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Today in World War II History—April 1, 1943

Monument to the US 2nd Ranger Battalion at Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, France (Photo: Sarah Sundin, September 2017)

Monument to the US 2nd Ranger Battalion at Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, France (Photo: Sarah Sundin, September 2017)

75 Years Ago—Apr. 1, 1943: In Tunisia, US II Corps falls back at Fondouk after heavy losses.

US Army 2nd Ranger Battalion is activated at Camp Forrest, Tullahoma TN; three companies from this battalion will later climb the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc on D-day.

Make It Do – Rationing of Butter, Fats & Oils in World War II

US poster, World War II

US poster, World War II

Rationing was part of life on the US Home Front during World War II. Along with gasoline, sugar, coffee, canned and processed foods, meat, and cheese—butter, fats, and oils were rationed. To help produce the glycerin needed by the military, housewives also collected kitchen waste fats.

US poster, World War II

US poster, World War II

Why Fats?

Shortages of butter and oils began early in the war. Most cooking oils came from Pacific lands conquered by the Japanese, and the supply plummeted. Fats were also needed in higher quantities for industrial and military use. For example, the Navy used lard to grease their guns. In addition, the United States provided the fats needed by many of the Allies for military and civilian use.

US rationing books owned by my mother and grandmother, WWII (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

US rationing books owned by my mother and grandmother, WWII (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Rationing of Butter, Fats & Oils

By Christmas of 1942 a serious shortage of butter and other fats developed. The Office of Price Administration added butter, fats, and oils to rationing on March 29, 1943. Points were assigned to each type of fat based on scarcity. Grocery stores posted the required ration points along with prices. Lard was removed from rationing on March 3, 1944 and shortening and oils on April 19, 1944, but butter and margarine were rationed until November 23, 1945. Butter required a higher number of points than margarine, so “oleo” margarine became more popular. Naturally white, oleo came with a packet of yellow food coloring to mix in.

Safeway ad from the Antioch Ledger, 1943

Safeway ad from the Antioch Ledger, 1943

Ration Books

Ration Books Two, Three, and Four included blue stamps for processed foods and red stamps for meat, cheese, and fats. Each person received 64 red stamps each month, providing about 12 pounds of fats per year.

Glycerin Shortage

The vital substance of glycerin comes from fats. In the United States, most glycerin came from the production of soap—when fats and lye are combined, soap and glycerin are formed. Glycerin is a crucial ingredient in the manufacture of explosives such as nitroglycerin. It was also needed for other military uses—as a lubricant, in protective paint for planes and tanks, in hydraulics, in the production of cellophane for food wrappers, and in dyes for uniforms.

In addition, glycerin is vital in pharmaceuticals as a solvent, protectant, and emollient. To free up some of the supply, glycerin use was restricted or removed from civilian products such as beverages, gum, antifreeze, tobacco, cosmetics, lotions, soaps, and shampoo. Pharmacists learned to use other solvents to make suspensions and elixirs. However, more glycerin was needed, so America turned to the housewife to provide more fats.

US poster, World War II

US poster, World War II

Pass the Grease and Make the Ammunition”

“One tablespoonful of kitchen grease fires five bullets.” “One pound of kitchen fats makes enough dynamite to blow up a bridge.” Slogans like these prompted housewives to salvage cooking fats. In June of 1942, a national program was begun for collection—but it still wasn’t enough. To reward collection, starting on December 13, 1943, people received 2 red ration points and 4 cents for each pound of grease.

How were waste fats collected?

Housewives saved fats trimmed from meat (boiled down), pan juices, skimmings from stews and gravies, even water from boiling sausage (chilled and skimmed). The grease had to be free of water and juice, strained through a fine-mesh sieve to remove impurities, and stored in a cool and dry place, preferably refrigerated. When a pound had been collected in a tin can, the housewife took it in to her grocer or butcher, who would return her tin can—tin was scarce too!

How would you deal with rationed butter and oils—or saving your kitchen grease?

Make It Do – Meat and Cheese Rationing in World War II

US poster, World War II

US poster, World War II

Rationing of meat and cheese was an important part of life on the US Home Front. A complex and constantly changing system kept grocery shoppers on their toes.

Why meat and cheese?

The United States produced meat and cheese for her civilians and military, and also for her Allies. During World War I, food shortages were a serious problem, with hoarding, escalating prices, and rushes on stores. When World War II started, the government reduced deliveries to stores and restaurants, instituted price controls, and urged people to voluntarily reduce consumption. Britain had already instituted a point-based rationing system and had found it effective, so the United States decided to implement a similar program in 1943. Rationing made sure everyone got a fair share.

US poster, World War II

US poster, World War II

What was rationed?

