Hover For Menu

Welcome to music of the second world war era—Page 3



on the home front

Woman volunteered for military service. The Army formed the Woman's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), which later became the WACs, and the Navy formed the WAVES. A unit of woman pilots ferried airplanes across the US and overseas. Red Cross volunteers not only drove ambulances, wrapped bandages, and poured coffee at home as they had in previous wars; some served close behind the front lines and in jungle hell holes. Many of these services were hazardous and a number of these unsung heroes and heroines died serving their country.

Rosie the Riveter, a made-up character, symbolized the entry of women into the workplace in jobs formerly held by men, jobs that until then men believed could only be performed by men. "Rosies" performed dirty, rough, heavy duty jobs in factories, foundries, and shipyards, and they performed them well. They riveted airplane bulkheads and welded boilerplate; they worked at machine lathes and at stamping presses. An estimated 20 million women served in this capacity. Many lost their jobs when the men returned after the war, but many stayed on in their jobs to permanently change the composition of the U. S. work force.

Men with sea experience who were too old for active duty volunteered for the Merchant Marine service. Supposedly non-combatants, they trained at five inch naval guns mounted on their prows. But what good were five inch guns against submerged U-boats and torpedoes? Underwater explosions blew them into freezing Arctic seas where, if they didn't burn to death in flaming oil, they froze in ice cold waters and drowned like rats in minutes. Convoys made little difference. Hold after hold crammed with Lend Lease cargo bound for Murmansk and Vladivostok never arrived.

Civilian construction workers volunteered for Sea Bee battalions and were accepted even though many were overage and unfit for active duty. Throughout they war they built airstrips, docks, and bridges, most of them on faraway, isolated Pacific islands. Anonymous heroes in dungarees, they wrangled a bulldozer or laid landing strips in mud, a steering lever in one hand and a rifle in the other, all the while searching for the glint of a sniper rifle sparkling in the shadows of a palm tree.

Blackouts and air raid drills became common in certain sections of the country. German U-boats torpedoed American freighters off the New York coast and oil tankers off the Florida and Texas coasts. In one incident, a German submarine landed eight saboteurs on American soil who were captured and put to death. There were Japanese bombing scares on the West Coast.

Posters declaimed that A Slip of a Lip Will Sink a Ship! and Loose Lips Sink Ships! As with Uncle Sam Wants You! posters, many variations on the loose lips theme appeared. Here's one of them.

about SNAFU, Dr. Seuss, and Loose Lips

In case you haven't heard, a GI is the name a grunt (foot soldier) used to describe himself and his companions. GI stands for Government Issue. The term says a lot about the ordinary soldier felt about his position in the military hierarchy—little more than a piece of equipment.

Snafu is GI-talk for Situation Normal: All Fouled Up. Foul was a euphemism; GIs preferred the word, *ucked.

A snafu is a badly confused or ridiculously muddled situation, a state of disorder, a situation that is out of control or chaotic. When you snafu a situation, you muddle it, you screw it up. Most GIs believed that most of the war was a snafu most of the time.

During WWII, Theodore Geisel, today known the world over as Dr. Seuss (Cat in a Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, etc.), worked on war propaganda in and for the U.S. Army Signal Corps, where he created a cartoon character known as Private Snafu to educate and boost the morale of the troops. Private Snafu appeared in 26 cartoons created by Geisel and Phil Eastman, most of which were produced by Warner Brothers Animation Studios. They employed Warner animators, voice actors (primarily Mel Blanc) and Carl Stalling's music. Good people, good stuff! (Although active in the war effort in their own right, contrary to urban legend, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck took no part in Geisel's work.)

Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) in his post-WWII years

In one of these cartoons, Private Snafu, while drunk, reveals military secrets that allow the enemy to torpedo his ship, demonstrating entertainingly and in a non-intimidating way that Loose Lips Sink Ships. Strangely, the good private sounds exactly like Bugs Bunny. Could Snafu's voice be that of Mel Blanc?

We are indebted to the National Archives for placing these 26 cartoons in the public domain and to the Internet Archive web site for publishing the Private SNAFU: Spies cartoon. Spies, which deals with the theme of Loose Lips, was produced in 1943. It is registered as NAIL: 111-M-929.ARC Identifier: 35827.

  • See what the GI's in training saw. View Geisel's cartoon, Private SNAFU: Spies: click here.*

    *NOTE: If connected to the Internet via low speed modem, allow sufficient time for movie to arrive; then click start on movie player. Please be patient; this will take a while.

  • See what the GI's in training saw. View Geisel's cartoon, Private SNAFU: Spies: click here.**

**NOTE: Recommended for high speed connections.

Japanese-American citizens, especially those in California, were moved to American-style concentration camps, "out of harm's way." Letters were censored. People grabbed at the latest newspapers and frowned, puzzled, scoffed, or laughed at what they saw there. The newly formed Office of Price Administration (OPA) instituted price controls; the Rationing Board issued food stamps. Shortages and rationing produced a black market. Gasoline A-Cards and meat rationing and sugar rationing were for losers but there were a lot of losers. People collected rendered fat for explosives in tin cans and donated old newspapers and scrap metal in "war drives." They kept Victory Gardens in back yards or on rooftops and ate the food they grew. "Double features" showed two dramatic pictures, at least one of which was about the boys at war or spies at home or soldiers stomping at the USO or War Bond rallies. Thrown in for good measure were a newsreel, a propaganda flick, a short subject, a comedy one-reeler, which, if you were lucky, was one of the Three Stooges, and a one-reeler weekly serial, which, if you were lucky, was an episode of Flash Gordon. The bill changed twice a week.

On the Home Front, Franklin Roosevelt's friendly, frank, and open Fireside Chats informed, calmed, reassured, and invigorated the nation. Blue stars, signifying that a man of the house was in uniform, started to appear on small flags hung in neighborhood windows. Soon gold stars started to appear, signifying a death. Some households hung these flags in their windows for years after hostilities ended. Factories that met their production goals proudly displayed blue flags bearing the coveted white letter E, for Efficiency.

ETAF Recommends


Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6



Contact Us
Print This Page
Add This Page To Your Favorites (type <Ctrl> D)

This web site and its contents are copyrighted by Decision Consulting Incorporated (DCI). All rights reserved.
You may reproduce this page for your personal use or for non-commercial distribution. All copies must include this copyright statement.
Additional copyright and trademark notices

Exploring the Arts Foundation
Today's Special Feature
To Do

Rosie The Riveter

Private Snafu: Spies

A Slip Of The Lip

Rosie The Riveter

Feature Pages
Related Pages
See Also