • 5,425 cargo ships (one every 17 days)
  • 372, 431 pieces of artillery
  • 5,822,000 tons of bombs
  • 102,351 tanks
  • 2,455,964 trucks

 Stalin made a toast to American industry at the Teheran Conference: “To American production, without which this war would have been lost”. (TFC, Vol. 5, p. 146)

With most men in the service, the burden of meeting production quotas fell on American women. In the 5 months after Pearl Harbor, 750,000 women signed up for jobs at armament plants. Women made up 90% of the labor force during and after 1940, until the end of the war. There were 19.5 million women in the factories by 1945. (Id.at 148). These women were given the nickname “Rosie the Riveter”. Famous Saturday Evening Post artist Norman Rockwell depicted “Rosie” in one of his magazine covers. In the Post’s cover illustration, Rockwell’s Rosie is shown on her lunch break, eating a sandwich from her opened lunch pail as her riveting gun rests on her lap.  A giant American flag waves behind her.  Rosie appears content, gazing off into the distance.  However, Rockwell portrays her with some important details, from the lace handkerchief visible in her right hand pocket, to her foot placed smack on the cover of Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf at the bottom of the painting. 

“Rosie the Riveter”, written by Reed Evans and John Jacob Loeb (1942), performed by The Four Vagabonds (https://youtu.be/D2E613J9m0I) (abbreviated version).

While other girls attend their fav’rite
cocktail bar
Sipping Martinis, munching caviar
There’s a girl who’s really putting
them to shame
Rosie is her name

All the day long whether rain or shine
She’s a part of the assembly line
She’s making history,
working for victory
Rosie the Riveter
Keeps a sharp lookout for sabotage
Sitting up there on the fuselage
That little frail can do more than a
male will do
Rosie the Riveter

Rosie’s got a boyfriend, Charlie
Charlie, he’s a Marine
Rosie is protecting Charlie
Working overtime on the
riveting machine
When they gave her a production “E”
She was as proud as a girl could be
There’s something true about
Red, white, and blue about
Rosie the Riveter

Everyone stops to admire the scene
Rosie at work on the B-Nineteen
She’s never twittery, nervous or jittery
Rosie the Riveter
What if she’s smeared full of
oil and grease
Doing her bit for the old Lendlease
She keeps the gang around
They love to hang around
Rosie the Riveter

Rosie buys a lot of war bonds
That girl really has sense
Wishes she could purchase
more bonds
Putting all her cash into national
Senator Jones who is “in the know”
Shouted these words on the radio
Berlin will hear about
Moscow will cheer about
Rosie the Riveter!

The female labor force grew by 50% during the war. Married women became the majority of female wage earners. The mass entrance of women in the workforce had dramatic sociological consequences. Wage-earning patterns increased for women; no longer were they dramatically underpaid as compared to men. Job barriers were broken down; women became pilots, engineers, chemists, economists, lawyers, doctors; they cleaned blast furnaces, ran cranes, manufactured and serviced cars, and greased locomotives. They proved that they could do everything that men did before and do it equally well. No longer were women stuck in domestic service work.

 “Belt-Line Girl”, written by “Sis” Cunningham (1942), sung by The Almanac Singers (https://youtu.be/SjnuJOhQH2s) gives another look at the war-time working woman.

I stood on the station platform
And looked at the lonesome track
The train had gone around the curve
The train that might never come back
For it carried my soldier sweetheart away
The one I loved so true
My heart was sad, but I did not weep
I thought of the work to do
Joe had gone to the fighting front
And he left his job behind
Now I must step into his place
On the long assembly line
I said I’ll learn to build a ship
I’ll learn to build a plane
For the faster we speed this belt line, girls
The quicker our boys return
If you think that danger is far away
And cannot reach our shore
Go ask the wives of MacArthur’s men
They’ll tell you about this war
Go ask the widows of the Pearl Harbor boys
Our heroines brave and fine
You’ll find them at work in the training schools
And on the assembly line
If a thousand men leave a thousand jobs
To go and fight the foe
Our factory wheels would slacken their speed
And the belts would move too slow
But when a thousand hard working girls
Step in and take a hand
Out roll the tanks and the planes and guns
And there’s freedom in the land

“Deliver the Goods”, another song sung by The Almanac Singers (Pete Seeger/Bess Lomax Hawes) (https://youtu.be/7fxC7s7nECI) portrays how every part of America had to pitch in to meet war time production needs.

It’s gonna take everybody to win this war
The butcher and the baker and the clerk in the store.
The guys who sail the ships, and the guys who run the trains
And the farmer raisin’ wheat upon the Kansas plains.

The butcher, the baker, the tinker and the tailor
Will all work behind the soldier and the sailor.
We’re workin’ in the cities, we’re workin’ in the woods
And we’ll all work together to deliver the goods.

Now, me and my boss, we never did agree
If a thing helped him then it didn’t help me.
But when a burglar tries to bust into your house
You stop fighting with the landlord and throw him out.

I got a new job and I’m workin’ overtime
Turning out tanks on the assembly line.
Gotta crank up the factories like the President said
Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

I bet this tank will look mighty fine
Punching holes in Mr. Hitler’s line.
And if Adolph wakes up after the raid
He’ll find every piece of shrapnel says “U.S.A.”

