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Home Front Friday: A Wartime Inauguration Sparks Inspiration

Home Front Friday is a regular series that highlights the can do spirit on the Home Front during World War II and illustrates how that spirit is still alive today!

On January 20, 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn in for a fourth term, which was cut short on April 12 of the same year due to his decline in health and passing. No president in the history of presidents had been sworn in for a fourth term, or even a third for that matter. It had always been two terms, but in the case of President Roosevelt, the American public did not want to defer from their familiar and trusted leader during a tense time of economic struggles and outbreak of war. Today, January 20, 2017, we are swearing in a new American who will begin their first term as President of the United States. Inauguration ceremonies began with George Washington, and since then have served as the day that an elected official is customarily sworn in and then addresses the American public with a speech laying out their goals and plans for the next four years. If you’re looking to learn more about the history of the induction on this January 20, 2017 inauguration of yet another President, follow this link.

In 1941, President Roosevelt was inaugurated for his third term as President. This was essentially about a whole year before Pearl Harbor was attacked and the formation of a direct U.S. relationship with the war. Floods of people gathered in front of the Capitol ready to listen to how Roosevelt will make his historic third term a four years of working to, “save the Nation and its institutions from disruption from without.” America was a nation of people made up of soon to be enlisted or drafted men and working civilians who banded together in the fight to preserve democracy and end the war on Nazi domination and Japanese expansion in the name of liberty.

FDR delivering his inaugural address on January 20, 1941. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

FDR delivering his inaugural address on January 20, 1941. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

January 20, 1941. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

January 20, 1941. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

The years that followed this 1941 Inauguration Ceremony changed the United States from a neutral nation determined to stay out of the conflict to a united front, apart of a group of Allies, fighting in battle, losing lives, and persevering both on the battlefront and Home Front. Therefore, the somber, very low key and laid-back atmosphere of President Roosevelt’s Inauguration on January 20, 1945 was not a surprise. His heal was declining, and WWII was reaching a close. The Allies were going to emerge victorious, but no attention could be deferred from the war until their boys were home and safe from the constant threat of danger in Europe and the Pacific.

At the Inauguration in 1945, there was a short parade and a cold brunch. President Roosevelt did not host a long parade that traveled through the whole of Washington, D.C. to the White House due to the rationing of gasoline and the Home Front’s dedication to the only purposeful use of the valuable gallons of gasoline. In his 1945 address, Roosevelt stated:

“We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.

We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, that, ‘The only way to have a friend is to be one.'”

Photo courtesy of cnn.com.

FDR delivering his speech on January 20, 1945. Photo courtesy of cnn.com.

These are some pretty iconic words, and definitely a phrase that we can hold us accountable today. It  never hurts to receive a nice reminder or wake up call from either a person of the past, like Roosevelt, or from your own friends that you see every day. Sometimes we need a little reminder that we are in this life together and taking it day by day as one nation, under God. Everyday is different and never easy, but as Roosevelt said, we are members of a human community and its up to us to treat one another with the respect each person deserves. Roosevelt captured the embodiment of the Home Front spirit with that quote; the “we can do it” attitude and unification of so many people for a common cause during WWII. For his full speech, follow this link.

In honor of Roosevelt’s speech, here are 7 ways you can be an even better citizen of the world and be a kind friend to those around you:

1. Hold the door for those behind you. That extra five seconds in  your life you use to wait for someone behind you could make all the positive difference in someone else’s day.

2. Write down three good things that happened to you during the day.

3. Definitely say “please” and “thank you.” Manners go a long way.

4. SMILE! (at everyone, even throw a stranger a soft smile. It may just brighten their day.)

5. Call a friend or family member and tell them that you appreciate them.

6. Learn something new. Whether its a language, recipe, or craft. Go ahead and try it out and see how much you’re capable of. It’ll bring you some joy and could inspire someone else to try something they’ve been wanting to do.

7. Pay it forward. However you may like. Pay a visit to the Pay It Forward site and learn more.

There are so many more than 7 ways to practice gratitude and appreciation for one another, so if you’re looking for other ways, follow this link to a Huffington Post article that’ll have you feeing inspired. 

