Make It Do – Sugar Rationing in World War II

US poster, WWIIWhat could be more American than Hershey bars, homemade cookies, and birthday cake? During World War II these items were hard to come by.

Short on Sugar

When the Japanese conquered the Philippines in the early months of 1942, the United States lost a major source of sugar imports. Shipments from Hawaii and Central and South America had to be curtailed 50 percent as cargo vessels were diverted for military purposes – and due to heavy losses of cargo ships to German U-boats in early 1942. The supply of sugar fell by one-third. To ensure adequate supplies for manufacturers, the military, and civilians, sugar became the first food item to be rationed. Manufacturers initially received supplies at 80 percent of pre-war levels, but that was reduced over time.

Registration for RationingUS poster, WWII

On April 27, 1942, families registered for ration books at their local elementary schools. One book was issued for each family member and had to be surrendered upon death. The sale of sugar was halted for one week to prepare for the program. To discourage hoarding, each family had to report how much sugar they had in stock over a certain amount – and the corresponding number of stamps was removed from the book.

Ration Books

On May 5, 1942, each person in the United States received a copy of War Ration Book One, good for a 56-week supply of sugar. Initially, each stamp was good for one pound of sugar and could be used over a specified two-week period. On June 28, 1942, each stamp became good for two pounds of sugar over a four-week period. The ration book bore the recipient’s name and could only be used by household members. Stamps had to be torn off in the presence of the grocer.

If the book was lost, stolen, or destroyed, an application had to be submitted to the Ration Board for a new copy. When entering the hospital for greater than ten days, the ration book had to be brought along.

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)


Home canning was encouraged during the war – however, canning requires sugar. To provide for this patriotic need, each person could apply for a 25-pound allotment of canning sugar each year. Each local ration board determined the quantity and season of availability based on the local harvest. A special canning sugar stamp in the ration book had to be attached to the application. In 1944, confusion arose when “spare canning sugar stamp 37” was called for – but many people mistakenly used the regular sugar stamp 37, invalidating it for normal household purchases.


Knox Wartime Recipes: How to be Easy on Your Ration Book, 1943 (Smithsonian)

Knox Wartime Recipes: How to be Easy on Your Ration Book, 1943 (Smithsonian)

Just because you had a sugar stamp didn’t mean sugar was available for purchase. Shortages occurred often during the war, and in early 1945 became acute. As Europe was liberated from Nazi Germany, the US took on the main responsibility for providing food to those ravaged countries. On May 1, 1945, the sugar ration was cut to 15 pounds per year for household use and 15 pounds per year for canning – a total of eight ounces per week. Sugar was the last product to remain on rationing after the war. The program was discontinued in June 1947.

Housewives learned to be creative, using saccharine, corn syrup, and even packets of flavored gelatin as sugar substitutes. Women’s magazines featured recipes with reduced sugar or creative substitutes.

Do you have any stories of wartime sugar rationing?

New Book Series!

I’m thrilled to announce I’ve signed a contract with Revell for another three-book series set during World War II! The series is tentatively titled Wings of the Nightingale, and it follows three flight nurses who discover friendship, love, and peril in the skies and on the shores of the Mediterranean.

In Every Letter (working title), September 2012: Loner Lt. Mellie Blake longs for adventure as a flight nurse, while Army engineer Lt. Tom MacGilliver tries to overcome the legacy of his infamous father. In North Africa and Sicily, Mellie pioneers air evacuation while Tom builds airfields under fire. Will their anonymous correspondence unlock their true identities?

To Every Shore (working title), June 2013: Lt. Georgie Taylor loves her job as a flight nurse, but the goals of pharmacist Sgt. John “Hutch” Hutchinson are frustrated at every turn. As Georgie and Hutch care for American soldiers in Sicily and Italy, tragedy brings them together. But will their differences keep them apart?

With Every Beat (working title), June 2014: Flight nurse Lt. Kay Jobson collects hearts wherever she flies, but C-47 pilot Lt. Roger Cooper is immune to her charms. Throughout Italy and southern France, as she evacuates the wounded and he delivers paratroopers and supplies, every beat of their hearts draws them where they don’t want to go.