From New York City to Frisco Bay
We’re speedin’ up production every day.
And every time a wheel goes around
It carries Mr. Hitler to the burying ground.

Rationing, saving and recycling were part of the war-time way of life. People of all walks of life planted victory gardens. They collected tons of scrap metals, rubber from tires and heels of shoes and other materials to be converted into guns, planes, ships, and tanks. They endured the inconveniences imposed by shortages and the rationing of many items. (Young, War Years, p.1) By 1945, scrap drives supplied much of the steel, and half of the tin and paper needed for war production. They even saved bacon grease that was used in making ammunition. (TFC, vo. 5, p. 163)

Everyone had ration books that contained coupons worth points. Products, such as gas, meat, coffee, butter, cheese and sugar were sold based on the number of points accumulated. The Office of Price Administration (OPA) put price controls on products. And, of course, the black market flourished.

“Ration Blues”, performed by Louis Jordan & His Tympani Five, written by Louis Jordan, Anthonio Cosey and Collenane Clark (1943) tells about the rationing (https://youtu.be/fBVhaQzSYwU)

Baby, baby, baby,
What’s wrong with Uncle Sam?
He’s cut down on my sugar
Now he’s messin’ with my ham

I got the ration blues
Blue as I can be
Oh, me, I’ve got those ration blues

I got to live on forty ounces
Of any kind of meat
Those forty little ounces
Gotta last me all the week

I got to cut down on my jelly
It takes sugar to make it sweet
I’m gonna steal all your jelly, baby
And rob you of your meat

I got the ration blues
Blue as I can be
Oh, me, I’ve got those ration blues

I like to wake up in the morning
With my jelly by my side
Since rationing started, baby
You just take your stuff and hide

They reduced my meat and sugar
And rubber’s disappearing fast
You can’t ride no more with poppa
‘Cause Uncle Sam wants my gas

I got the ration blues
Blue as I can be
Oh, me, I’ve got those ration blues

“When the Nylons Bloom Again”, written by George Marion, Jr. and Fats Waller‘s from the Broadway show “Ain’t Misbehavin”. (1978) (https://youtu.be/dbo9wOpvlUI) During World War II, women everywhere yearned for the end of war and a time when nylons would be commonly available again. Nylon became increasingly popular in the black market, selling for up to $20 per pair. Women who could not get their hands on nylons resorted to lotions, creams, stick cakes and painting seam lines down their legs to give the illusion of nylons. Because nylon was so widely sought-after, it also became the target of crime. In Louisiana, one household was robbed of 18 pairs of nylons.

Gone are the days when I’d answer the bell
Find a salesmen with stockings to sell
Gleam in his eye and measuring tape in his hand
I get the urge to go splurging on hose
Nylons a dozen of those
Now poor or rich we’re enduring instead
Woolens which itch
Rayons that spread

I’ll be happy when the nylons bloom again
Cotton is monotonous to men
Only way to keep affection fresh
Get some mesh for your flesh

I’ll be happy when the nylons bloom again
Ain’t no need to blow no sirens then
When the frozen hose again appear
Man that means all clear

Working women of the USA and Britan
Humble down with your lonely debutant
We’ll be happy as puppy or a kitten
Stepping back into their nylons or depart

You Can’t Get That No More”, by Louis Jordan (1945) (https://youtu.be/rEt3gQV3Rek) tells a different part of the rationing story.

I went out to get some groceries the other day
From my neighborhood grocery store
And before I could open my mouth
The grocery man said “No!”
“You can’t get that no more!”, that’s what he said

“You can’t get that no more.”
He said, “I sold all I had the other day
It ain’t me, Mr. Jordan, it’s the OPA. You just can’t get it
You gotta do with what you got. Ain’t gonna have no more for the
Duration. Gotta be careful with your food, son

The hep cats used to stand on the corner in their zoot suits
And them long chains hangin’ down. All lookin’ cute. But
Things is very different now, since Uncle Sam has got some Japs
To shoot. Uh, uh, the can’t do that no more, no sir. They can’t
Do that no more. No more standin’ on the corners day and night, cause
Uncle Sam says that you got to work or you got to fight. So, they
Can’t do that no more. No, you can’t do that no more

You know the glamour gals has stopped glamorizin’
They workin’ in defense plants, wearin’ slacks. And some of the fine
Chicks is cuttin’ out everyday. Joinin’ the WAVs and the SPARs and the
WAAFs. Now fellas, you can’t get that no more. Uh, uh, I’m tellin’ you
Fellas, you just can’t get it

You can’t jive these girls like you used to do
Cause some of them is making more money than you
I’m tellin’ you boys, you just can’t get that no more
No, you can’t get that no more

You know the girls used to wake up every morning and say, ” Lord, send
Me a handsome man. One that’s physically fit.” But Uncle Sam’s got all
Of them now, and the gals has got to take just what they can get
Uh, uh, girls, you can’t get that no more
Ain’t no need to giggle, girls, you just can’t get it no more, that’s all

Girls, you can’t be particular
You gotta take what’s left
Either them worn out 3A’s or them beat up 4F’s
That’s all. you just can’t get it no more
No, you can’t get that no more