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Today in World War II History—Mar. 12, 1942

75 Years Ago—Mar. 12, 1942: Adm. Ernest King is named US Chief of Naval Operations, in addition to previous role as Commander in Chief, US fleet.

Due to the high losses to German U-boats, US Navy orders merchant ships to sail between New York and Cape Hatteras only during the day, and to put into the Chesapeake or the Delaware at night.

Italian opera star Ezio Pinza detained on Ellis Island as enemy alien.

Today in World War II History—Mar. 11, 1942

British ad for National Wheatmeal Loaf, WWII

British ad for National Wheatmeal Loaf, WWII

75 Years Ago—Mar. 11, 1942: In the Philippines, Gen. Douglas MacArthur evacuates Corregidor by PT boat with his family and staff for Mindanao.

Col. Karl Bendetsen appointed director of US Wartime Civil Control Administration to supervise removal of Japanese-Americans from West Coast.

Britain bans sale of white bread, replaced by National Wheatmeal Loaf made of whole wheat and potato flour.

Today in World War II History—Mar. 10, 1942

US Navy TBD-1 Devastators from USS Yorktown, prepare to attack Japanese shipping in the Huon Gulf, New Guinea, 10 March 1942 (US Navy photo)

US Navy TBD-1 Devastators from USS Yorktown, prepare to attack Japanese shipping in the Huon Gulf, New Guinea, 10 March 1942 (US Navy photo)

75 Years Ago—Mar. 10, 1942: Britain reports that spending for WWII has surpassed spending for WWI.

Japanese land on Bougainville in Solomons and at Finschhafen, New Guinea.

Brazilian police arrest a German spy whose message to Hamburg (intercepted by the FBI) contained sailing information for the Queen Mary, carrying 10,000 US troops.

Today in World War II History—Mar. 9, 1942

Men of the Japanese 2nd Division celebrating landing at Merak, Java, 1 Mar 1942 (public domain via WW2 Database)

Men of the Japanese 2nd Division celebrating landing at Merak, Java, 1 Mar 1942 (public domain via WW2 Database)

75 Years Ago—Mar. 9, 1942: Japanese complete conquest of Java and gain control of entire Netherlands East Indies.

Make It Do – Clothing Restrictions in World War II

US poster, WWII, urging mending clothes.During World War II, the United States didn’t ration clothing as the United Kingdom did, but restrictions were applied, and fashions adapted to use less fabric.

Why Clothing?

Eleven million men and women served in the US military during the war, and they all needed uniforms. This strained the country’s supply of fabric, particularly wool, and the garment manufacturing system. Since Japan produced the majority of the world’s silk, the war cut off the supply completely. Civilians were encouraged to purchase or make clothing from cotton, rayon, or rayon/wool blends.

Wartime Women’s Fashions

Clothing using less fabric became fashionable. Women’s suits took on a sleek, military look. Suit jackets were fitted, with padded shoulders, and rested between the waist and hip. Skirts took on a slim silhouette, often with an A-line flare. The peasant look was also popular, but without full skirts and ruffles. Also, millions of women entering the workplace popularized the “Rosie the Riveter” look—slacks became stylish, as well as turbans, snoods, and headscarves to keep hair away from machinery. Since metal zippers were unavailable, wraparound dresses and skirts were introduced. See my 1940s Fashions Pinterest board for lots of pictures.

Wartime Men’s Fashions

Before the war, when a man purchased a suit, it came with a jacket, a vest, and two pairs of pants. The wartime “Victory Suit” eliminated the vest and second pair of pants. Men’s suits were single-breasted, had narrow lapels, no cuffs, and no pocket flaps. Wartime necessity allowed men to wear mismatched jackets and trousers.

War Production Board Restrictions

On March 8, 1942, the US War Production Board (WPB) issued order L-85 with the goal of 15 percent reduction in the amount of textiles used in women’s wear. Skirt length and width were restricted, as well as the width of women’s slacks. The WPB prohibited pleats, ruffles, patch pockets, attached hoods and shawls, and full sleeves or skirts. Hems and fabric belts could be no wider than two inches, and garments could have no more than one pocket. Exemptions were allowed for bridal gowns, maternity clothes, and religious vestments. Home sewing was not restricted and became even more popular. However, patterns of the time tended to follow WPB guidelines.