I’m enjoying getting to know this new batch of characters – and I hope you’ll love them too!

Blue Skies Tomorrow – the Book Cover is Here!

Blue Skies Tomorrow by Sarah SundinHere it is! The cover for Blue Skies Tomorrow, coming from Revell, August 2011!

And here’s the blurb from the publisher…

Lt. Raymond Novak prefers the pulpit to the cockpit, but at least his stateside job training B-17 pilots allows him the luxury of a personal life. As he courts Helen Carlisle, a young war widow and mother who conceals her pain under a frenzy of volunteer work, the sparks of their romance set a fire that flings them both into peril. After Ray leaves to fly a combat mission at the peak of the air war over Europe, Helen takes a job in a dangerous munitions yard and confronts an even graver menace in her own home. Will they find the courage to face their challenges? And can their young love survive until blue skies return?

Filled with daring and romance, Blue Skies Tomorrow will capture readers’ hearts.

Blue Skies Tomorrow is the third book in the Wings of Glory series, which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II. Each book stands alone.

I love all the little details in this cover! The building in the background is El Campanil Theater in Antioch, California, where several scenes in the book take place. This building was built in 1928 and has been gorgeously restored by a non-profit organization and hosts all sorts of interesting musical groups, plays, and classic movies. If you’re ever in town, drop by! To see pictures or to see upcoming attractions, please visit http://www.elcampaniltheatre.com (Yes, it’s “theatre” in the website address).

Another great little detail is the movie on the marquee. Cover Girl, starring Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth, featured orchestration by Carmen Dragon, a native of Antioch, California. Mr. Dragon won the 1944 Oscar for his work on the film.

So…what do you think?

Lessons from the 1940s – Watch out for Stereotypes

US poster, 1942

US poster, 1942

During World War II, stereotypes were used in posters, newsreels, and movies to demonize the enemy and motivate people to fight. It’s much easier to fight an enemy you hate. Nowadays, these images make us wince. We’re too enlightened to stereotype people.

Or are we? Most of us would be ashamed to admit we have stereotypes, but deep inside we classify people. Judge people. Treat people differently.

Skin color, body weight, age, style of clothing and hair, number of tattoos and piercings, educational level, political beliefs, religion, neighborhood of residence, national origin, profession, wealth or lack of wealth, what team they root for, musical preference and how loudly it’s played—these are all areas in which we classify people. We can’t help it.

But we can acknowledge it and refuse to let our internal stereotypes influence our external actions. In fact, we need to show extra mercy to people in our least favorite categories.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan often makes us uncomfortable, as it should. Jesus knows how our minds work—and how our hearts exclude. We need to search our hearts and love all people as God loves us.

[Jesus said,] “’Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man…?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise’” (Luke 10:36-38).

Lessons from the 1940s – Careless Words Kill

US poster, 1943

US poster, 1943

During World War II, careless words could lead to needless deaths. A mother chatting in the beauty parlor about her son’s ship leaving San Diego the next day, a spy in the chair next to her – a sub notified, a ship sunk. Posters like this reminded people to watch their words.

Recently school bullying has made the headlines. Careless, cruel words caused several teens to hate their lives so much that suicide seemed the only escape. Needless, heartbreaking deaths.

Bullying has always been with us. How many of us were on the receiving end as children? How many dished it out – and are willing to admit it?

However, technology has made bullying worse. While a bullied child used to be able to retreat to a safe home, now text messages and social media batter them with those careless words all day long.

In addition, our culture has elevated snarkiness to art form. While politicians and celebrities have always been targets for the media, now the common man has the ability to add his own comments. We feel safe mocking the famous – we’ll never meet them in person and see the effect of our words – besides, they knew what they were getting into, didn’t they? And our culture grows meaner.

And so one teen, desperate to be accepted by others, beats another teen up with her words. The others laugh at her clever snarkiness. They join in. The victim slowly dies inside.

How can we stop this? We can refuse to join in the meanness. We can refuse to laugh at snarkiness. We can keep communication open with our children, watching for signs that they’re bullies or victims. Most of all, we can watch our own words vigilantly and teach our children likewise. Words have power. Use them wisely.

