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The Home Fronts of Iowa, 1939-1945

Lisa L. Ossian

Publication Year: 2009

As Americans geared up for World War II, each state responded according to its economy and circumstances—as well as the disposition of its citizens. This book considers the war years in Iowa by looking at activity on different home fronts and analyzing the resilience of Iowans in answering the call to support the war effort.
            With its location in the center of the country, far from potentially threatened coasts, Iowa was also the center of American isolationism—historically Republican and resistant to involvement in another European war. Yet Iowans were quick to step up, and Lisa Ossian draws on historical archives as well as on artifacts of popular culture to record the rhetoric and emotion of their support.
Ossian shows how Iowans quickly moved from skepticism to overwhelming enthusiasm for the war and answered the call on four fronts: farms, factories, communities, and kitchens. Iowa’s farmers faced labor and machinery shortages, yet produced record amounts of crops and animals—even at the expense of valuable topsoil. Ordnance plants turned out bombs and machine gun bullets. Meanwhile, communities supported war bond and scrap drives, while housewives coped with rationing, raised Victory gardens, and turned to home canning.
            The Home Fronts of Iowa, 1939–1945 depicts real people and their concerns, showing the price paid in physical and mental exhaustion and notes the heavy toll exacted on Iowa’s sons who fell in battle. Ossian also considers the relevance of such issues as race, class, and gender—particularly the role of women on the home front and the recruitment of both women and blacks for factory work—taking into account a prevalent suspicion of ethnic groups by the state’s largely homogeneous population.
            The fact that Iowans could become loyal citizen soldiers—forming an Industrial and Defense Commission even before Pearl Harbor—speaks not only to the patriotism of these sturdy midwesterners but also to the overall resilience of Americans. In unraveling how Iowans could so overwhelmingly support the war, Ossian digs deep into history to show us the power of emotion—and to help us better understand why World War II is consistently remembered as “the Good War.”

Published by: University of Missouri Press


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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

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pp. ix-xi

How does one begin to write about the complexities surrounding World War II? This war, as John Keegan so succinctly states in the foreword to his extensive study of it, is the largest single event in human history. The war ...

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pp. xiii-xv

“I hate war” is one quotation engraved on a wall at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. I read those words just days before this book was completed, reminding me of poignant and powerful ...

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pp. 2-20

“Iowa,” a journalist wrote in early 1940, “is in a piece of pie at the potluck dinner given by the Ladies’ Aid Society at Pleasant Hill Methodist Church.” Iowans liked to describe themselves in such simple terms, ...

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1. Soldiers of the Soil: The Farm Front

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pp. 21-49

Food is an important weapon of war. During World War I, Food Administrator Herbert Hoover had stressed that food would win the war. Before the United States entered World War II, Secretary of Agriculture ...

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2. “E” Awards and WOWs: The Production Front

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pp. 50-89

As the Reverend Dale Welch spoke to the seventh annual meeting of the Iowa Taxpayers Association in October 1941, he told the businessmen that this was “a grand and awful time.” Welch elaborated, “Yes, ...

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3. Bonds, Scrap, and Boys: The Community Front

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pp. 90-120

When Thomas Lutman, a pastor from Sheldon, addressed the Iowa Retail Hardware Association’s annual convention in February 1942, he professed that the efforts of men and women on Main Street would win ...

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4. Mrs. America’s Mission: The Kitchen Front

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pp. 121-154

A thousand members of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs gathered in Washington, DC, on January 24, 1942, for the National Defense Forum. The secretary of agriculture’s economic adviser, Mordecal ...

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pp. 155-164

On January 20, 1945, President Roosevelt delivered his fourth inaugural speech on a cold and overcast winter day in Washington, DC. Roosevelt’s speech would be one of only three inaugural addresses ever in the ...


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pp. 165-201


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pp. 203-233


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pp. 235-242

E-ISBN-13: 9780826272010
E-ISBN-10: 0826272010
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826218568
Print-ISBN-10: 0826218563

Page Count: 260
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: 1