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Posts Tagged ‘Home Front’

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Executive Order #9346: Remembering Our Nation’s Commitment to Equality During World War II

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May 27, 2013, marks the 70th anniversary of Executive Order #9346.  If you don’t know this EO, you are not alone.  While it is often overlooked by World War II historians, the Order is very important in civil rights history and reflects President Franklin Roosevelt’s concern over the morale of African Americans and their role in defense mobilization.

President Roosevelt issued EO #9346 to reconstitute and expand the power of the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC).  This wartime agency was initially established in June 1941 after civil rights and labor leaders threatened to march on the White House to protest lack of training and employment opportunities for African Americans in U.S. defense industries. Executive Order #8802 issued June 25, 1941 established the FEPC as a commission to encourage defense industries to train and hire African Americans, but it really had no legal enforcement.  Facing a backlash from conservatives and industry leaders in 1942, Roosevelt placed the FEPC under control of the War Manpower Commission, effectively taking away its independence and any strong agenda. The dire labor shortage of 1943, however, presented Roosevelt with a rationale for giving the FEPC more power.

EO #9346 issued in May 1943 gave the FEPC a renewed independence, and greatly enlarged its ability to promote fair hiring practices.  The order created twelve new regional offices that were to implement operating agreements with all twelve War Manpower Commission offices.  Field staff in each of these regions worked with local labor and civil rights leaders to document and resolve cases of discrimination in local war industries. Although the fair hiring campaign was technically voluntary, the FEPC staff used negotiations, pressure and appealed to the patriotism of business leaders to enforce fair employment from the summer of 1943 through the fall of 1945.

A segregated work gang at the Pennsylvania Shipyards in Beaumont, Texas. The FEPC documented cases of discrimination in US defense industries and appealed to defense companies to offer employment and training for African American workers. Photo by John Vachon. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

An Expanded FEPC

The expanded FEPC had a significant impact nationally in getting business to train, upgrade and hire African Americans. The FEPC’s efforts at the Consolidated-Vultee aircraft plant in New Orleans are one of its greatest achievements nationally.  In this case, the FEPC pushed for greater employment opportunities at the plant on the New Orleans lakefront that manufactured PBY Catalina airplanes, used in multiple-roles and the most numerous of its kind during the war.  The FEPC staff, local labor leaders and the New Orleans Urban League negotiated with War Manpower Commission and Consolidated-Vultee industrial relations personnel to successfully implement a training and hiring plan.  

Throughout the last two years of the war, the Consolidated-Vultee plant in New Orleans worked with the FEPC in training and integrating black workers. In 1944 alone, the proportion of African American workers at the plant jumped from 2 to 18 percent, and job titles increased by 27 percent.  Although entry wages were only fifty to sixty cents per hour, the opening of semi-skilled and skilled positions represented a gain for black New Orleanians, most of whom were women virtually shut out of most skilled trades in defense industries.

The hiring legacy of Higgins Industries is more well-known and celebrated than Consolidated-Vultee.  Andrew Jackson Higgins was a man well-ahead of his time in his hiring philosophy.  In 1942, Eleanor Roosevelt cited Higgins’ commitment to training and hiring black and white workers in New Orleans on a 50-50 basis.  In recent years, Higgins has been praised for employing skilled black and Asian workers. However, the very conservative AFL trade union insured that Higgins Industries would only hire skilled black carpenters, and not in any metal trades, which the union reserved for white workers.  So whereas Higgins had great vision for the potential for modern hiring practices, AFL leaders insured that segregation on the shop floor would be maintained with the exception of wood-working.

The record of American defense industries’ hiring practices during World War II is a story that presents both of examples of civil rights success and resistance from the status quo.  As such, the history is like many other aspects of the war that are complex and sometimes not pretty.  The United States was still a largely segregated society during the war, and today we praise the field staff of the FEPC and business leaders like Andrew Jackson Higgins that had the vision to promote equality and fairness in the workplace

Women riveting at the Consolidated-Vultee Plant in Nashville, August 1942. The Consolidated-Vultee Plant on the New Orleans lakefront increased its African American workforce during the war after careful negotiations with the Fair Employment Practice Committee during the summer of 1943. Photo by Jack Delano. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Legacy of EO #9346

The legacy of Executive Order #9346 is great, and its impact should not be overlooked. The expansion of the FEPC helped to build a strong network of civil rights leaders who were committed to insuring a more equal society well into the post-war period.  Even though the FEPC was dismantled in 1945, these networks of FEPC staff, civil rights and labor activists, church leaders and military veterans served as a the foundation for modern civil rights leadership.  The FEPC also set a precedent for the passage of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission established under President John F. Kennedy to insure that non-whites and women had legal basis for fighting wage and hiring discrimination at a time when both were still prevalent.

