Home Front Friday: Thanskgiving
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!
Thanksgiving is an American holiday cherished now and during the 1940s. On the battle front, the decision was made to provide a turkey dinner for all troops in the ETO for Thanksgiving in 1944. To do this, the fresh meat ration had to be cut. It was estimated that a holiday-sized portion equaled three normal meat meals, and poultry took up even more space. Nevertheless, the commitment to provide turkey to all the troops on the Continent had been made in September. The general opinion was that, irrespective of the morale value of a holiday meal, failure to meet a widely publicized commitment would have a very unfavorable effect. By Thanksgiving, fresh fruit, vegetables and over 1.6 tons of turkey had been distributed to troops. The trucks of the mobile bakery companies also helped get the meal out. Some of the combat troops did not receive the special ration until one or two days after Thanksgiving, but it was generally considered a notable feat of distribution under great difficulties.
On the Home Front, Thanksgiving was a tradition worth preserving, even during times of rationing. Many magazines and pamphlets encouraged making pies with molasses, stretching meat rations, and doing other things to create a feast while the nation was at war. In 1943, Norman Rockwell’s famous photo of a bountiful Thanksgiving representing one of the Four Freedoms was released. For Freedom of Want he took pictures from his own family’s Thanksgiving. Rockwell’s mom actually made the painting. The woman placing the turkey is the Rockwell family’s cook, Mrs. Thaddeus. He later thought that the painting flaunted over abundance.
Today, there is no rationing and no substitutions necessary, except if you desire to, but the enduring image of a family gathered and excited over a huge turkey is still etched in all of our minds. Enjoy your feasts wherever you are!
Posted by Lauren Handley, Assistant Director of Education for Public Programs at The National WWII Museum.