May 11, 2020
Thoughts on Victory in Europe Day
In remembrance of the Victory in Europe Day, commonly referred to as VE Day, the Smithsonian Channel ran ”Apocalypse” this past weekend. The series highlighted World War II and the epic impact the war played on nations across the globe.
As I watched the show I contemplated the world in which we are currently living, one associated with stay at home orders, wearing of masks in public, distance learning for our children, and of course, limited toilet paper. There is no doubt the COVID19 pandemic will shape 2020 for all of us, especially our younger generation.
What will this generation say about wearing masks at the grocery store, about not playing that final season of lacrosse, or not being able to walk across the stage at graduation? Just as there will be testaments to what living through COVID19 was like, there continue to be stories about what living through World War II was like.
In doing some research, stories from the Homefront revealed the following. What you may find from reading the following accounts, are striking similarities between responding to a health pandemic and to fighting a war.
Ration stamps were issued in 1942, placing limits on meat, sugar, fat, butter and other food, limits were also placed on gas and clothing purchases
(Now: stores are rationing meat, eggs, and more)
Communities conducted scrap metal drives
(Now: communities and restaurants are holding food drives)
Americans planted ‘victory gardens’ used to grow food, by 1945 there were 20 million gardens in use (Now: more and more American are planting gardens, buying chickens, and even goats!)
Big bands played at military bases with performances streamed live to radio for listeners at home
(Now: pop stars are performing live-streamed concerts for free)
The United States Office of War phrase, “Do with less-so they’ll have enough”, with ‘they’ referring to the military
(Now: the commonly heard phrase, “We’re in this together)
The period of World War II was also a time of great social transformation. African Americans received opportunities in all services and many moved north to begin industrial work. Millions of women also entered the industrial workforce. “Everyone answered the call.”
(Left Photo Credit: Smithsonian Magazine)
What can we learn from the experience at home during World War II? What I learned, is just as our Greatest Generation persevered through, we will do the same. While we may see limits on grocery products and limits on activities such as live music performances, there are opportunities to build and strengthen communities. We have opportunities for self-growth, learning a new hobby, spending more time with our kids, and in my case, re-learning the basics of algebra as I help my son learn from home.
Take some time in the coming weeks and months as we approach more World War II commemorations to reflect on the Homefront of the 1940’s and to engage in the Homefront of 2020.
For more information on resources for self-care and staying engaged during this time, visit these resources:
Resources for everyone: veterans, family members, healthcare workers and you
Starting your first vegetable garden
Paying it forward: Maryland Food Bank
Train your brain: Learn something new
Writer: D.Burl, Outreach Director, MDVA