Ultimately, EO #9346 represented a commitment to equality that makes the United States a great nation.  Roosevelt upheld the Four Freedoms as an example of what was at stake in fighting this international conflict.  When the all-out war mobilization effort guaranteed everyone a job from 1943-1945, EO #9346  attempted to insure that non-whites had a stake in building the arsenal of democracy. As we celebrate the accomplishments of America during World War II, let us not forget EO #9346 and the nation’s dedication to an equal society.

Negro Training Defense Center, Southern University, 1941. The FEPC helped initiate training programs in defense industries like this one here at Southern University. Courtesy of the National Archives

Charles Chamberlain, Ph D is president of Historia LLC, and the author of Victory At Home: Manpower and Race in the American South during World War II (University of Georgia Press, 2003). Dr. Chamberlain is a regular lecturer at The National WWII Museum.

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WWII Wedding Gowns

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The World War II years challenged civilians from the Home Front to war-torn Europe to do without many things for the sake of victory. The war also encouraged creativity to fill the gaps left by rationing and the ravages of war. These wedding dresses are a testament to the inventiveness of women tying the knot during the lean war years, and are beautifully made with materials such as parachute silk and mosquito netting.

Myrtille Delassus’ Parachute Silk Wedding Gown:

Myrtille Delassus was seventeen when the Germans invaded her hometown of Merville, France. She spent four long years waiting in ration lines, cold and perpetually hungry. She could hear the Allied invasion of Normandy and, like many others, welcomed British and American soldiers when they arrived in Merville.

GIs were generous with their surplus supplies, and one soldier, Sgt. Joseph Bilodeau of Corinth, New York, often gave items to Madame Cocque, the owner of a dress shop across the street from where he was stationed. One evening, Madame Cocque invited Sgt. Bilodeau to dinner to thank him. Since it would appear inappropriate for her to dine alone with him, she invited Myrtille, who worked in her shop. Myrtille and Joseph enjoyed each other’s company and started dating. They were married six months later on October 15, 1945, at the church in Merville.

Myrtille’s wedding dress was made from a silk parachute by the women in Madame Coque’s dress shop. It features a classic silhouette with a double-rouched bodice and medium length train.

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Joyce Adney’s Parachute Silk Wedding Gown:

Joyce Adney and Adrien Reynolds met at a dance at Utah State University, where Joyce was head of the student USO and Adrien was training to be a radar operator. The newly minted marine made quite an impression on Joyce. She later recalled, “After we had gone through the receiving line and had punch, we went into the hall and we danced together all evening. He walked me home and I went in and told my roommate I had met the man I was going to marry.”

Adrien and his detachment shipped out with the 4th Marine Division to invade the island of Saipan on June 15, 1944. Once combat ended nearly a month later, Adrien and his fellow marines found several unused Japanese cargo parachutes while clearing caves. He sent one of the parachutes to Joyce for safekeeping.

Adrien was discharged shortly after his participation in the bloody Battle of Okinawa. After stopping home in New Orleans, he immediately went to see Joyce, who was working towards her master’s degree in Detroit. “I went out to the airport, and it had been almost three years since I had seen him. He was the last one off the plane wearing his dress blues, and he melted my heart into a little puddle.” Little did Joyce know that in the pocket of those dress blues was her engagement ring.

Due to the continuation of rationing, Joyce opted to have her wedding gown made from the Japanese parachute silk Adrien had sent home. Joyce’s mother, living in Utah, made the gown by hand. Joyce would wrap strings around herself to measure her waist and bust, and then send the strings to her mother, who would then lay the strings out and sew the fabric accordingly. Adrien’s father contributed as well, making heart-shaped tins for their five-tier cake. The couple was married March 27, 1946, and remained so for the rest of their lives.

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Dinner with a Curator

Toni Kiser presents “War Time Weddings”
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
The Stage Door Canteen at The National WWII Museum

June has been a traditional month for weddings since the Middle Ages. This June, Toni Kiser, Assistant Director of Collections & Exhibits/Registrar, will talk about WWII-era weddings. Learn how many brides still managed to have gorgeous gowns and delicious cakes, despite the rationing of silk and sugar. Hear a few stories of love that kept men and women going through the war, and see the artifacts related to these love stories and weddings.

