Share |

Part Four: The Home Front

World War II impacted every aspect of life in the United States. On the home front, patriotism soared. It became an unprecedented era for the U.S. workforce as Americans heeded the government’s call to work for victory. Millions of women took over jobs previously held by men and went from being homemakers to working in wartime factories, serving as nurses, and volunteering with organizations such as the Red Cross. Workers relocated cross-country to take jobs in cities that were wartime production hubs, like Detroit, where automotive plants shifted to producing military vehicles. Farmers grew more food for the troops. Scientists and technologists focused on research and development to create new types of radar and advanced weaponry.

Rationing was instituted to limit purchases of meat, sugar, coffee, gasoline and other basics. The government asked all Americans to collect and recycle materials that could be used for the war effort – metals, rubber, paper, even cooking fats. Across the country, millions of volunteers joined civil defense groups in which they were trained to fight fires, provide first aid, and be on the lookout for potential saboteurs.

Keeping up with news from the front lines was essential. Newsreels were an important means to stay updated on the war. In some cities, there were theaters devoted exclusively to screening wartime newsreels. Nationwide, all major theaters screened war newsreels before the main feature, helping theater attendance soar to 90 million moviegoers a week.

1942 MGM Newsletter.
View PDF

In addition to making topical war dramas and films about home front conditions, Hollywood participated in home front activities just like any other community. Rationing of materials and gasoline dictated the size of sets and transportation to locations. Glamorous stars and craftspeople from all walks of the industry volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen, and everyone from messengers to studio heads contributed portions of their salaries to war bond and Red Cross drives.

This document contains language and cultural references that might be considered inappropriate to a contemporary audience. Please consider the historical circumstances that influenced its creation.

War Films

Calling All Workers
Your browser does not support this video player.
Watch film clip
Your browser does not support this video player.

"Calling All Workers"
(1941)

This brief public service announcement by the Office of Production Management encourages all men and women with skills needed by the defense industries to register at their local state employment office. Various positions are highlighted, including aircraft and ship building, machine tool manufacturing and factory work.


Watch full-length film
Farm Battles Lines
Your browser does not support this video player.
Watch film clip
Your browser does not support this video player.

"Farm Battle Lines" (1942)

“Farm Battle Lines” demonstrates lesser-known ways in which Southern farmers are contributing to the war effort through harvesting improved strains of cotton for use in explosives, increasing productivity with alternate fertilization methods and utilizing home canning to lessen the amount of food that must be transported to the South.


Watch full-length film
Farm Battle Lines
Your browser does not support this video player.
Watch film clip
Your browser does not support this video player.

"Bomber" (1941)

Academy Award nominee in the Documentary (Short Subject) category (1941, 14th Academy Awards)

With patriotic narration written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Carl Sandburg, “Bomber” chronicles the construction of B-26 bombers at the Glenn L. Martin plant in Baltimore, Maryland. Scenes include production assembly and preliminary test flights.


Watch full-length film
Don't Show Again