Posted by Camille Weber, Education Intern and Lauren Handley, Assistant Director of Education for Public Programs at The National WWII Museum.

SciTech Tuesday: Sikorsky and the helicopter.

On 14 January 1942 Sikorsky Aircraft successfully flew for the first time the contraption later called the YR-4 (or the Hoverfly in England). This rotary winged craft became the first mass-produced helicopter.

In a test flight it went from the company’s Connecticut headquarters to Wright Air Field in Ohio (over 700 miles) with a ceiling of 12,000 feet and a top speed of 90 mph. Within a year the US Army Air Force and the Royal Navy were testing prototypes. After the engine capacity was increased (to 165 hp) and stability improved by increasing the rotor length and displacement of the tail rotor, the helicopter went to training and field testing.

The first mission in which the YR-4 was used was a combat rescue mission in the China=Burma theater in April of 1943. Throughout the war it was used primarily for rescue missions.

Igor Sikorsky, who designed this craft, was a Russian immigrant born in Ukraine in 1889. His story is one that reflects many from the time, and resonates today. He studied engineering in Paris and Kiev, and established a successful company building aircraft, including bombers for Russian forces in WWI. He briefly worked for the French forces in Russia as an engineer, but believing the October Revolution to threaten both his career and life, he emigrated to the US in 1919. He worked as a school teacher in NY  until he obtained a position on the engineering faculty at the University of Rhode Island in 1933. In 1923, with backing from Russian expats like Rachmaninov, he formed the Sikorsky Manufacturing Company and built the one of the first dual-engined planes in the US. This plane, the S-29, carried 14 passengers and could fly at 115mph. His company was acquired by United Aircraft and Transport Company (today’s United Technologies Corporation) in 1929, and he helped them make the boat-planes that Pan-Am used for its cross-Atlantic routes.

He married in 1924 and became a naturalized citizen in 1928. He lived until 1972. Always a devout Russian Orthodox Christian, he authored 3 books, one about his helicopters, and two about theology.

 

Posted by Rob Wallace, STEM Education Coordinator at The National WWII Museum.

all images from Wikimedia Commons

January Classroom of the Month— Get in the Scrap!

Each month the Museum will feature a standout classroom participating in Get in the Scrap! Get in the Scrap! is a national service learning project about recycling and energy conservation, inspired by the scrapping efforts of students during World War II.  Each class featured has done stellar work to make a difference in their school, home, community and even the planet!

This month, we’re featuring students at Southern Magnolia Montessori School in Abita Springs, Louisiana.  The students and their teacher sat down to answer a few questions for us about their work with Get in the Scrap!

Southern Magnolia Montessori students with their haul from the Get in the Scrap! penny wars activity.  Students raised about $175 and donated to a variety of causes.

Southern Magnolia Montessori students with their haul from the Get in the Scrap! penny wars activity. Students raised about $175 and donated to a variety of causes.

GITS logo finalTeam Name: The We Can Do Its!

Number of Get in the Scrap! points thus far: 25

How has Get in the Scrap! been a good fit for your curriculum? Please explain: 

Get in the Scrap! perfectly echoes our school policies and lessons on caring for the environment. Plus, the students are extremely interested World War II— we have visited the Museum, attended the Air Power Expo, and scheduled two Red Ball Express visits in years past.

What has been your favorite activity? Why?

Penny Wars! They enjoyed the positive, healthy competition for a good cause. They donated to a local orphanage, to a classmate, and to their free enterprise project, Montessori Market. [Blogger’s note: At the school’s Montessori Market, students create and sell handmade goods and learn to budget.]

This is just one of the many amazing classrooms participating in the Get in the Scrap! national service learning project. You can learn more and sign up your classroom today at getinthescrap.org!

Post by Chrissy Gregg, Virtual Classroom Coordinator

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Nominate a Student for the 2017 Billy Michal Student Leadership Award

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Know a student doing great things in their school or community? Nominate them for the Billy Michal Student Leadership Award!

Each year as part of its American Spirit Awards, The National WWII Museum honors great Americans across multiple generations for their dedication to education, service and leadership.  This year The National WWII Museum is pleased to announce an important addition to the American Spirit Awards – the inaugural Billy Michal Student Leadership Award – to be given annually to one 8th – 12th grade student from each state and the District of Columbia who demonstrates the American Spirit in his or her community.