How do you recommend we stop this cycle?

Lessons from the 1940s – Save and Invest

US War Bond poster, WWII

US War Bond poster, WWII

The generation that fought World War II on the battlefield and on the Home Front had come through the Great Depression. While we cringe at today’s unemployment figures hovering around 10 percent (as we should), in 1932, 13 million were unemployed – 25 percent of the labor force at a time when most households had only one wage-earner.

This generation learned the importance of managing money wisely. During the war, that meant purchasing War Bonds. Many enrolled in automatic purchasing programs to buy a set quantity with each paycheck. Bond rallies and drives brought in many more purchases. By the end of the war, 85 million Americans had purchased $185.7 billion worth of bonds.

More than patriotism and the financial necessities of total war, War Bonds were a good investment. At the end of ten years, the bonds matured and were worth far more than their purchase price.

We can learn a lot from this generation about personal finances. Don’t buy more than you can afford. Live frugally. Reuse and repair and wear things out. Don’t go into debt. If you are in debt, get out quickly. Don’t put more on your credit cards than you can repay at the end of the month. Set aside a portion of your salary regularly for savings and investment.

For today’s Americans, these concepts seem impractical and foreign. But they work.

Which of these ideas are you trying now? Which would you like to try?

Lessons from the 1940s – Teamwork

US poster, 1943

US poster, 1943

The brave pilot risking his life for the sake of his country. The soldier and sailor and Marine in combat. These are the people we think about when we think of World War II. Their stories are told in movies and documentaries and books – including mine.

But this poster recognizes the truth – teamwork won the war. Even in the armed forces, few men saw combat. In the U.S. Eighth Air Force based in England, ten men served in noncombat positions for every man in the air. And while 11 million men and women served in the U.S. military, the population of the United States in 1940 was 132 million, and almost every man, woman, and child on the Home Front was involved in the war effort.

Men and women worked in factories, manufacturing the ammunition, weapons, planes, ships, and vehicles needed by the Army and Navy. They worked on the farms, producing enough food for civilians and military at home and abroad. Adults and children volunteered, collecting scrap, preparing surgical dressings, and helping in hospitals. Most people put large portions of their earnings into War Bonds to finance the heavy needs of total war.

This concept plays out today in corporations, businesses, and churches. Most organizations have their “fighter pilots,” the upfront person who draws attention – the founder, the CEO, the pastor, the celebrity, the idea man/woman. But no organization could function on the fighter pilot alone. The wise pilot knows this, shows gratitude, and recognizes the help he receives. “You buy ’em, we’ll fly ’em!”

Likewise, every organization has “noncombat personnel” and “civilians buying War Stamps.” As in World War II, we should take pride in our contributions, even if they seem boring or insignificant, and recognize the part our roles play in the whole. I used to work in the church nursery, and no one was allowed to say, “I just hold babies.” No, we introduced babies to the love of God and the love of the church, and we allowed stressed-out young parents to grow spiritually.

No job is too small, and no job is the most important.

How do you see this concept in your world?

Lessons from the 1940s – No Complaints

US Army Nurse Corps recruiting poster, 1944

US Army Nurse Corps recruiting poster, 1944

They waded ashore in chest-deep water in Algeria and took shelter behind sand dunes. Snipers and strafing fighter planes aimed for them. They ate cold K-rations and dug slit trenches and dealt with fleas, mosquitoes, lice, and flies. And they were women.

Lately I’ve been researching nursing in the Mediterranean Theater (North Africa, Sicily, and Italy) in World War II, and I’ve been struck by the conditions these young women worked in.

They had a difficult job to begin with. Work schedules varied, usually on the order of twelve hours a day, six days a week – but in crisis times, they worked far more. They took care of the wounded and watched healthy, promising young men die. Their tent hospitals were often bombed – sometimes by accident, sometimes when conditions forced them to set up close to military targets, and sometimes by intent.

