World War II (1939 – 1945) was a military conflict involving most of the nations of the world.The war began in September 1939 when Germany invaded Poland.As a result, Britain and France declared war on Germany.As Germany continued to invade other countries, more countries entered the war.The United States formally entered the war on December 7, 1941 after Japan attacked United States Naval ships at Pearl Harbor.
World War II was fought on two fronts, commonly referred to as theatres; the European Theatre and the Pacific Theatre.
The Pacific Theatre of WWII was comprised of the Pacific Ocean and islands including Japan.This theatre also included the following sub-theatres:
South-East AsianTheatre encompassing the countries of Burma, British India, Thailand, French Indochina, Malaya, Singapore and British Ceylon.
China which was comprised of the country of China.
The European Theatre of WWII is often broken down into the following sub-theatres:
Eastern Front which encompassed central and eastern Europe.More people fought and died in this theatre than in all other theatres of WWII combined.
Western Front which was made up of the countries of England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway and Denmark.
Mediterranean Theatre which was comprised of the Mediterranean basin and included Greece and Italy.
Middle East Theatre made up of the countries of Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Iran
African Theatre which encompassed the African continent.
During the First World War, posters were used primarily as a form of public communication.By the Second World War however, posters had been replaced by radio, movies and billboards as the main sources of communication.Why then were posters used to rally the American public during WWII?
First, people would encounter posters in places radio or movies wouldn’t reach – such as schools, factories and store windows. Second, posters could be seen by everyone regardless of their social and economic status.
Posters encouraged the public to take part in the war effort in any way possible – from growing, conserving, saving and producing.
At the beginning of WWII, the United States was the only superpower that did not have an established government propaganda agency.That changed when President Roosevelt formed several governmental agencies to oversee the dissemination of information about the war.Among these were the Office of Facts and Figures (OFF), Office of Government Reports (OGR) and Office of War Information (OWI), which oversaw the content and accuracy of the war message through posters.
In the beginning, the OWI drew from the worlds of advertising and commercial art to create propaganda posters for the war.This led early posters to resemble ad campaigns.
In 1943, the OWI abandoned the idea of propaganda posters as war art and focused more on posters as information.
Due to the war, many everyday items used by the American public were suddenly in short supply.As a result, rationing and price controls were instituted to insure that everyone got their fair share of available consumer goods.
Goods were in short supply for a number of reasons:
·The supply of raw materials was cut off. ·Production was converted from civilian to military. ·Goods were needed by the military.
To oversee rationing, 8000 local War Price and Rationing Boards were set up under the guidance of the United States Office of Price Administration (OPA).Ration books were issued to each American family dictating how much of a rationed item a person could buy.
To get a ration book, one family member had to appear before the War Price and Rationing Board.Each family member, including babies and small children who qualified for canned milk, received a book of ration coupons.To receive a gasoline ration card, a person had to certify as to their need for gasoline and that they owned no more than five tires since rubber was a rationed commodity as well.
Ration stamps were printed with a generic imprint and did not specify the kind or amount of the rationed commodity they were good for.That was not defined until local newspapers published, for example, that beginning on a specific date, one airplane stamp (in addition to cash) was required to buy one pair of shoes.
Sugar, rubber and gas were rationed for the duration of the war, while such items as shoes, typewriters, meat, butter, coffee and processed foods were rationed for only a part of the war.
One serious side effect of rationing was an active black market for meat, sugar and gasoline.
Sugar was an important commodity in the war effort.Because of this, sugar was one of the first items to be rationed and the last item to have the ration restrictions lifted.
A byproduct of sugar is molasses which was used to make ethyl alcohol.Alcohol was then used to make the gun powder which was used in weapons and dynamite, Torpedo fuel and other chemicals that were needed by the military.
