World War II: When we ALL did our part

Given today’s political climate, it’s hard to believe there was a time in this country’s history when everybody seemed to be united and working toward one common goal. That time was World War II and that goal was Win the War.

Ford, GM and Chrysler curtailed manufacturing of civilian automobiles for the duration, with 100% of production going toward the war effort. The Singer Sewing Machine Co. and the Chicago-based Rock-Ola Jukebox Co. suspended production of sewing machines and jukeboxes, retooled their machinery, and turned to manufacturing .30 M-1 Carbines for the war effort. Even the Steinway & Sons Piano Company developed a lightweight, portable piano that could be easily transported to American troops serving throughout the world.

For more on the Steinway pianos, click here.

A concerted effort was made to provide the troops with musical entertainment. Critical to morale was the establishment of military bands to entertain the troops. In 1942, bandleader Glenn Miller, at the height of his commercial success and popularity, left it all behind at the age of 38 to join the Army.

The country’s top professional athletes also joined the war effort. Most notable among them were Joe DiMaggio, Joe Louis and Ted Williams. So did entertainers such as Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable and Henry Fonda. Imagine a top entertainer or professional athlete doing that today?

With 15 million serving in the military, food, gas, rubber, shoes and clothing were rationed on the home front. Victory Gardens sprang up throughout the country to augment civilian food shortages.

For those who could not directly work in the war industry, the Fleisher Yarn Co. put out a publication with instructions on how to make “Practical, Warm Hand Knits for Service Men.” Knitting clubs sprang up around the country where women would get together to create hats, mittens, sweaters and other cold-weather items to be sent to U.S. troops fighting in the cold climates of Europe and the Aleutians. (See photos below.)

World War II was a fight for our country’s very survival, and it became the one overriding factor that governed American life. It united Americans in a way we haven’t seen since and may never see again.

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Steve Corbo

A founding member and corporate secretary of the Italian American Veterans Museum, Steve Corbo is the museum’s curator and a military consultant for Fra Noi. He has served for 25 years as president of S.A. Corbo & Associates Inc., providing professional liability insurance to health care providers. The son and nephew of World War II veterans and a passionate military historian for over 50 years, he has written and published articles on a variety of topics, including military history, and serves as the military consultant for Fra Noi, the Chicago-area Italian-American magazine.

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