Sleep, when it came, was in a crowded tent with a slit trench down the middle – both for protection during attack and for drainage of rainwater. The women dealt with mud so thick it pulled their combat boots off. To prevent malaria, they took Atabrine which turned their skin yellow. Supplies were often short, and the women improvised with available materials. They washed their underthings in their helmets.

This was no day at the spa.

Did they complain? I’m sure they did, but what I’ve read recounts girls giggling in their slit trenches, working together with purpose, and bearing up astoundingly well. During the Anzio campaign in early 1944, when the hospitals were attacked almost every day and several nurses were killed, the commanders considered evacuating the nurses. The women refused. They had work to do and they could handle it.

I’m writing this in my nice clean office wearing nice clean clothes with a nice clean meal in my tummy. No mud. No bugs. No enemy attack. How often do I complain?

We have a complaining culture. We have the best living conditions of any civilization in the history of mankind – and we complain. I know I can learn a lot from the nurses of World War II.

How about you?

Lessons from the 1940s – Let Boys Be Boys

US Navy recruitment poster, 1944

US Navy recruitment poster, 1944

My two sons’ favorite TV show is “Mythbusters.” Why do they like it? The scientific investigation of urban legends? Sure. The quirky characters and offbeat humor? Yep. But the primary reason…”They blow things up!”

I don’t get this. I’m a girl. Explosions don’t appeal to me, and all I can think about is those poor people on the other boat. This poster does nothing for me. But my boys…oh yeah! It speaks their language.

Look at the messages of this poster: If you join the submarine service, you’ll:
1) See action! Now!
2) You can be a hero in perilous situations.
3) You can blow things up!

Nowadays, our culture fears anything like this. It breeds violence. It isn’t sensitive. It’s too…masculine.

But we can’t change the basic nature of men – nor should we. When the masculine interest in action and danger isn’t properly directed, men have committed the worst horrors against humanity in history. But men directed by morals and virtue perform acts of heroism, bravery, and chivalry. These are the men who entered the Twin Towers and rescued countless people from death. These are the men who defended our country not only in World War II, but in many other wars.

As a mother, my job isn’t to quench my sons’ interest in action and danger and explosions – as if I could. After all, when my youngest was a toddler, he took a bite out of a slice of American cheese, pointed the L-shaped remnant at his sister, and said, “Bang!” Rather, my job is to teach them the compassion, integrity, and faith to train those masculine energies for honorable purposes.

How can you let your boy be a boy – without blowing up the neighborhood?

Lessons from the 1940s – Have Faith

US poster, 1942

US poster, 1942

Here’s a poster you wouldn’t see today: “Strong in the strength of the Lord, we who fight in the people’s cause will never stop until that cause is won.” While researching my World War II novels, I was surprised at the religious tone in the writings. Top Ten songs like “Comin’ in on a Wing and a Prayer,” “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” and a humble prayer in the middle of the lyrics of “American Patrol.” A prayer on the front page of the local newspaper on D-Day. Mainstream movies and books in which people attend church and pray.

Freedom of religion is a good thing. I’m thankful I live in a country where we’re free to worship God as we see fit. The founders of the United States remembered too well what happened when religion was mandated by the government rather than by the individual. However, they certainly never imagined an America free from religion.

During World War II, the majority of Americans were people of faith. This gave the nation a bedrock foundation of moral truth on which decisions were made. The human decision-making process comes from a combination of emotion and logic. Emotion, as we all know, is easily swayed. But logic has flaws as well – logical, well-reasoned arguments can be made on polar opposite sides of any issue. Logic and emotion have been used to justify some of the grossest atrocities of modern times, and are being used now to justify what would have been unthinkable in the 1940s.

A civilization can remain civilized only when the balloons of logic and emotion are tethered to the foundation of truth, to the basic knowledge of right and wrong. Cut less from this mooring, logic and emotion blow any which way and can take our society to ruin.

In the 1940s, people of faith spoke up without apology – but without shrill, angry, off-putting voices. They made decisions grounded in God’s truth, and tried their best to live lives of morality and integrity. Their strength came from the Lord, and that strength brought them through the horrors and deprivation of war.

I pray that America can return to the source of its strength so we can face whatever challenges come in the future.