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Life on the Home Front

Questions to Consider

While American soldiers were fighting abroad, what was happening to people at home?

What did people do to support the war effort on the home front?

What was one of the responses to food rationing?

Did all Americans support the United States' entry into World War II?

About the images

The images in this topic illustrate the many ways people at home supported the war effort. Photographs show volunteer aircraft spotters, people buying and selling war bonds, and growing victory gardens.

Overview

As the picture of the 1942 Santa Ana High School graduating class shows, uniformed graduates were headed into the service right after graduation day — some may have been volunteers and others drafted. Those who weren't eligible for service could volunteer to help the war effort at home. As the images in this topic show, people at home contributed to the war effort in a variety of ways.

Many people readied for possible enemy attack. In one photograph men carry glass globes that will dim street lamps and allow for a "blackout" so that enemy planes won't be able to see the location of a city or town. Another photograph shows volunteer air spotters looking at a map, and another shows a women at a table recruiting volunteers to help spot suspicious aircraft.

Raising money was another way to help. Some civilians supported the war effort by buying war bonds directly. Others raised money for war bonds through fundraisers like the Shangri La Queen beauty contest, pictured here.

Many products were rationed during the war, and the government emphasized the importance of self-sufficiency. Nearly 20 million Americans — including the fourth-grade children in Colorado and a Japanese-American family relocated to Madison, Wisconsin, shown here —answered the government's request to plant "victory gardens" to raise their own food. These gardens, large and small, produced up to 40% of all food that was consumed. One photo even shows children raising rabbits for food in their back yard.

Not everyone supported the war effort. As you can see in the photograph of a peace protest at UC Berkeley, some citizens wanted no part in the war and held peace strikes and rallies.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, life at home changed for Japanese Americans. Those on the West Coast faced internment in addition to prejudice and discrimination. During a brief period before internment became mandatory, Japanese Americans were allowed to choose voluntary evacuation to the Midwest. A photograph shows the Nomura family standing in front of their new home in Madison, Wisconsin.

California Content Standards

English-Language Arts

Grade 4:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.3 Write information reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Make informational presentations.

Grade 11:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.4 Write historical investigation reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Deliver oral reports on historical investigations.
2.4 Delivery multimedia presentations.

History-Social Science

Grade 4:

4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850s. (4.4.5)

Grade 11:

11.7 Students analyze America's participation in World War II. (11.7.6)

Visual Arts

3.0 Historical and Cultural Context Understanding the Historical Contributions and Cultural Dimensions of the Visual Arts. Students analyze the role and development of the visual arts in past and present cultures throughout the world, noting human diversity as it relates to the visual arts and artists.

Graduating class of Santa Ana High School, 1942 Jesse Ross is working as an Electrical Superintendent at the City Yard. Compiling with orders from the Defense Dept. to dim out 10,000 street light globes, 1942 Newport Beach Aircraft Warning Volunteer Center during WWII, c1940
Airplane Spotters’ Center on Main Street Don and Fred Burnette in backyard. Kids by rabbit hutch;  raising rabbits for food during World War II, 1943 Henry Nomura, voluntary resettler with his family, Madison, Wisconsin, 1944
Fourth grade children weeding their victory garden, 6/4/43 U.C.B. War Protesters, April 19, 1940 Marie Kitazomi, formerly of the Tule Lake Center, is now employed as a secretary in Indianapolis, 8/25/43
World War II bond drive, Shangri La Queen, July 1943 Image of Japanese American family that has relocated; Madison, Wisconsin, 9/17/44

Analysis Tools

6C's of Primary Source Analysis (PDF) (Source: UCI History Project)
Photographs (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)
Primary Source Activity (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)