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Today in World War II History—August 3, 1941

Clemens August Graf von Galen upon his appointment as cardinal, 1946 (Creative Commons via Bildersammlung des Bistumsarchivs Münster)

Clemens August Graf von Galen upon his appointment as cardinal, 1946 (Creative Commons via Bildersammlung des Bistumsarchivs Münster)

80 Years Ago—Aug. 3, 1941: Germans capture 38,000 Soviet POWs at Roslovl, Russia.

Catholic bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen of Münster, Germany, denounces “T4 Aktion” program (euthanasia of the physically and mentally disabled) in a public sermon; he is placed under house arrest for the duration of the war.

Make It Do – Stocking Shortages in World War II

Make It Do - Stocking Shortages in World War II - on Sarah Sundin's blog

For American women in World War II, a shortage of stockings was a minor inconvenience, but it did affect daily life. Before the war, no well-dressed woman was seen in public without hose, and silk stockings were a necessary part of every woman’s wardrobe.

Nylons Introduced

Nylon was invented by DuPont in 1938, and nylon stockings were demonstrated at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. When they came on the market nationwide on May 15, 1940, over 750,000 pairs were sold on the first day. They sold for $1.25 a pair, the same price as silk, but their shrink-proof, moth-proof nature made them very popular.

Silk Shortage

US poster, World War II

US poster, World War II

Japan was the sole supplier of silk to the US, and deteriorating trade relations in 1941 cut off the supply. Silk was used for parachutes and was the best material for powder bags for naval guns. When the guns were fired, the silk completely disintegrated without leaving any damaging residue inside the gun barrels. To protect this precious resource, the Office of Production Management (OPM) seized the nation’s supply of raw silk on August 2, 1941. This set off such a shopping frenzy for silk stockings that most retailers set a purchase limit of two or three pairs. The price of nylon stockings subsequently rose to $10 a pair or more.

Nylon Commandeered

Wartime B.F. Goodrich ad about the requisition of nylon by the US government, which started in 1942

Wartime B.F. Goodrich ad about the requisition of nylon by the US government, which started in 1942

Nylon was also needed for parachutes, and was produced from chemicals vital to the war effort. In addition, nylon was used to make rope stronger and to supplement rubber (which was also short) in tire production. As a result, the War Production Board (formerly the OPM) commandeered DuPont’s stock of nylon on February 11, 1942. From then on, DuPont’s production of nylon went to war materials.

Collection of Stockings

Deena Clark, Civilian Defense (right), and Tech. Sgt. Leo Malkins of the Army Air Forces (left) collecting used stockings, 1942 (Library of Congress: LC-DIG-fsa-8b08080)

Deena Clark, Civilian Defense (right), and Tech. Sgt. Leo Malkins of the Army Air Forces (left) collecting used stockings, 1942 (Library of Congress: LC-DIG-fsa-8b08080)

Used stockings were also valuable. Used silk stockings were made into powder bags for the Navy, and used nylon stockings were melted down and re-spun into nylon thread for parachute production. On November 15, 1942, the War Production Board launched an official collection program for silk and nylon hosiery. When stockings developed holes or runs, women were encouraged to turn them in at the hosiery department of their local store.

1943 ad for Charles of the Ritz leg makeup

1943 ad for Charles of the Ritz leg makeup

Making Do

Women treated their remaining stockings with great care, often reserving them for special occasions. Rayon or cotton stockings were worn, but not fondly, as they tended to sag around the knees and ankles. The rising popularity of slacks helped, but most women resorted to bare legs, often with ankle socks.

To simulate the look of nylons, some women used leg makeup from cosmetics companies such as Max Factor. These “liquid stockings” were reported to last up to three days if the woman didn’t bathe. If possible, a “seam” was painted down the back of the leg with an eyebrow pencil by a friend or family member, or by using a Y-shaped device to guide the pencil. The leg makeup was endangered when a lady crossed her legs or when it rained, and its difficulty in application and wear limited its popularity.

