WORLD WAR II, VICTORY GARDENS, AND THE MAN ON THE MOON

I believe we can do anything we set out minds to do. We have shown and we have proven over and over in our history that we are capable of and can accomplish great things. Our fore fathers and fore mothers freed themselves from the tyrannical grip of King George III and established the best of all worlds – our country.

We have risen to the challenge in so many countless situations, it isn’t possible to list them all. But two challenges come to mind. The first is World War II. We retooled our entire system to provide munitions and labor to ensure that we fought the war to the best of our abilities. As men moved into the military and were sent to war, women moved from the homes into the factories to pick up the baton of production.

World War II was won in large part because of superior allied armaments production. The United States greatly outproduced its allies and its enemies and, at its output peak in late 1943 and early 1944, was manufacturing munitions almost equal to the combined total of both its friends mid adversaries. Keep in mind that we entered the war on December 8, 1941. Thus, we accomplished a monumental feat in the span of just a couple of years.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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We also sacrificed by decreasing the use of certain “luxury” items that we now consider staples – sugar being one of them. The United States used to be heavily dependent on foreign sugar supplies, and this dependence led to widespread sugar shortages during the Second World War. Cargo ships that once carried sugar imports were needed for military purposes, and the ships that were willing to make the trip overseas for food faced the risk of dangerous bombings from battle ships.

We had no choice but to ration sugar. In May 1942, sugar became the first food rationed during the war, and foreign supplies remained so unreliable that sugar was the last food removed from the rationing list in 1947—two years after the war’s end. Government posters everywhere urged Americans to change their eating habits and conserve sugar.

Arising out of World War II also were our Victory Gardens. Amid regular rationing of canned food in Britain, a poster campaign (“Plant more in ’44!”) encouraged the planting of Victory Gardens by nearly 20 million Americans. Gardens were planted in any available location – in backyards, on rooftops, on vacant community lots. These gardens produced up to 40 percent of all the vegetable produce consumed nationally. That is a phenomenal figure – 40%.

When the war ended, the gardens disappeared. But during that period in our history, we sacrificed; we decided that the end was worth the sacrifice.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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Today is the 39th anniversary of the second challenge – putting a man on the moon.

The mission fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s goal of reaching the moon by the end of the 1960s, which he expressed during a 1961 speech:

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

And, indeed, we did accomplish that goal on July 20, 1969 – a little over eight years after President Kennedy issued his challenge. I was 21 years old and expecting our second child in September. I was riveted to the TV set every day watching news alerts and coverage. I remember the telecast when Neil Armstrong made his famous statement – “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Photo credit: Houston Chronicle

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Our dreams were realized. As a nation we watched and held our breath as both Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin move awkwardly on the surface of the moon. We marveled at the astounding and amazing pictures not only of the moon itself but also of our gorgeous blue planet as seen from a far-off, dusty, gray orb.

These two challenges come to mind because today we face a challenge that will also require us to “retool” and “sacrifice.” Our dependence on foreign oil and our own oil is, without a doubt, one of the most critical issues that we face in today’s world. Other sources of energy that we rely upon – such as electricity – for our daily needs do not rise to near the level of our dependence on oil – whether from foreign sources or from our own sources.

In 1984, Tom Brokaw visited northwest France in preparation for a documentary on the 40th anniversary of D-Day. That experience left him a changed reporter, and he began his collection of anecdotes about men and women who were citizen heroes and heroines. In 1998, Brokaw published “The Greatest Generation” – the culmination of his research and his interviews. The greatest generation sacrificed and they learned to adapt to the challenge of readying for war – a war that changed the course of history.

We no longer see sacrifice as a noble and courageous way to rise to a challenge. Instead, we see sacrifice as infringing on all the modern conveniences and extravagant items we possess and use. We want our low-mileage vehicles, we don’t want to ride on buses that may inconvenience us with their routes, we don’t want to have to think about restructuring our lives – even a little bit – to accommodate our growing energy crisis.

With transportation accounting for 70% of our oil consumption, we must do more to avail ourselves of alternative energy sources which can be used in other areas where energy is needed. Solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy – all are sources which can help provide energy in the field of electricity and heating. And, we must do more to restructure our transportation habits to become more efficient and effective.

We are facing a monumental task in changing our paradigm of energy usage, but instead of asking why do we have to change, why not emulate the “Greatest Generation” by asking how we can change. We should view our energy crisis right alongside World War II, victory gardens, and the man on the Moon.

Let us return to a time when we asked “what can we do for our country” and not “what can our country do for us.” We can and must rise to the challenges that we have so often faced as a Nation, and we must succeed – our very future rests on our success in not asking why but in asking how.

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About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
This entry was posted in Energy, Environment, Politics, The Sixties and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to WORLD WAR II, VICTORY GARDENS, AND THE MAN ON THE MOON

  1. Thx for nice article.

  2. GardenGrrrl says:

    Actually, if you google Victory Gardens, there is quite a nice little movement to revive them starting up. I know that’s not the main point of your article, but I think for some minority of the population, sacrificing is viable. I think the biggest difference between then and now is that the government isn’t willing to ask people to sacrifice. The gap between the rich and poor has widened so much that the poor have little room left to tighten their belts and the rich think they shouldn’t have to change.