The values of leadership, teamwork, tolerance, creativity, and perseverance can and should be learned and lived by all Americans regardless of age. During World War II, when six-year-old Billy Michal from Zimmerman, Louisiana, helped his one-room school win a statewide scrap-metal collection contest, he understood that every citizen—no matter their age—could contribute to our victory in the War.

Billy Michal, 1943

Billy Michal, 1943

Billy’s example, and the actions of millions of other students on the Home Front, reminds us that service to country and community helps create active, engaged citizens. Through the Billy Michal Student Leadership Award, the Museum promotes these values to students nationwide and honors those who exemplify them, giving them an opportunity to be mentored by recipients of the American Spirit Awards, so that they may learn lessons of leadership and success.

The 51 selected student leaders will be flown to New Orleans along with a parent or chaperone, all expenses paid, to attend the 2017 American Spirit Awards event from June 8 – 10, 2017, where they will represent their state at the prestigious American Spirit Awards. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in leadership activities including a Q&A session with the American Spirit Awards recipients, explore New Orleans and the Museum, through spectacular behind-the-scenes experiences.

Applications for student nominees for the inaugural Billy Michal Student Leadership Award are now open.  Nominees should have a strong record of volunteerism, school and/or community activism, or implementing creative solutions to recognized problems. Nominations can be submitted by teachers, coaches, clergy, or other community leaders.  Nominations must be received no later than March 3, 2017.

 

Help us select the recipients of the 2017 Billy Michal Student Leadership Award!  Nominate a Student!

 

This post by Collin Makamson, Student Programs Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum

Home Front Friday: For Auld Lang Syne

Home Front Friday is a regular series that highlights the can do spirit on the Home Front during World War II and illustrates how that spirit is still alive today!

A few days ago we watched the infamous NYC ball drop in honor of welcoming 2017. Masses of people have been gathering in Times Square to celebrate the New Year since 1904, but it was not until 1907 that the first New Year’s Eve Ball descended the pole. Flash forward 35 years to December 31, 1942, and the U.S. was in a state very different from 1907. We were finishing up a full year of involvement with WWII, and still in the process of sending more troops to Europe and the vast Pacific. The celebration of New Years varied on the Home Front depending on the year and morale of people. Here’s how our fellow Americans gathered in Times Square to ring in a fresh start for the years of 1942, 1943, and 1944.

New Year’s Eve on  December 31, 1941 was celebrated like there was no WWII in honor of welcoming 1942. 

New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square on December 31, 1941. Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square on December 31, 1941. Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

The New Year’s Eve Ball dropped, and people cheered grander and happier than ever before. Masses of people celebrated as if Pearl Harbor had not been attacked and as if the U.S. was not in a state of war. The partying in Times Square was energetic and a complete escape from the unfortunate reality that awaited so many of the men in uniform: they were headed overseas. The signs of a wartime America were evident in Times Square because of the thousands of police officers and fire trucks lined up and stood by in case of an emergency, but the spirits of the American Home Front honored 1941 and welcomed 1942 with bright lights, noise makers, and a unified singing of the Star Spangled Banner once the NYE Ball reached the end of the pole. U.S. involvement with WWII had just begun, but the Home Front already stood strong with their troops.

Write-up in the New York Times of the NYE celebration to greet 1942.

Write-up in the New York Times of the NYE celebration that greeted 1942.

Photo courtesy of LIFE magazine.

Celebrating 1942. Photo courtesy of LIFE magazine.

New Year’s Eve on December 31, 1942 gave a more somber welcome to 1943.

An article in the New York Times published on January 1, 1943. Courtesy of the New York Times.

An article in the New York Times published on January 1, 1943. Courtesy of the New York Times.

