Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An Unfinished Job for the Homefront

Across the Editor's Desk

An Unfinished Job for the Homefront

As the Marines raised the American flag on Iwo Jima, somebody took a picture of the event. Four men, their bodies outlined against the clear sky, strain at the staff as Old Glory rises in a

broad arc, snapping in the Pacific wind. We thrill at this picture because it expresses achievement, defiance. The battle-weary figures tell of hardship endured, of dangers sustained, and of labor accomplished. It speaks of victory against heavy odds. But above all, the outstretched arms and straining backs tell us of the unity of purpose of our fighting men.

This picture has a lesson for all of us. Unless we are doing our part, we cannot look long at it without shame.

In some ways, the part of the Home Front is as difficult as is that of the fighter. It is difficult precisely because we endure no hardships and make so few and so trifling personal sacrifices. It is difficult, out of the sound of the guns, to remember to do the little things that are our only possible part in this war; to buy all the War Bonds we can afford; to give our blood to the Red Cross and to heed its appeals with generous money donations; to play the game by the rules, avoiding infractions of rationing and price regulations; to stay on the job, turning out supplies for our men; to keep the home machinery running smoothly. All this seems so little to do that we are prone to feel that we are useless, and so neglect the few things that we can do.

This feeling is dangerous. There are 130,000,000 of us. If we all relax a little, the consequences can be disastrous. The part of the Home Front in this war has been largely a battle against material shortages. Right now, there is an acute shortage of lumber and of paper products. Most of us need not worry about our part in the lumber shortage; nobody will sell us lumber for non-essential use. But we all use paper.

The other day, I stood in a factory and watched the packing of a rather minor item of supplies for our fighting men. The product was packed in one-gallon glass jars. In peacetimes, it was delivered without further packing. But for the armed services, these jars were placed in corrugated paper cartons; these cartons were wrapped in waxed paper, sealed by heat; the wrapped cartons were inclosed in wooden boxes.

Why all this extra labor and care? Well, what would be the point in carrying supplies across the Pacific, to lose them at last? Substantially packed, supplies may be thrown overboard without spoilage from salt water; the packages will float, and may be picked up out of the sea. Substantial recoveries may be made, even from a sunken ship. Ten thousand miles away, that recovery means something.

Paper plays a large part in all of this preparation. It is used in enormous quantities — far beyond peacetime needs. Let's add to our resolves a purpose to destroy none of it; to call in our Boy Scouts or the Salvation Army when we have accumulated a supply. In that way we may keep faith, in a small way, with the brave lads with the flag on a Japanese island, across the earth, away from their homes.


An Unfinished Job for the Homefront taken from the May 1945 issue of Better Homes & Gardens magazine.


  1. I find this so inspiring!
    I get disheartened at the way some things are today and it makes me respect and admire the greatest generation even more for what they accomplished. Thanks for posting this Courtney!