Ration Books, Holders and Stamps
Gasoline Ration Card “A” allowing the owner 3 -4 gallons of gasoline a week
Airborne propaganda leaflets are a form of psychological warfare that armies use in war as a way to change the behavior of people in enemy controlled areas. During WWII, Japanese troops had the reputation of fighting to the death.Thousands of Japanese soldiers committed suicide rather than be taken prisoner.It was their belief that if they surrendered, they were disgraced and lost from their families and ancestors forever.
Ignoring this cultural belief, the United States military printed propaganda leaflets for the Japanese that said "I Surrender".The leaflets had little effect and the Japanese continued to fight to the death.It was only after careful study that the United States realized the mistake and replaced the words" I Surrender" with "I Cease Resistance".This made all the difference.A Japanese soldier could now pretend to run out of ammunition and allow himself to be taken thus avoiding actual surrender.
Women and World War Two
As with previous wars, women’s roles and opportunities in society were expanded.Women entered the workforce and the military filling positions that were traditionally held by men.For the first time, women were able to experience social and economic mobility.The wartime economy gave women more freedom then they ever had before.
WOMEN IN THE MILITARY
Women were allowed to enter the military during WWII, but were not allow in combat.As a result, women were employed “behind the lines” freeing men for combat duty.Women were initially employed as military teachers, clerical workers, communications operators and stenographers.However, as the war continued and more men were needed for combat, women moved into more nontraditional jobs including ordinance engineering, cryptographers, sheet metal workers, radio repair workers, electricians and control tower operators.
Military women served overseas in North Africa, the Mediterranean, Europe, China, the Southwest Pacific, India, Burma and the Middle East.While women were not always welcomed by their male counterparts who sometimes questioned the moral values of women attracted to military service, their professionalism and unqualified success opened the door for women in today’s military.
Women’s Military Branch Nicknames during WWII and Number of Women Serving in Each Branch
NAVY (100,000 women served) WAVES – Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service ARMY (140,000 women served) WACS – Women’s Army Corps (used to designate Army Nursing Corps) WAACS – Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (established in 1941 as a separate branch from Army Nursing Corps) AIR FORCE (1,000 women served) WASP – Women Air Force Service Pilots COAST GUARD (13,000) SPARS – US Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (the name is a contraction between the Coast Guard motto Semper Paratus and its English translation Always Ready) MARINES (23,000) Unlike the other branches of the military, female Marines did not go by any nickname.The Corps felt that they didn’t need one.Several “unofficial” nicknames appeared, however, including Lady Leathernecks, SheMarines, FeMarines and BAMS (Bad A**ed Marines). ARMY AND NAVY NURSING CORPS (74,000 women served)
WOMEN IN THE WORKFORCE
The demands the war put on American industry were immense.With a majority of the male population at war, it soon became apparent that the only way the United States could win the war was by enticing large numbers of women into the workforce. By 1944, over 19 million women were employed outside of the home, more than ever before.
Through the use of posters and the media, women were encouraged to do their patriotic duty and go to work.One of the most iconic images used to appeal to women was “Rosie the Riveter”; a woman who could literally “do it all.”
In order for women to fulfill both their function as a wife and mother and their duty to their country, some women took night jobs.The typical day for a wartime woman who had a night job is explained by Doris Weatherford in her book American Women and World War II.She uses the example of a woman named Alma, who because she worked nights would often get home just as her children were getting ready to leave for school.Alma’s day would look something like this:
7:00 a.m. – Arrive home from work.Get children ready for school. 8:00 a.m. – Send children to school, eat breakfast, clean kitchen. 10:00 a.m. – Go to bed. 11:30 a.m. – Get up and make lunch for children. 12:00 p.m. – Feed children, send them back to school, and clean. 2:30 p.m. – Go back to bed. 3:00 p.m. – Get up, clean, do laundry, and make dinner. 6:00 p.m. – Eat dinner and clean kitchen. 7:30 p.m. – Go to bed. 10:00 p.m. – Get up and go to work.
The average woman who worked nights and still took care of her family averaged about five to six hours of sleep a day, but they were never consecutive.
