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Archive for '- World War II'

Shorter Skirts and Shoulder Pads: How World War II Changed Women’s Fashion

Today’s post comes from Marisa Hawley, intern in the National Archives Strategy and Communications office.

As part of the “six weeks of style” celebration to recognize the Foundation for the National Archives’ partnership with DC Fashion Week, we are showcasing fashion-related records from our holdings. This week’s fashion theme is Women and the War: 1940s Fashion.

Women's Work Safety Fashion Bulletin, October 1942. (National Archives at Atlanta)

Women’s Work Safety Fashion Bulletin, October 1942. (National Archives at Atlanta)

During World War II, the United States experienced a drastic—albeit temporary— transformation in gender roles. Nearly one in every three American men left home to serve in the military between 1941 and 1945, so women increasingly began to take up civilian jobs to carry on the work of their male counterparts.

These women not only continued to manage the households, but they also worked in factories, laboratories, power plants, government organizations, and military auxiliaries. The war completely changed the responsibility of women in the workforce during these years—and subsequently transformed how they dressed.

The general style adopted by women in the 1940s greatly resembled U.S. military uniforms. The cut and color of clothes worn on the home front often mirrored what was worn by soldiers fighting in the European and Pacific theaters. Blouses and jackets became increasingly militarized and masculine with shoulder pads, and hats were also styled similarly to the U.S. Army berets.

Fun fact: the

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Truman, Bacall, and That Photograph

By Jim Worsham

Harry S. Truman had been Vice President of the United States for only a few weeks when he showed up on February 10, 1945, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

He had agreed to take part in a show for some 800 servicemen. For his part of the show, Truman sat down at an upright piano to demonstrate his talent at the keyboard.

Soon, he was joined by the popular 20-year-old actress Lauren Bacall, who was there as part of a Hollywood contingent taking part in the show. She perched herself atop the piano, Hollywood-style. (Today, we call these photo-ops or publicity stunts.)

Lauren Bacall on Piano with Vice President Harry S. Truman, February 10, 1945. (Harry S. Truman Library and Museum)

Lauren Bacall on Piano with Vice President Harry S. Truman, February 10, 1945. (Harry S. Truman Library and Museum)

The crowd cheered. Cameras clicked away. The photos (there were a number of different poses) appeared everywhere.

“I was just a kid. My press agent made me do it,” Bacall, who died this week at age 89, said later of her Hollywood publicists.

Truman, however, appeared to be enjoying it, “which he was,” writes David McCullough in his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the nation’s 33rd President.

But Truman might have thought differently about it later.

Why? Mrs. Truman, often referred to by Truman as “the Boss,” was not amused.  McCullough writes: “Bess was furious. She told him he should … [ Read all ]

On display: GI Bill of Rights

The GI Bill is on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building from June 6 through July 14. Today’s post comes from education and exhibit specialist Michael Hussey.

“With the signing of this bill a well-rounded program of special veterans’ benefits is nearly completed. It gives emphatic notice to the men and women in our armed forces that the American people do not intend to let them down.” President Franklin Roosevelt’s Statement on Signing the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, June 22, 1944

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act into law on June 22, 1944, just days after the D-day invasion of Normandy.

Also known as the GI Bill of Rights, it offered World War II veterans grants and loans for college and vocational education, unemployment insurance, and low interest loans for housing. The bill had unanimously passed both chambers of Congress in the spring of 1944.

The act put higher education, job training, and home ownership within the reach of millions of World War II veterans. By 1951, nearly 8 million veterans had received educational and training benefits, and 2.4 million had received $13 billion in Federal loans for homes, farms, and businesses.

Page one of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (Public Law 78-346), approved July 22, 1944. National Archives, General Records of the United States Government.

Page one of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (Public Law 78-346), approved July 22, 1944. National Archives, General Records of the United States Government.

Last page of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (Public Law 78-346), approved July 22, 1944. National Archives, General Records of the United States Government.

Last page of

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What did Ike say to launch the D-Day invasion?

Today’s blog post comes from James Worsham, Editor of Publications at the National Archives, and Tim Rives, deputy director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower talks with paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division in Newbury, England, on June 5, 1944, prior to their departure for their role in the D-day invasion, dropping behind enemy lines.  The soldier with a “23” tag was a fellow Kansan, Lt. Wallace C. Strobel.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower talks with paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division in Newbury, England, on June 5, 1944, prior to their departure for their role in the D-day invasion, dropping behind enemy lines. The soldier with a “23” tag was a fellow Kansan, Lt. Wallace C. Strobel. (National Archives Identifier 531217)

The Supreme Allied Commander listened to his weather officer’s forecast,  then observed as his commanders struggled to make sense of the report.

Finally, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, having ordered the biggest invasion force in history to a state of readiness, spoke:  “The question is just how long can you keep this operation on the end of a limb and let it hang there.”

The next morning, Eisenhower arose at 3:30 and met with his staff again.  He asked each one what he thought about launching the invasion of Western Europe the next day, June 6, 1944. They all said yes.

Then Eisenhower got up, paced around the room, pondering what was riding on this decision — the fate of millions.

Then he stopped pacing, looked at his commanders, and gave the go-ahead for the D-day invasion of Western Europe by the allies to bring down Hitler’s Third … [ Read all ]

The Eisenhower Library commemorates D-Day

June 6 marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day. This weekend, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum will commemorate D-Day with two days of events. Follow along on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with #DDay70.

And if you can’t make it to Abilene, you can explore National Archives documents and photographs in our special D-Day exhibit “D-Day and the Normandy Invasion,” now live on the Google Cultural Institute.

Some of the military equipment on display at the Eisenhower Presidential Library. Photo from @IkeLibrary on Instagram.

Some of the military equipment on display at the Eisenhower Presidential Library. Photo from @IkeLibrary on Instagram.

 

The “D-Day + 70 Years” commemorative weekend will kick off on Friday, June 6, with a Remembrance Ceremony and rifle salute. There will also tours with the Library staff and you can meet historical reenactors.

At 2 p.m., there will be a showing of The Ritchie Boys, a film about an elite unit comprised of Jewish refugees who returned to Europe as Allied soldiers. Afterwards, Guenther Stern, a former a Ritchie Boy, will give a talk on his experiences.

Stern was born in Hildesheim, Germany, in 1922. He was the only member of his family of five who escaped and emigrated to the United States in 1937. In 1942, after turning 18, Guenther, now called Guy, was drafted into the U.S. Army. He was sent to Camp Ritchie and became a POW interrogator. Two days after D-Day, he arrived in Germany to … [ Read all ]