Perhaps nothing represents the community-minded patriotism of the US Home Front in World War II better than the scrap drive.
Seventy years ago, the United States was in the middle of its first major national scrap drive – for rubber.
Enemy conquests cut off supplies of crucial raw materials such as tin and rubber, and the need for products made from these materials skyrocketed due to the war. Since useful materials often ended up in the trash can or languished unused in homes and on farms, the War Production Board encouraged scrap drives throughout the war.
From June 15-30, 1942, the United States held a nationwide rubber drive. People brought in old or excess tires, raincoats, hot water bottles, boots, and floor mats. In exchange they received a penny a pound. Although 450,000 tons of scrap rubber was collected, used rubber was found to be of poor quality.
Scrap Metal Drives
In 1942 citizens scoured their homes, farms, and businesses for metal. Housewives donated pots and pans, farmers turned in farm equipment, and children even sacrificed their metal toys. Many people removed bumpers and fenders from their cars for the war effort. Communities melted down Civil War cannons and tore down wrought iron fences, sacrificing their history for their future.
Most communities collected tin cans once a month. In some towns, people places boxes of cleaned and crushed tin cans by the curb for collection, and other towns had central collection sites. Youth groups, especially the Boy Scouts, were highly involved in these drives.
The need for paper increased during the war. The military’s love for paperwork could be blamed, but the military also used lots of paper packaging for supplies. On the civilian side, paper packaging had replaced tin for many products.
The lumber industry was hard-hit by the manpower shortage caused by the draft. Lumberjacks went on strike, demanding a higher meat ration, which they did not receive. Many of these men left for higher-paying jobs in the defense industry.