Women who worked day jobs did not have it much easier.While the War Manpower Commission issued a directive in 1942 stating that child care facilities be provided to all working mothers who were unable to find satisfactory care for their children, they often fell short.The government simply could not develop a comprehensive system for dealing with the large number of mothers going to work.
Women also dealt with the issue of limited banking and store hours and often found it nearly impossible to take care of their household obligations.Without the modern convenience of dryers, microwaves or 24 hour mega marts, many women were forced to quit working in order to fulfill their duties to their families.
The City of Baraboo -- B-29 Bomber
Airplane Commander, Garvin Kowalke is on far right
“The City of Baraboo’” is the name of the B-29 bomber that flew support on one of the most significant bombing missions of WWII – the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945.
“The City of Baraboo,” piloted by Garvin Kowalke of Baraboo flew a secret weather reconnaissance flight on August 4, 1945 to determine the weather conditions in Hiroshima prior to the atomic bomb drop two days later.Three days later, it again flew a secret mission over Hiroshima to determine radiation levels over that city.
In the spring of 1945, Garvin Kowalke was named pilot of a B-29 bomber that he named “The City of Baraboo” after his hometown.
The name of Kowalke’s plane made him a local celebrity and the Baraboo News Republic followed his exploits in the paper.Kowalke and “The City of Baraboo” flew a total of 17 missions before the end of the war, many of them night firebombing missions over Japan.“The City of Baraboo” was never seriously damaged in any of these missions.
After the war, “The City of Baraboo” was scheduled to go on tour around the country as part of the fanfare over the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but two engine fires just before the plane was to leave ended the tour plans.“The City of Baraboo” was flown back to California.No one knows what happened to the plane after that.
Garvin Kowalke went on to serve through two more wars eventually retiring from the military after 28 years of service.He then became the director of the Sauk County Emergency Management department, retiring from the county in 1985.
POW Camp at Reedsburg
POW Camp in Reedsburg
From June 1945 to August 1945, German Prisoners of War (POW’s) were detained at a camp located at the north end of Webb Avenue in Reedsburg. Reedsburg Foods Corporation contracted with the military for 137 POW’s to help can peas. Some of these POW’s also worked at the St. Mary’s plant in North Freedom and at the Herfort Canning Company in Baraboo. They also worked in nearby fields as field hands and did some cement work around the area.
Reaction to having a POW camp in the area was mixed. Some residents were concerned and angered by having POWs so close, while others viewed the POWs more as a curiosity than anything else.
To ease any fears the local citizens may have had, a fence was erected around the camp and citizens were warned to stay away from the camp.
Victory Garden near Badger Ordnance Works
Victory gardens were gardens of vegetables, fruit and herbs planted by private citizens during WWI and WWII to compensate for food shortages and aid in the war effort.By consuming garden vegetables at home, the price of produce needed to feed the troops would go down allowing the military to save money which could then be used for other causes.
Victory gardens were planted wherever there was an open spot; at private homes, vacant lots, public parks and tax delinquent land made available by the government.By some estimates, Victory garden produce accounted for up to 40% of all produce consumed in this country during the war years.
Gardening tips appeared in posters, articles and numerous informational service booklets put out by the Department of Agriculture, food companies and agricultural supply companies.
By 1946 and the end of WWII, people stopped planting Victory gardens in an anticipation of greater availability of food.Dowling Community Gardens in Minneapolis is the last remaining active Victory garden from WWII still growing produce in this country.
One of the many popular songs during WWII, especially in England where blackouts were common in the evening.German bombers flew over London and other cities, thereby necessitating the extinguishing all lights to prevent easy targets. Click the "Play" button in the center of the photo for a nostalgic trip back in time.
Another popular WWII song, accompanied by color aerial combat footage over England.
THE BADGER ARMY AMMUNITION PLANT
Badger was one of many munitions plants constructed just before and during WWII.Built on the Sauk prairie, just south of Devil’s Lake State Park, the plant consisted of 7,345 acres of land and 1,500 buildings.Badger produced propellants for cannons, rockets and small arms ammunition.It also created the chemicals needed for the process.