View the Full Menu

Purchase Tickets

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Harry James Hits #1 and #2

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Harry JamesOn this day 70 years ago, Georgia-born big band leader and Columbia Records recording artist Harry James achieved the rare feat of occupying not only Billboard’s #1 slot, but the #2 chart position as well.  At #1 in March 1943 sat ‘I’ve Heard That Song Before,’ featuring the superior tone of James’ trademark trumpet and the vocals of Helen Forrest, while, bubbling under just beneath it, was ‘I Had The Craziest Dream Last Night,’ the theme from the 1942 musical comedy ‘Springtime In The Rockies,’ which not only featured James as a part of the regular cast, but also starred James’ future wife, Betty Grable.

While ‘I Had The Craziest Dream’ would undergo a rapid descent out of the Top Ten, ‘I’ve Heard That Song Before’ would remain atop the Billboard charts all the way through the middle of May before finally being ousted by Glenn Miller’s ‘That Old Black Magic.’

Click below to hear the original hit recordings of Harry James ‘I’ve Heard That Song Before’ and ‘I Had The Craziest Dream Last Night.’

This post by Collin Makamson, Red Ball Express Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum

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March 1, 1943 LIFE Magazine

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The March 1, 1943, cover story in LIFE Magazine highlighted the newest fashion trend on the American Home Front – women in bow ties. As the article stated, “for years women have been buying about 80% of the men’s neckties in the U.S.” Why not purchase them for themselves?

The article goes on to cite several version of the women’s necktie, including the “Senator tie” modeled after the style of William Jennings Bryan (in what we can assume would be first and last time the Populist politician and orator served as a ladies’ fashion inspiration!)

Read the full article.

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48-hour Workweek

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The standard workweek has fluctuated over time. The 40-hour, 5-day workweek was codified first in 1938 with the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act. On 9 February 1943, President Roosevelt declared a mandatory wartime 48-hour workweek for industry within 32 certain vital areas, including Seattle where Boeing was located. In effect, Roosevelt’s measure, Executive Order 9301, added eight hours of mandatory overtime, with the purpose of increasing production for the war effort.

Dorothy Adelaide “Dot” DuBois Lingle worked for the Boeing Corporation near Seattle in aircraft assembly. From 5-19 November 1943, she was paid $43.70. Included among her hours were 4 bonus hours.See the fruit of Dorothy Lingle’s labor in our new building, US Freedom Pavilion: the Boeing Center.

Gift in Memory of Adelaide and Jack Lingle, 2012.194

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

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RIP Patty Andrews (February 16, 1918 – January 30, 2013)

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Patty Andrews of Andrews Sisters rallied troops

Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Patty Andrews never served in the military, but she and her singing sisters certainly supported the troops.

During World War II, they hawked war bonds, entertained soldiers overseas and boosted morale on the home-front with tunes like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” and “I Can Dream, Can’t I?”

Andrews, the last surviving member of the singing Andrews Sisters trio, died Wednesday at 94 of natural causes at her home in the Los Angeles suburb of Northridge, said family spokesman Alan Eichler in a statement.

“When I was a kid, I only had two records and one of them was the Andrews Sisters. They were remarkable. Their sound, so pure,” said Bette Midler, who had a hit cover of “Bugle Boy” in 1973. “Everything they did for our nation was more than we could have asked for. This is the last of the trio, and I hope the trumpets ushering (Patty) into heaven with her sisters are playing `Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.'”

Patty was the Andrews in the middle, the lead singer and chief clown, whose raucous jitterbugging delighted American servicemen abroad and audiences at home.

She could also deliver sentimental ballads like “I’ll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time” with a sincerity that caused hardened GIs far from home to weep.

From the late 1930s through the 1940s, the Andrews Sisters produced one hit record after another, beginning with “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” in 1937 and continuing with “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar,” `’Rum and Coca-Cola” and more. They recorded more than 400 songs and sold over 80 million records.

Other sisters, notably the Boswells, had become famous as singing acts, but mostly they huddled before a microphone in close harmony. The Andrews Sisters – LaVerne, Maxene and Patty – added a new dimension. During breaks in their singing, they cavorted about the stage in rhythm to the music.