Today in World War II History—August 2, 1941

Deena Clark, Civilian Defense (right), and Tech. Sgt. Leo Malkins of the Army Air Forces (left) collecting used stockings, 1942 (Library of Congress: LC-DIG-fsa-8b08080)

Deena Clark, Civilian Defense (right), and Tech. Sgt. Leo Malkins of the Army Air Forces (left) collecting used stockings, 1942 (Library of Congress: LC-DIG-fsa-8b08080)

80 Years Ago—Aug. 2, 1941: US Office of Production Management seizes silk supply and takes control of silk industry, restricts use of rayon, and reserves steel for government use only (See Make It Do: Stocking Shortages in World War II).

US bans oil exports except to Britain or Western Hemisphere nations.

Today in World War II History—August 1, 1941

Grumman TBF-1 Avenger torpedo bomber with early 1942 markings (US Navy photo)

Grumman TBF-1 Avenger torpedo bomber with early 1942 markings (US Navy photo)

80 Years Ago—Aug. 1, 1941: First flight of Grumman XTBF-1 Avenger torpedo bomber.

US Naval Air Station at Midway Island is established.

US Naval Operating Base, Trinidad, is established, which will become a key base for South Atlantic convoys and antisubmarine warfare.

Today in World War II History—July 31, 1941

Reinhard Heydrich and Karl Hermann Frank in Prague Castle, 1941 (German Federal Archive: Bild 146-1972-039-26)

Reinhard Heydrich and Karl Hermann Frank in Prague Castle, 1941 (German Federal Archive: Bild 146-1972-039-26)

80 Years Ago—July 31, 1941: Reinhard Heydrich, SS General of the Police, is ordered by the German government to solve the “Jewish question.”

Cease-fire is ordered in the Peru-Ecuador border clash, but Peruvians occupy large part of Ecuador.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill approves a joint UK-US atomic weapons program to be conducted in the US.

Today in World War II History—July 30, 1941

Henry Wallace, 1940 (Library of Congress: LC-USZ62-49956)

Henry Wallace, 1940 (Library of Congress: LC-USZ62-49956)

80 Years Ago—July 30, 1941: US establishes Office of Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs to coordinate defense with Western Hemisphere nations.

US Economic Defense Board is established under Vice President Henry Wallace to coordinate international economic activities.

Today in World War II History—July 28, 1941

German cavalry in village near Mogilev, Byelorussia, 28 July 1941 (German Federal Archive: Bild 101I-137-1032-14A)

German cavalry in village near Mogilev, Byelorussia, 28 July 1941 (German Federal Archive: Bild 101I-137-1032-14A)

80 Years Ago—July 28, 1941: Soviets advance into Smolensk pocket.

Japan freezes American assets.

Japanese troops land in southern French Indochina.

Today in World War II History—July 27, 1941

Peruvian naval ship in Ecuadorian waters during the conflict, July 1941 (public domain via Wikipedia)

Peruvian naval ship in Ecuadorian waters during the conflict, July 1941 (public domain via Wikipedia)

80 Years Ago—July 27, 1941: Peru takes Puerto Bolivar, Ecuador in first paratrooper combat in the Western Hemisphere.

Today in World War II History—July 26, 1941

Douglas MacArthur at the induction ceremony of Philippine Army Air Corps, Zablan Field, Camp Murphy, Rizal, Philippine Islands, 15 Aug 1941 (US National Archives: SC 128885)

Douglas MacArthur at the induction ceremony of Philippine Army Air Corps, Zablan Field, Camp Murphy, Rizal, Philippine Islands, 15 Aug 1941 (US National Archives: SC 128885)

80 Years Ago—July 26, 1941: In response to Japanese occupation of French Indochina, President Roosevelt requires approval of all sales to Japan (including oil; US supplies 80% of Japan’s oil) and closes Panama Canal to Japanese shipping.

US & Britain freeze Japanese assets.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur is recalled to service and placed in charge of US Armed Forces Far East (US & Filipino troops).