The history of Badger says much about the 20th century in America, and in Sauk County.The decision to build the Badger plant forced the displacement of farming families who – to this day- feel that the decision to build the plant on prime farmland was a poor one.
Once construction began on Badger, the massive effort required to build the facility ended the long period of economic depression that had gripped Sauk County.Up to 12,000 people worked to build, then staff, this huge facility.Sauk County citizens united around the desire to win WWII, and patriotic feelings ran high.
Badger continued operating through the Korean War and then the Vietnam conflict, where support for the war effort was less unanimous.During the height of the Vietnam conflict, war protester Carl Armstrong and his brother attempted an aerial bombing of the plant to shut it down.
When Badger was decommissioned in 1998, a debate began about what to do with the now rusting facility.Disagreements arose over who should clean up the contamination – both explosive and chemical – that permeates the plant and to what extent the clean up should go.Disagreements also arose over who should have a say in a new role for the land:the original Ho-Chunk owners who were displaced by the farmers; the farmers who were displaced by Badger; or other groups?Should it be a park, a historical site, a business facility, or some combination?
Civilian Flight Instructor uniform
Worn by Roger Prahl. Civilian Flight Instructors were used during WWII to train military pilots in order to free up military instructors for combat and other training assignments.
U.S. Army overcoat of a Technical Sgt. in the Medical Corps.
Officer’s Dress uniform United States Coast Guard
Worn by Ida Ringling’s son, Lt. Henry Ellsworth Ringling.Lt. Ringling was assigned to the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Escanaba which was in Great Lakes service before going on convoy duty in the European theatre during WWII.
Woman’s Summer Uniform
Paratroopers are soldiers trained in parachuting. Paratroopers offer a tactical advantage in war since they can be dropped into a battlefield from the air, thereby allowing the troops to enter areas not accessible by land. This ability to enter a battle from different locations allows paratroopers to avoid fortifications that are in place to prevent attack from a specific direction. Opposing armies are then forced to spread out their forces in order to protect areas which would normally be safe due to geography. Even though Benjamin Franklin envisioned an army of "Sky Soldiers," it would take almost 150 years before that idea became a reality. The Italian army was the first to develop the concept of paratroopers in 1927. It wasn’t until WWII, however, that paratroopers were used to any great extent. German and Allied armies relied on Paratroopers to jump into many dangerous and strategic locations including North Africa, Sicily, New Guinea, Burma, Normandy, Southern France, Holland and Luzan. Compared to ground attacks of the same scope, airbourne attacks proved to be more successful. Many of these jumps, including the jumps into Normandy on D-Day by the 82nd Airbourne and the 101st Airbourne Divisions have become legendary in military history.
The United States’ first airbourne unit was formed from the 29th Infantry Regiment in July 1940. The platoon leader, Lt. William T. Ryder made the first paratroop jump on August 16, 1940 at Lawson Field, Fort Benning, GA from a B-18 Bomber. The military soon realized, however, that gliders could be more useful as a transport vehicle for paratroopers and developed the Waco CG-4A also known as a Hadrian. While it was far from beautiful, the Hadrian was only used for one mission. Upon landing, it was either abandoned or destroyed. Today, helicopters have replaced the Hadrian glider.
82nd Airbourne Division
The 82nd Airbourne Division is an elite parachute unit of the U.S. Army. This division has the ability to begin combat operations anywhere in the world within 18 hours of notification.
The 82nd Division’s primary mission is airfield and seaport seizure. Every member of the unit is jump qualified and every piece of equipment the unit needs can be parachuted into a location.
The 82nd Division was organized on March 25, 1917 with members coming from all over the county. Because of this, the unit was nicknamed the "All American" and is the reason for the distinctive "AA" on the unit’s shoulder patch.
The 82nd Division has seen combat in almost every conflict since WWI and is today one of the most highly trained light infantry divisions in the world.
For additional information about Sauk County in WWII, click here to visit our other web page.