'In the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.'
- Abraham Lincoln -

Sunday, October 23, 2011

When The Cat's Away ...

War fever is running high.  The entire country is on full alert.  The cry goes forth, "Avenge Pearl Harbor!"  The industrial might of the United States of America has, in just nine short months from that terrible December day when the Japanese Empire brought the USA into the fight with its dastardly and unprovoked attack on our country's Pacific Fleet at anchor in Hawaii, turned itself into the greatest military production complex the world has ever known.  To highlight America's transformation, in two short months from now, a ship - the S.S. Robert E. Perry - bound for the nation's vast Merchant Marine fleet, would be constructed - start to finish - in an amazing 4 days, 15 hours and 29 minutes.

In order to prosecute the war, President Franklin Roosevelt needs men.  And lots of 'em.  To fill the emerging ranks in the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps. (the Air Force wouldn't become a separate branch of the military for five more years).

How many men were needed?

Ten million.

To pilot the planes, man the guns, hit the beaches, patrol our shores, tend to the wounded, assault the landing fields ... and on and on ...

And with ten million men being pulled from every town, village, city, and farm field to fulfill their military service obligation, who would replace them in the factories?


By the millions.

Housewives, nannies, and girlfriends became Rosie the Riveter and Wendy the Welder.

And America's shop floor was changed forever.

Including in ways that were never anticipated.

From Time magazine, September 14, 1942:
Sex In The Factory

No problems like these bothered factory managers a year ago.  But now, perhaps, a very shapely sweater girl wanders in to take her place in the swing shift.  Low whistles follow her as she ambles down the aisle between machines.

This is only one of a dozen new problems since nearly two million women have gone to work in plane plants and other war industries.  Some of the new problems - which are going to grow before 5,000,000 more women get war jobs:

► Some girls flirt at work.  Douglas Aircraft (almost 25% of whose employes are now women) had to close its Santa Monica plant's bomb shelter with heavy tar paper (to be broken in case of a real air raid) because swing shift couples found it too handy for lovemaking during lunch.
Other examples are provided.  But you get the idea.

While "the boys" were off doing their duty, their "girls" back home were doing other boys.

Odd how you never read that in the history books.

Odder still, it all seems to have worked out - in the end - just fine.