Their voices combined with perfect synergy. As Patty remarked in 1971: “There were just three girls in the family. LaVerne had a very low voice. Maxene’s was kind of high, and I was between. It was like God had given us voices to fit our parts.”

Kathy Daris of the singing Lennon Sisters recalled on Facebook late Wednesday that the Andrews Sisters “were the first singing sister act that we tried to copy. We loved their rendition of songs, their high spirit, their fabulous harmony.”

The Andrews Sisters’ rise coincided with the advent of swing music, and their style fit perfectly into the new craze. They aimed at reproducing the sound of three harmonizing trumpets.

Unlike other singing acts, the sisters recorded with popular bands of the 1940s, fitting neatly into the styles of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, Bob Crosby, Woody Herman, Guy Lombardo, Desi Arnaz and Russ Morgan. They sang dozens of songs on records with Bing Crosby, including the million-seller “Don’t Fence Me In.” They also recorded with Dick Haymes, Carmen Miranda, Danny Kaye, Al Jolson, Jimmy Durante and Red Foley.

The Andrews’ popularity led to a contract with Universal Pictures, where they made a dozen low-budget musical comedies between 1940 and 1944. In 1947, they appeared in “The Road to Rio” with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour.

The trio continued until LaVerne’s death in 1967. By that time the close harmony had turned to discord, and the sisters had been openly feuding.

Midler’s cover of “Bugle Boy” revived interest in the trio. The two survivors joined in 1974 for a Broadway show, “Over Here!” It ran for more than a year, but disputes with the producers led to the cancellation of the national tour of the show, and the sisters did not perform together again.

Patty continued on her own, finding success in Las Vegas and on TV variety shows. Her sister also toured solo until her death in 1995.

Her father, Peter Andrews, was a Greek immigrant who Anglicized his name of Andreus when he arrived in America; his wife, Olga, was a Norwegian with a love of music. LaVerne was born in 1911, Maxine (later Maxene) in 1916, Patricia (later Patty, sometimes Patti) in 1918.

All three sisters were born and raised in the Minneapolis area.

Listening to the Boswell Sisters on radio, LaVerne played the piano and taught her sisters to sing in harmony; neither Maxene nor Patty ever learned to read music. All three studied singers at the vaudeville house near their father’s restaurant. As their skills developed, they moved from amateur shows to vaudeville and singing with bands.

After Peter Andrews moved the family to New York in 1937, his wife, Olga, sought singing dates for the girls. They were often turned down with comments such as: “They sing too loud and they move too much.” Olga persisted, and the sisters sang on radio with a hotel band at $15 a week. The broadcasts landed them a contract with Decca Records.

They recorded a few songs, and then came “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” an old Yiddish song for which Sammy Cahn and Saul Kaplan wrote English lyrics. (The title means, “To Me You Are Beautiful.”) It was a smash hit, and the Andrews Sisters were launched into the big-time.

In 1947, Patty married Martin Melcher, an agent who represented the sisters as well as Doris Day, then at the beginning of her film career. Patty divorced Melcher in 1949 and soon he became Day’s husband, manager and producer.

Patty married Walter Weschler, pianist for the sisters, in 1952. He became their manager and demanded more pay for himself and for Patty. The two other sisters rebelled, and their differences with Patty became public. Lawsuits were filed between the two camps.

Patty Andrews is survived by her foster daughter, Pam DuBois, a niece and several cousins. Weschler died in 2010.

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A Somber Christmas – December 20, 1942, LIFE Magazine

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The December 20, 1942, LIFE magazine cover featured the “Lonely Wife,” a dramatic interpretation of the women left behind. The cover description reads:

A full-page ad on page 1 asked Americans to avoid unnecessary long distance calls this Christmas. “It may be the ‘holiday season’ – but war needs the wires that you use for Christmas calls.”

A two-page ad for United States Rubber Company features a mother clutching her baby. The heart-wrenching text reads:

War bond references are plentiful. An ad for Toastmaster Toasters laments that the women of America will not be getting a Toastmaster in their stockings this year and “for the duration,” but offers tips on making your toaster last. This ad and many others offer up the idea of giving war bonds this Christmas so loved ones can get what they want after the war is over.

Other companies that did not have products to sell on the Home Front, touted their brand’s finer qualities on the battlefront.

Read the entire December 20, 1941 issue of LIFE magazine.



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