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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

'Greatest Generation'
kept America together

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
When Tom Brokaw coined the descriptive phrase and book title 'The Greatest Generation," most people knew immediately who he meant.

Those who had fought and won the battles of World War II were the same people who had survived The Great Depression and Dust Bowl eras.

Few generations before or since have withstood similar circumstances. With all due respect to the WWII veterans and those who died in the war, the efforts of those remaining on the home front should never be forgotten. Never before or since has so much been asked of America's citizens.

Fighting a war costs money. The government offered debt securities to the public to help finance military operations. At first, they were called War Bonds. Then as the enemy advanced, they were dubbed Defense Bonds. When the war turned, they were named Invasion Bonds and near the end, Victory Bonds.

In all, 134 million Americans were asked to purchase these bonds, issued in all denominations, plus stamps costing 10 cents each to fill War Bond stamp books. This allowed every age or class of citizen the opportunity to participate at some level.

A War Finance Committee and a War Advertising Council were appointed to promote and oversee advertising the sale of the various bonds. This effort became the greatest volume of advertising known to date. Most publications and radio stations gave away free or minimum cost advertising and most merchants included bond advertising in their regular ads.

The mass selling efforts helped finance the war with personal accounts of more than 85 million citizens purchasing $185.7 billion in bonds. Because of the recent failures of banks during the Depression, much of this money came out of mattresses and hidden fruit-jar savings accounts the government knew nothing about. This was considered the "great turnaround" in people's trust in the American banking system.

Not only was this the first time the public had been called on to help finance a war, it was the first time in history rationing was installed on goods for civilian use. Price freezes on rent, wages and produce prices were also instituted with punishment by law if not obeyed.

To not comply was deemed unpatriotic. It seems this generation was to run the gamut of never-before happenings.

To replace the workers drafted for war, thousands of formerly home-bound citizens turned out in force as volunteers to collect scrap iron and other items for the war effort. Others worked in and supervised Red Cross sewing rooms and centers to provide bandages and dressings for the wartime hospitals. Young and old volunteered daily to organize USO canteens and public dances to entertain and feed soldiers on and off duty here at home.

With the young men off to war, the women took over jobs on the farms, ranches, factories and refineries, filling in as needed, though most had never been away from home before.

Such dedicated and patriotic service played a great part in the final outcome of WWII. The residual effect of this period of time helped America reach the prominence and prosperity it enjoys today. Let us all salute the "Greatest Generation." There is no doubt of your identity.


Delbert Trew

"It's All Trew" Column
- May 29, 2006
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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