  3. Hi GardenGrrrl:

    Nice website. I believe it is possible to help in small ways. All the small ways add up to abig effort.

    I am not sure I agree that the government isn’t willing to ask people to sacrifice. I think government asks but it is usually a day late and a dollar short.

    In thinking about the energy issues, I remember the oil embargo in the 1970s. I remember the inconvenience of having to cut back on energy usage. We felt the effects of just what control over energy meant. But once the embargo was over, everyone forgot and skipped along on their merry way, going back to their old habits. No lesson learned.

    If we are going to resolve these issues, we have to be open to understanding that changing our habits and our lifestyles is not a negative. We have tons of ways we could make a difference.

    I also use some plants from my yard as food. Purslane is a weed to us here in the U.S., but in Europe and Asia, it is a table food. It is also high in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants,and Omega-3 fatty acids. But most Americans would shudder before eating this great little plant.

    I have a book that provides info on identifying plants that are edible.

  4. Judith says:

    Charlotte,
    I find your articles informative and thought-provoking! Thank you!

    This article reminds us of what American can accomplish if they set the goal. As you know, Al Gore is now calling for a “Manhattan Project” for using renewal resources for all electrical power within ten years. Barack Obama has presented many of the same ideas, but without the urgency of a Manhattan Project. And now T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire oilman, recognizes the potential and economic benefits of renewable resources, and is heavily investing in wind turbines in Texas. Pickens is calling for government involvement to get right-of-ways for turbines as much as during the Eisenhower highway construction. However, Pickens still favors John McCain’s plan for drilling as much as possible and whereever we can to get rid of foreign oil dependence ASAP.

    Still, people of differing backgrounds are urging research and development of alternative energy sources. If our leaders will cooperate it will be done.

  5. Perry says:

    I am sitting in class; the instructor just brought up the Man on the Moon and WWII analogies. I believe the analogy is incorrect as relates to energy independence:

    1) WWII was a struggle against a consensus “evil,” the Space Race was an optimistic project based on a shared vision of US exceptionalism, whereas “energy independence” is neither a struggle against evil nor essentially optimistic.
    2) We, as a nation, agreed that Hitler could only be stopped with bullets and bombs; there is no such consensus on the means (wind vs nuclear) or the ends (a tight-knit community vs starving terrorists of $s).
    3) Indeed, the division has become clear: Social Engineering (wind and tight-knit communities) vs Technical Engineering (nuclear and starving terrorists); the debate has largely become ad-hominem – desiring nuclear is suicidal – trying to starve terrorists is imperialism.
    4) Rejecting US exceptionalism is evidence, to me, that “energy independences” is more about emasculating a dangerous country than than empowering an important world leader.
    5) This is more a difference in vision of the US than a perspective on real soultions to real problems
    6) I have lived overseas (as opposed to visited), had to deal with daily life and hold down a job in Europe, and have travelled to trouble spots as well as fun spots; my opinion is that we are a force for good.
    7) I have also worked in the energy field: solar and nuclear; my experience is that solar is oversold and nuclear is undersold – a lack of objectivity that makes me suspect politics counts for more than engineering.

    If you made it all the way to this point, good for you. I haven’t changed your mind but I hope I have opened your mind to a different way of framing the problem that reduces the tendency of likening conservatives to that handy WWII super-villain, who, contrary to widely held opinion, was solidly a man of the Left.

  6. Perry:

    Of course, I made it to the end. Whether I agree or not with my posters, I always read the responses.

    The analogy I was making was far greater than a “good vs. evil” or an “us vs. them” view. I see the energy issue as a crisis and a challenge that should draw Americans together to accomplish the goal of energy independence. You have narrowed down my analogy to your narrow viewpoint of the above two positions.

    Resolving energy problems is a challenge facing us just as gearing up to fight World War II and landing a man on the moon. We had to put our minds to it, and we did. I see energy solutions in the same way. In both situations you had those who disagreed about how to go about accomplishing those two goals.

    Even after the Pearl Harbor attack, there were still Americans who wanted to remain isolationist. While landing a man on the moon was supported by the majority of Americans, I would imagine you could find those who thought it was a waste of money. Even today, there are those who would argue it was a hoax.

    You must see things in black and white: that is the only way you could have missed my point and turned my thoughts on facing a challenge and overcoming it to looking at good vs. evil, etc.

    By the way, I also lived in Europe. My husband was in the Army, and we lived in Germany so I know what it was like to live in not “visit” a foreign country.

    Are we a force for good? That sounds like a fairly idealistic way of looking at all that has happened in the last 8 years under one of the worst presidents in our history.

    I do not buy your statement that Hitler was solidly a “man of the left.” He showed tendencies of both the right and left – just at different points in his life. He saw socialism as part of the “Jewish conspiracy” – not a position that a left-winger would hold. Hitler’s view on the Aryan race and intermarriage is also not a left-wing philosophy. In fact, his racial philosophy is opposite that of left-wing supporters. Hitler believed in a superior race (Aryan) and those who are considered left-wing believe in equality.

    I could provide dozens more examples of Hitler’s evolving views. It is always good to understand that things are not black and white.

  7. Iceironman says:

    HR 875 The food police, criminalizing organic farming and the backyard gardener, and violation of the 10th amendment. STill reading it all, should give us a good topic for the weekend

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