On March 29, 1943, meats and cheeses were added to rationing. Rationed meats included beef, pork, veal, lamb, and tinned meats and fish. Poultry, eggs, fresh milk—and Spam—were not rationed. Cheese rationing started with hard cheeses, since they were more easily shipped overseas. However, on June 2, 1943, rationing was expanded to cream and cottage cheeses, and to canned evaporated and condensed milk.

US rationing books owned by my mother and grandmother, WWII (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

US rationing books owned by my mother and grandmother, WWII (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Ration Books

War Ration Books Two, Three, and Four contained blue stamps for processed foods and red stamps for meat, cheese, and fats. Each person received 64 red stamps each month, providing 28 ounces of meat and 4 ounces of cheese per week. The stamps were printed with a number for point value and a letter to specify the rationing period—such as C8. Rationing calendars in newspapers declared which stamps were current and for how long. To prevent fraud, the stamps had to be torn off in the presence of the grocer. Stamps were good for one, two, five, or eight points, with no “change” given, so the shopper had to be careful to use the exact number of stamps. The system was simplified on February 27, 1944, when plastic tokens were issued as change.

Points

Each cut of meat was assigned a point value per pound, based not on price or quality, but on scarcity. These point values varied throughout the war depending on supply and demand. “Variety meats” such as kidney, liver, brain, and tongue had little use for the military, so their point values were low. On May 3, 1944, thanks to a good supply, all meats except steak and choice cuts of beef were removed from rationing—temporarily.

Meat ad from Safeway in the Antioch Ledger, 1943

Meat ad from Safeway in the Antioch Ledger, 1943

Shortages

As the Allies advanced, newly liberated countries required food their war-ravaged lands couldn’t produce. The United States stepped forward to meet those needs, but shortages resulted on the Home Front. For Thanksgiving in 1944, the supply of turkeys was short, and on December 31, 1944, all meats were returned to rationing. Even with tightened rationing, a serious meat shortage developed in the spring and summer of 1945. San Diego reported a 55 percent decrease in the meat supply, and in San Francisco, only lamb and sausage were available. For the first time, even chicken and eggs were in short supply. Things improved after the victory parades, and on November 23, 1945 meat and cheese rationing came to an end.

US poster, World War II

US poster, World War II

Making Do

Throughout the war, American housewives learned to make do with less meat. Chicken and rabbit hutches sprang up in backyards, and people were encouraged to fish. Patriotic citizens observed “meatless Tuesdays” and cut meatless recipes out of newspapers and magazines. Soups, stews, and casseroles helped stretch the meat ration, and housewives learned to adapt recipes to organ meats and poultry.

How would you like to deal with meat and cheese rationing?

Today in World War II History—Mar. 28, 1943

Sergei Rachmaninoff in the California redwoods, 1919 (public domain via Wikipedia)

Sergei Rachmaninoff in the California redwoods, 1919 (public domain via Wikipedia)

75 Years Ago—Mar. 28, 1943: Montgomery’s British Eighth Army takes Mareth, Tunisia and 7000 German POWs.

Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff dies in Beverly Hills, CA of melanoma, age 69, a new US citizen.

Today in World War II History—Mar. 27, 1943

Heavy cruiser USS Salt Lake City in action during Battle of the Komandorski Islands, 26 Mar 1943 (US Naval History and Heritage Command)

Heavy cruiser USS Salt Lake City in action during Battle of the Komandorski Islands, 26 Mar 1943 (US Naval History and Heritage Command)

75 Years Ago—Mar. 27, 1943: In Tunisia, Germans delay British & New Zealanders at Tebaga Gap and retreat to Wadi Akarit.

US defeats Japanese in naval battle of Komandorski Islands in Aleutians, the longest continuous gun battle in the history of the US Navy.

Today in World War II History—Mar. 26, 1943

Brig. Gen. Fred Borum presents the Air Medal to Lt. Elsie Ott, the first woman to receive the Air Medal. (US Air Force photo)

Brig. Gen. Fred Borum presents the Air Medal to Lt. Elsie Ott, the first woman to receive the Air Medal. (US Air Force photo)

75 Years Ago—Mar. 26, 1943: Battle of Komandorski Islands begins: US ships intercept Japanese ships trying to resupply Kiska in the Aleutians.

US War Food Administration established to oversee food production and distribution.

Flight nurse Lt. Elsie Ott becomes first woman to earn the Air Medal, for 10,000-mile flight from India to DC.

Today in World War II History—Mar. 25, 1943

US poster, WWII

US poster, WWII

75 Years Ago—Mar. 25, 1943: Neutral Spain closes its border with Nazi-occupied France.

Battle for convoy HX-231 begins (through April 8), the first time an Allied Atlantic convoy beats off German U-boats without loss.