1940-1949 Into the Fire

World War II tests the nation's resolve.

1940-1949 Into the Fire
- By Dennis Caprio "Out of the frying pan, into the fire -if ever a decade proved a cliché, the 1940s did. Good grief, the United States had just endured a decade of economic depression, social turmoil and dismal prospects of peace when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Even before President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war, our giant industrial complex had started shifting gears from producing goods for public consumption to producing components for the war many suspected was around the corner. Now as a massive war machine kicked in, the supply of nearly everything-new boats and new cars included-dwindled to zero… though jobs were finally plentiful. Federally mandated rationing limited the amount of gasoline and oil the public could buy, and influenced the food they ate and the clothes they wore. High demand for raw materials led to a nationwide recycling program for steel and other metals, rubber and paper. Those who didn't volunteer for service were soon snatched by the draft, leaving even strategic industries scrambling for workers -and opening many doors to women and African Americans. Few of us today can imagine the reaction people with loved ones in the service had every time the doorbell sounded or telephone rang, or the sleepless nights they passed not knowing a son's or father's whereabouts for months at a time. But the human spirit-the American spirit-proved supremely resilient, as tough as Kevlar and as inventive as the landing craft designed by Andrew Higgins and torpedo boats from Elco, Higgins and Huckins. For relief, the nation tuned its radios to the big-band music of Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, and the comedy shows of Jack Benny and Bob Hope, while teenage girls swooned over Frank Sinatra and dreamed of an evening with Perry Como or Bing Crosby. In the theaters, Casablanca made the nation cry, Lifeboat posed questions about class and fairness (while confirming the cruelty of Nazis) and Wake Island set the tone for a toe-to-toe struggle against a stubborn and relentless foe. Although the Allied countries could claim total victory in 1945, divisions within the winners augured poorly for peace. But the changes provoked by World War II would also kick-start and turbocharge our next decade, the 1950s. This advertisement left no doubt about the PT builders' feelings for their products.
1940-1949 Into the Fire
Testing the strength of a fiberglass boat. The military began experimenting with fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) late in the 1930s. The first FRP boat was built in 1942.
1940-1949 Into the Fire
The Anchorage Inc., a pioneer of fiberglass construction, displays one of its plywood dinghies atop a Cord 810.
1940-1949 Into the Fire
DUKW: D = a vehicle designed in 1942, U = utility (amphibious in this case), K = all-wheel drive, and W = two powered rear axles. Developed by Sparkman & Stephens, the DUKW was based on a 2.5-ton Army truck.
1940-1949 Into the Fire
The radio direction finder was one of the war's technological spin-offs.
1940-1949 Into the Fire
Frank Pembroke Huckins helped to develop PT boats for the Navy.
1940-1949 Into the Fire
Rosie the Riveter stood for the strength and commitment of women during World War II.
1940-1949 Into the Fire
Radiotelephones also improved from wartime development.
1940-1949 Into the Fire
Near the end of the war, boat manufacturers advertised the good life to come.