Jump ahead one year, and the times had significantly changed. The U.S. had been involved with the battles of WWII for a full year now, and the sentiment of loss and longing for loved ones was felt in the atmosphere of all who gathered in Times Square on December 31, 1942. Every year since 1907, the New Year’s Eve Ball dropped, but on the eve of 1943, there would be no Ball to descend the infamous pole that sits on top of the Times Square buildings. The efforts on the Home Front of the past year were focused on how to save and reuse. As a way to conserve energy and fuel, as well as practice for a possible, and terrifying, attack by the German Luftwaffe, black out drills were held, especially along the East Coast because not only was an air raid imaginable, but also the bright lights from cities created silhouettes of ships in the water which made them easy targets for the lurking German U-Boats. It was because of these black out drills that New Year’s Eve in Times Square 1942 neither had the Ball drop nor the infamous billboard lights because they wanted to cut back on energy costs as well as stay under the radar from the evident possibility of an attack.

New Year’s Eve on December 31, 1943 experienced a happier celebration in honor of 1944 despite wartime limitations. 

A photo of the crowds in Times Square on December 31, 1943 published in the New York Times.

A photo of the crowds in Times Square on December 31, 1943 published in the New York Times.

A gathering to welcome 1944 then came along another year later and thousands celebrated with a more joyous spirit. People had a greater faith that the end to WWII was somewhat slowly getting closer, but they still had many tough fights ahead. Times Square was packed, and Churches filled up throughout the night and into the next day in honor of President Roosevelt’s declaration that January 1, 1944 was a day of prayer. Reflections of civilians who lived on the Home Front may not have been the happiest because of their strong desire to have family and friends back home, but at least they were a unified mass of people, working together and thankful that they were alive to put in another productive year. Although this was another year where the NYE Ball did not drop, men in uniform, women in their finest dresses, and anyone in between still gathered in New York City to celebrate with one another. The lyrics of Auld Lang Syne reminded people that it may have been long since they had seen family and friends, but that they could raise their cups or glasses in their honor and dedicate their toast to health and safety of those loved ones far away. The same rings true for today as people raise their “cups o’ kindness” in honor of those stationed around the world. In place of the Ball drop, a moment of silence was held when the clock struck twelve and chimes were played from sound trucks parked around Times Square.

A snippet from New York Times article published on January 1, 1944.

A snippet from New York Times article published on January 1, 1944.

There was no NYE Ball drop on December 31, 1943 to welcome 1944.

There was no NYE Ball drop on December 31, 1943 to welcome 1944.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of these celebrations from eve of 1942 to the eve of 1944 are prime examples of the Home Front spirit during WWII. They may not have had lights or fireworks, and many probably were missing family members and close friends, but despite all of these setbacks, Americans found a way to cherish the clean slate of a new year, and continued to hope that that would be the year the war ended. During the parties and celebrations to welcome the New Year, many people had noise makers and party horns of some sort. Many of us still use these toys today to make as much noise as possible and cheer in a new 365 days. Although the day of celebration has passed, it’s always interesting, fun, sometimes successful other times a struggle, to make your own party supplies. The following instructions will teach you how to make your own party horns. The best part is you can use paper scraps to create the tube of the horn. This will get you in the spirit of scrapping, just as our friends on the Home Front.

Supplies:

  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Straw
  • Tape
  • Colored Pencils, Crayons, or any sort of decoration

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Step 1: Cut your paper into a strip that is 2×9 and then color it with a design of your choice.

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Step 2: Fold the sides of the paper so that they meet in the middle and tape the strip of paper closed.

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Step 3: Fold one of the ends of the tube of paper closed and tape it shut.

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Step 4: Roll the paper from the end taped closed until it meets the other end.

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Step 5: Place a rubber band around it while you move onto preparing the straw.

Step 6: Take out your straw and place a piece of double sided tape around the end that you will put into the open end of the tube of paper.

Step 7: Insert the taped end of the straw into the tube.

Step 8: Fold sides of the tube over the straw and tape them shut so that no air can exit the tube.

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Step 9: Celebrate!

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Posted by Camille Weber, Education Intern and Lauren Handley, Assistant Director of Education for Public Programs at The National WWII Museum.

