Army Ordinance troops were helping to solve the critical ammunition shortage in Germany by repairing, testing and distributing captured Nazi guns, howitzers, mortars and ammunition to American combat units. There was a concern that the manpower shortages in ordinance ammunition plants in the U.S. may slow down General Eisenhower’s march on Berlin.
The endless exhausting hours of overload in the mills for men and women with families, the constant worry about loved ones in battle, the rationing of everyday items, after recently coming out of a depression, Women, working in a mill, who also had to put food on the kitchen table, wash clothes, clean the house, help children with homework, began to take its toll. There was also a loss of many workers due to illness and death due to age, especially men.
Another issue was the need for ‘industrial fat’ used to make glycerin to manufacture products for explosives.
In 1943 and 1944 the challenges increased as more and more of these ingredients were needed for the war front.
The American Fat Salvage Committee was created to urge housewives to support this issue.
This article appeared in the local newspaper for Thanksgiving in 1944.
“Conservation, Thrift Is Thanksgiving Dinner Keynote This War Year
"With families so scattered, and women so busy with war jobs, Thanksgiving Day this year does not suggest a lavish feast. Food, as we know, is a war supply, to be conserved and shared.
"We can all have Thanksgiving dinners and have thankful hearts, but we should waste no valuable supplies. All those bits of skin and gristle discarded in the preparation of meat, and those bones and portions of fat left on the plates should be hoarded melted down to extract every drop of precious fat. This should be returned to the meat dealer for extra ration points and cash, so it could be processed and distributed to factories and war plants. They needed this industrial fat to manufacture war products just as much as housewives need butter and bacon.”
Every year 2 billion pounds of waste kitchen fats were thrown away — enough glycerin for 10 billion rapid fire cannon shells. The puddles of grease drippings were to be strained for bombs and returned to one of the thousands of participating butcher shops that would turn it over to the government. The donor receives 4 cents a pound for the fat — two ration points per pound for lard or butter. Housewives and butchers all over the country were mobilized to collect cooking fats.
As explained to Minnie Mouse and Pluto in one wartime video, fats are used to make glycerin and glycerin was used to make things blow up.
Bacon fat was good for making bombs and during WWII handing over cooking fat to the government was doing your "patriotic duty."
One pound of waste fat equaled 1/10 of a pound of glycerin, 1/10 of glycerin equaled 1/5 of a pound of nitroglycerine, 1/5 of a pound of nitroglycerine equaled 1/3 pound of gunpowder, 1/5 of a pound of nitroglycerine equaled ½ pound of dynamite.
Other items collected to support the military war effort were: scrap metal, wastepaper, tin cans, foil, rags and rubber. I remember well walking to the neighborhood collection area carrying tin cans and rags with my parents.
Rubber was one of the most critical wartime shortages since 92 percent of America’s supply came from Japan occupied lands.
On November 13, 1942 Macy's Department Store ceremonially handed over their famous giant rubber balloons used for their annual parade, including Superman, who had only made his debut in 1939. The balloons were shredded for scrap rubber and the parade was canceled for the duration not to resume again until November 1945. (There is a possibility of balloons grounded this year due to high winds. For that reason, balloons were not carried in 1971.)
President Roosevelt, echoing the words of General Eisenhower, in a newspaper article made a plea to workers at home to continue their battle — help get the job done. He added that American forces were forced to ration the shells that they were firing at the enemy.
There were 11,859,000 members of the U.S. military and 189,000 women serving at this time.
Every day the front page of The Morning News had a story of a local veteran either wounded or killed in action. Also names of those that were still enlisting to serve this country.
For most Americans, the family gathering was even more important than the turkey. During the war, many men and women served overseas and were not at the holiday table. Also on the home front at home, gasoline prohibited people from traveling long distances by car. Civilian travel by train was strongly discouraged and seats were often unavailable. The Thanksgiving holiday may have been smaller, but still appreciated.
The American tradition of the Thanksgiving football game was battered by the war professional and college teams were decimated.
In Danville there was a Community Thanksgiving service that involved the churches of the town at the Christ Episcopal Church. There was a combined choir echoing the words of ‘We Gather Together’ and ‘Count Your Blessings.’
The "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" weekly newspaper column stated, “The people of America today, as folks look about them, they see the old scenes and know they will always be present because the ‘Boys Over There’ are making sure of its security.”
Rationing ended after Japan surrendered in September of 1945.
The American Way of Life was back.
A remembrance of our way of life 75 years ago —Thankfully this Thanksgiving Day we don’t have to save the fat from the meal or deal with ration books.
We do need to express our gratitude to soldiers, past and present. We owe them our thanks on this day and always — We owe them for our freedom as they continue to protect this country.
“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”
- John F. Kennedy
Enjoy your Thanksgiving feast with family and friends.
Sis Hause is a Danville historian. Her column appears every week in The Danville News.