Price Controls

The textile situation worsened in 1944. Manufacturing of civilian clothing fell 50 percent, and prices began to rise. To prevent rampant inflation, the Office of Price Administration instituted price controls on clothing on March 19, 1945, which were lifted on August 18, 1945.

Making Do

Mending was more than economical, it was a patriotic duty, and a fad for patched clothing emerged. Home sewers often pieced together garments from remnants, mixing and matching colors and patterns. Creative women cut down old garments to reuse the cloth and remade old clothing into wartime fashions. Due to the silk shortage, women shared wedding dresses and formalwear. With so many men off to war, wives were encouraged to remake their husband’s suits for their own use, and the old pioneer tradition of cutting down adult clothing for children’s use returned.

Shoes and Stockings

During World War II, the United States rationed leather shoes (see Make It Do – Shoe Rationing in World War II), and silk and nylon stockings were scarce (see Make It Do – Stocking Shortages in World War II).

What do you think of 1940s fashions? Would you have resented the restrictions or enjoyed the chance to be creative?

Today in World War II History—Mar. 8, 1942

Hein ter Poorten surrendering to the Japanese, Kalidjati, Java, Dutch East Indies, 8 Mar 1942 (public domain via WW2 Database)

Hein ter Poorten surrendering to the Japanese, Kalidjati, Java, Dutch East Indies, 8 Mar 1942 (public domain via WW2 Database)

75 Years Ago—Mar. 8, 1942: On Java, Governor of Netherlands East Indies surrenders to Japanese; 60,000 POWs.

Japanese land on New Guinea at Lae and Salamaua.

US War Production Board places restrictions on women’s clothing to save 15% of yardage, exemptions for bridal and maternity clothes. (See “Make It Do – Clothing Restrictions in World War II“)

Today in World War II History—Mar. 7, 1942

Maj James A. Ellison reviews first class of Tuskegee Airmen, Tuskegee Army Air Field, AL, 1941 (US Air Force photo)

Maj James A. Ellison reviews first class of Tuskegee Airmen, Tuskegee Army Air Field, AL, 1941 (US Air Force photo)

75 Years Ago—Mar. 7, 1942: Japanese occupy Rangoon, Burma.

First African-American flying cadets graduate at Tuskegee Army Air Field, AL.

Book Beat – With Love, Wherever You Are

With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley MackallWhen Army doctor Frank Daley meets spunky Army nurse Helen Eberhart, a whirlwind romance takes them both by surprise. Their speedy wartime marriage is soon tested when they ship to England and France with only letters to connect them. As they care for the wounded and endure deprivations, will their young love survive?

Uplifting and endearing, With Love, Wherever You Are tells the real-life story of the romance between the author’s parents. With spunk and humor, Frank and Helen navigate the hardships, loss, and dangers of war. Dandi Daley Mackall paints a sweet but accurate picture, and I was hooked. Thoroughly engaging!

If you enjoyed my Wings of the Nightingale series, you’ll love this insight into what how real Army doctors and nurses lived!

Today in World War II History—Mar. 6, 1942

US poster, WWII75 Years Ago—Mar. 6, 1942: US Gen. Joseph Stilwell meets with Chiang Kai-shek for first time in Chungking.

Typewriters are rationed in US; sales of new and used typewriters are banned.

Movie premiere of To Be or Not To Be, starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard in her last role.

Today in World War II History—Mar. 5, 1942

Gen. Sir Alan Brooke (public domain via WW2 Database)

Gen. Sir Alan Brooke (public domain via WW2 Database)

75 Years Ago—Mar. 5, 1942: Gen. Sir Alan Brooke becomes chairman of British Chiefs of Staff, in addition to his position as Chief of Imperial General Staff.

British expand conscription to men 41-45 and women 20-30.

First Naval Construction Battalion established and officially nicknamed “Seabees.”

US Civil Air Patrol begins antisubmarine patrols on East Coast; base established at Rehoboth, DE.US Civil Air Patrol poster, WWII