The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation Brings “First Lady Of Song” to Museum

The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation visited the Museum for a tour on Wednesday and graciously donated priceless artifacts from Ella’s archives to our collection— items including sheet music, concert programs, and music albums. For example, pictured below is a piece of sheet music from Ella’s collection for the popular wartime song “Comin’ in on a Wing and a Prayer” (an audience favorite for the Victory Belles in their recent “Songs that Won the War” revue). The Foundation made an additional contribution that will help fund school Title 1 field trips to the Museum.

Ella Fitzgerald performance program in WWII

WWII-era sheet music donated in memory of Miss Ella Fitzgerald from the Estate of Ella Fitzgerald.

While on campus, the group visited an item related to Fitzgerald, “First Lady of Song,” displayed in BB’s Stage Door Canteen, the Museum’s tribute to wartime USO entertainment venues. Pictured at the M-1 helmet liner, worn by Fitzgerald at a USO camp show, are (left to right), Richard Rosman, Fran Morris Rosman, Randal Rosman, and Irene Romero.

Ella Fitzgeral M-1 helmet worn at WWII USO camp show on display at National WWII Museum

Pictured at the M-1 helmet liner, worn by Fitzgerald at a USO camp show, are (left to right), Richard Rosman, Fran Morris Rosman, Randal Rosman, and Irene Romero.

 

Ella Fitzgerald’s voice is featured prominently on the 1940s musical soundtrack heard throughout the Museum, as befits one of the superstars of the era and an all-time music great. As Bing Crosby— a pretty good singer himself— once said: “Man, woman or child, Ella is the greatest of them all.”

M1 helmet worn in WWII by Ella Fitzgerald

M-1helmet worn by Ella Fitzgerald on display in BB’s Stage Door Canteen at The National WWII Museum.

Founded by the singer in 1993, the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation is dedicated “to use the fruits of her success to help people of all races, cultures and beliefs,” according to the foundation’s website. “Ella hoped to make their lives more rewarding, and she wanted to foster a love of reading, as well as a love of music. In addition, she hoped to provide assistance to the at-risk and disadvantaged members of our communities—assistance that would enable them to achieve a better quality of life.”

Ella Fitzgerald portrait

Thanks for visiting, foundation friends, and thanks for your generous support!

Check out the foundation’s Facebook page for more information.

Farewell to Dr. Harold “Hal” Baumgarten, D-Day Survivor and Friend of The National WWII Museum

Private Harold “Hal” Baumgarten, Company B, 116th Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6th, 1944. Part of the first waves of the assault force, Baumgarten endured murderous enemy fire, was wounded five times in just 32 hours of fighting, and had to be evacuated by hospital ship.

The Museum’s Digital Collections contain a minute-by-minute personal account of his harrowing D-Day experience. Watch the oral history here—https://goo.gl/Yo8jaF—and join us in a heartfelt final salute to an American hero, retired physician, and dear friend of The National WWII Museum. Dr. Baumgarten died December 25, 2016, at age 91.

One of the Museum’s earliest and most enthusiastic supporters, Dr. Baumgarten was a featured speaker in The National D-Day Museum’s 2000 grand opening ceremonies. The wristwatch he wore ashore at Omaha, given to him by his father, has been on display at the Museum ever since.  In 2015 he received the Silver Service Medallion, awarded to veterans and those with a direct connection to World War II who have served our country with distinction, at the Museum’s Victory Ball. He was a frequent speaker at Museum events, including the International Conference on World War II, and returned to “Bloody Omaha” several times with Museum tours of the Normandy beaches.

Of the 30 men on Dr. Baumgarten’s landing craft on D-Day, 28 did not survive the invasion, a chilling fact cited by Museum president and CEO Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, in remarks after receiving the French Medal of Honor in May 2016.

“Many years later, Harold would make a point of reciting the full name and hometown of fellow soldiers who didn’t come home,” Mueller said. “‘I want them never to be forgotten,’ he would say.”

According to Dr. Baumgarten’s obituary at Legacy.com, his WWII service—for which he received a Purple Heart and two bronze stars, among other honors—inspired him to devote his life to “paying back,” first by becoming a teacher, then a doctor.

His vow to honor the memories of the men who fell around him on D-Day was evident in scores of interviews, his own writing, countless speaking engagements around the world, and his dedication to the Museum.

Dr. Baumgarten credited Museum cofounder Stephen E. Ambrose with encouraging him to write and speak about his war experiences, and it was through the Ambrose connection that Dr. Baumgarten’s journey onto and across Omaha Beach reached its widest audience: at the D-Day Museum’s June 6, 2000 opening, Saving Private Ryan director Steven Spielberg told Dr. Baumgarten that the film’s unforgettable beach combat scenes were drawn from the recorded interviews Ambrose had done with the veteran.

“He is the real thing,” said Saving Private Ryan star Tom Hanks at the Museum’s opening.

We send our condolences to Dr. Baumgarten’s wife, Rita, who frequently accompanied him at Museum events and on tours, as well as all of his family and many friends.

 

 

 

 

“With us on the job…”: WAC Mary Margaret Owen

One of the newest collections at The National WWII Museum, received just today, is from the service of WAC Mary Margaret Owen. Seventy years ago, on December 27, 1946, Mary Margaret Owen was discharged from the Women’s Army Corps. In her three years of service, she saw much of the country in training and at various posts. She wrote her family during training, “It is our job to receive reports on all aircraft flying and see that no enemy planes surprise us–with us on the job they won’t!!” Mary spent the later part of her service at Fort Indiantown Gap, overseeing a typing pool processing records and demobilizing those returning from the European Theater. Over 150,000 women served in the Women’s Army Corps in WWII. Thank you to these groundbreaking women and to Mary’s daughters for contributing this material to the Museum. Learn more about women in WWII in our Focus On gallery.

Gift in Memory of Mary Margaret Owen (McArtor), 2016

Post by Assistant Director for Curatorial Services Kimberly Guise.

SciTech Tuesday: The Development of an American Icon of WWII

Now a quintessentially American icon, the P-51 Mustang had very English origins. That famous plane, used by the Eighth Air Force over western Europe to defend bombers, the ride of the Tuskegee Airmen, was displaced from the front of the US air arsenal only when jets arrived. But before it was replaced it also served in the North African, Mediterranean, Italian and Pacific Theater in WWII, and well into the Korean War.

However, the first of these planes were built by North American Aviation (NAA) in 1940 to fill an order for the British Purchasing Commission. The commission had asked for P-40s for the Royal Air Force, but rather than licensing from Curtiss, NAA proposed an upgraded design. The purchase and delivery of the planes came under the famous Lend-Lease agreement, and they were named Mustang Mk1.

The plane was meant to be a tactical-reconnaissance fighter and bomber to be used a relatively low altitudes. The range on the planes was much longer than the planes the British were using. The Allison engine in the original planes had a single-stage supercharger. This limited the power of the engine at high altitudes. After a test flight, Ronald Harker of Rolls Royce was impressed with everything about the plane but its power-plant. He suggested that the Merlin 61, which was being used in the latest Spitfires, would do very well in the aircraft, and even made some rough measurements of the engine compartment to verify that it would fit. The Merlin 61 was designed with a two-stage intercooled supercharger that increased horsepower and operational altitude and speed. The heavier engine gave engineers a chance to add an additional fuel tank behind the pilot, that balanced the center of gravity and provided longer range.

The Merlin 61 was licensed to Packard to build in the US as the V-1650 Merlin. Packard was building and shipping them to England to supplement production there. Addition of the two-stage supercharger had been made for use in the British Wellington VI bomber, and was later used for Spitfires as well.

After encouragement, NAA switched the power-plant in the Mustang MK1 to the Merlin, and the plane was made for the USAAF as well—as the P-51 Mustang.

Although much of the power-plant engineering was British, the critical two-stage supercharger was French, and the Americans added a new alloy to the ball bearings that prevented wear and decreased maintenance. The amazing aerodynamics of the plane—the airfoil of its wings has very low drag at high speed—were all American.

Much of what you see on the outside of the iconic American plane is American—but inside you’ll find some British and a little French. Like much of the rest of the story of WWII, cooperation among allies was the key to victory.

Posted by Rob Wallace, STEM Education Coordinator at The National WWII Museum.

Home Front Friday: 75th Anniversary of the First Home Front Christmas

Home Front Friday is a regular series that highlights the can do spirit on the Home Front during World War II and illustrates how that spirit is still alive today!

The days were supposed to be merry and the times bright, but in the case of American’s first Home Front Christmas in 1941, this was not a family’s typical holly jolly season. Pearl Harbor had been attacked 18 days prior to Christmas day and the U.S. was now a part of the world war. Some men were drafted, others enlisted. Women headed to the factories and children began collecting metal scraps. It was only a few weeks into U.S. involvement with the war, but this Home Front was already unified, and in this unification they demonstrated one of the true meanings of Christmas. It was, and still is, a time of the year to set aside differences, to celebrate and to unify with one another in honor of the spirit of the holiday season. Although they may not have been celebrating with numerous amounts of gifts, a lot of food, and seasonal travel, people were realizing that the effort they had put in on the Home Front had already helped reach highs in production. Through their constant work, they would be one small step closer each day to helping reach the end of the war, which was far off in the distance.

On this day, December 23, 1941, in the world of politics and the fight to devise plans to end the war, Winston Churchill met with President Roosevelt at the White House. The first Home Front Christmas for the White House was nothing shy of somber. Rooms were decorated more with maps and military plans rather than with tinsel and lights. The Roosevelts’ four sons had left for war and their daughter was out of town. It was as if Christmas was just another day following the Pearl Harbor attack in which they had to come to terms with the fact that the U.S. was now an actual part of the conflict. If you have more of an interest in exactly how Christmas eve and day were spent at the White House in 1941, check out this article featured in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt discussing plans on Christmas Eve in 1941. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

A Christmas Tree lighting was held, and President Roosevelt delivered a speech that reminded the American public to not let their spirits hang low, but rather to unite with one another as a nationwide support system that was fighting to restore freedom. He stated, “Our strongest weapon in this war is that conviction of the dignity and brotherhood of man which Christmas Day signifies – more than any other day or any other symbol.” Follow this link if you wish to read his whole speech. Roosevelt dedicated the 1941 Tree Lighting to those armed forces who were preparing to head off or were already overseas.

President Roosevelt speaking at the Christmas Tree Lighting in 1941. Photo courtesy of FDR Library Digital Collection.

President Roosevelt speaking at the Christmas Tree Lighting in 1941. Photo courtesy of FDR Library Digital Collection.

In the 1941 world of pop culture, Bing Crosby released a radio broadcast of the infamous song, “White Christmas,” on December 25. A rather slow song, not very upbeat, and kind of sad, “White Christmas,” struck a chord with the American public and by 1942, Crosby had released recordings of this seasonal song for public distribution. The tune paralleled with the Home Front’s feelings of nostalgia for a world before war, even though 1941 was just the beginning for the U.S.

Families still decorated their homes with a small tree covered in ornaments and lights, but the ornaments they used were not all made of aluminum or tin or metal. A lot of them were home made of paper or some sort of thing from nature, like a pine cone. With the do it yourself culture on the constant rise today, it is not uncommon to find many homes at Christmas time, or during anytime of the year really, decorated with handmade objects compiled from paper, scrap wood, and coated with a little bit of paint. It’s never too late to throw a new ornament up on your tree, so here are some instructions for a snowflake ornament made from paper.

Supplies:

  • 6 pieces of paper (you can use computer paper, wrapping paper, scrapbook paper, whatever type and design you want)
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Stapler

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Step 1: Fold each of your pieces of paper diagonally then cut off the rectangle strip.

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Step 2: Cut three strips that vary in size into each of the triangles

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Step 3: Open up the triangle. It should form a diamond shape.IMG_2575Step 4: Fold the inner most slits and tape them together.

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Step 5: Flip the diamond sheet over and now fold the next level of slits and tape them together.

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Step 6: Continue this process until all of the cuts of each of the six pieces of paper have been folded and taped.

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Step 7: Staple or tape (your choice) three of the twists together at the center. Then do the same with the other three.

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Step 8: Now, staple (or tape) the two parts together at a central meeting point.

And now you’re finished. Add some color and hang it from your tree or around your house.

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Posted by Camille Weber, Education Intern and Lauren Handley, Assistant Director of Education for Public Programs at The National WWII Museum.