WWII | A Continuous Lean.

Weekend Video | Blueprints of War

Apr 21st, 2012 | Categories: Video, WWII | by Michael Williams

If you are interested in WWII and industrial design, then this will definitely be the best hour of your week. The program takes a close look at the design and engineering of the instruments of the Second World War like the Sten gun, the famous German Tiger tank (a “luxury item”) with its massive 88mm armament and the game changing Liberty Ships. The examination of the differences in design philosophy of the German armor and the Russian and American tanks is especially interesting. It can be summed up in one statement: ”Quantity has a quality all its own.”

There’s also the interesting story of how Stalin, in the 1920s feeling the need to industrialize the Soviet Union, sent a team to Detroit to learn from the American automakers and then apply that mass production manufacturing knowledge back into Russia.

It’s a fascinating film — especially the Eames bit. Thanks to M. Coleman Horn for the tip.

Victory Mail Revisited

Aug 31st, 2011 | Categories: History, WWII | by Michael Williams

In 2009 I wrote about V-Mail, the U.S. Postal system’s answer to the hundreds of thousands of letters that were being exchanged between families on the home-front and service men and women all over the world during WWII.

A person who wanted to send a letter by airgraph or V-Mail would obtain the standard, pre-printed form from the local post office or five and dime store on request. The form contained space for a letter of about 100 to 300 words, the address of the serviceman or -woman to whom the letter was to be delivered, the address of the sender, and a circular area for the censor’s stamp of approval. Once the message was written, the form was to be folded and sealed. It then made its way to a processing center where the form was re-opened and fed through a machine that photographed the letters on 16mm film.

Memorial Day & the Story of the Higgins Boat

May 30th, 2011 | Categories: Americana, History, WWII | by Michael Williams

Andrew Higgins as photographed by Charles Steinheimer for LIFE 1942

The federal holiday Memorial Day began in 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina by formerly enslaved Africans to honor the dead soldiers of the Union army. Eventually the holiday was expanded and today Memorial Day honors all Americans that currently serve, have served, and of course, those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Being someone who has a keen interest in the WWII conflict (especially enjoying the work of historian Stephen E. Ambrose) I think it fitting on this day to highlight Andrew Higgins, a person of great service to America (and intrigue to me) as the inventor and builder of the Higgins Boat. The landing craft that somewhat famously became synonymous with the industrious man who created it, saw action in every theater in which Americans fought and dramatically altered the outcome of World War II.

Andrew Higgins as photographed by Charles Steinheimer for LIFE 1942

How to Use Camouflage

Feb 26th, 2011 | Categories: Military, Video, WWII | by Michael Williams

It is important for the modern man to understand the proper usage of camouflage. And remember, a bivouac area spotted, is a bivouac area lost.

The Heater from Van Meter

Dec 21st, 2010 | Categories: History, Sports, WWII | by Michael Williams

Last Wednesday MLB great Bob Feller passed away at the age of 92. Feller, known as “Rapid Robert” had one of the strongest arms — and one of the fastest fastballs — of all time. “The Heater from Van Meter” (as he was also known) is easily among the top five pitchers to ever play the game. A fact that is even more impressive when you consider Feller, who grew up on a farm in Van Meter, Iowa, left the game during his prime years to join the U.S. war effort in the Pacific. It is this sacrifice that makes Bob Feller not only a great baseball player, but a great American.

The story of Pearl Harbor and Bob Feller’s decision to join the military from Once Upon a Game: Baseball’s Greatest Memories via The New York Times.

“I was driving my new Buick Century across the Mississippi River, across the Iowa-Illinois state line, when my world — everyone’s world — changed forever.

It was Dec. 7, 1941. I was driving to my meeting with my Cleveland Indians bosses to hash out my 1942 contract, and out it came on the radio: the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.

The last thing on my mind right then was playing baseball. I immediately decided to enlist in the United States Navy. I didn’t have to — I was 23 and strong-bodied, you bet, but with my father terminally ill back in Van Meter, Iowa, I was exempt from military service.

Weekend Video | The WWII Home Front

Dec 12th, 2010 | Categories: WWII | by Michael Williams

A couple of interesting government films focused on the home front in Britain and America during WWII. This first film focuses mainly on U.S. government efforts to keep wartime workers from going crazy. People from all over the United States flocked to new cities to take jobs in armament plants, shipyards and other factories to support the American war effort. Many times the cities —places like Mobile, Alabama — couldn’t handle the influx of a massive migrant labor force, so boredom and restlessness was a serious issue. I could only imagine the government trying to do something like this today.

The second video takes a look at rationing during World War II in Britain. This video is especially interesting to me after my last trip to London and a visit to the Imperial War Museum (which is probably my favorite museum in the world). The video below was produced by the IWM and was a compliment to an exhibit they did on the British home front during WWII. Truly fascinating stuff.

WWII | On the Home Front

Oct 27th, 2010 | Categories: Vintage, WWII | by Michael Williams

One of my early collectable items were war ration books from WWII. During the war, the U.S. government set up roughly 8000 war ration boards to control the consumption of strategic materials like gasoline, rubber, sugar, meat, butter and so on. The ration boards issued every family ration books to ensure equality and control those crucial items. It is those types of civilian war time ephemera that has long been a source of interest and intrigue for me. In college I took a lot of classes centered around the second world war and the home front was frequently discussed. V-Mail was another favorite WWII collectable. I still have deadstock boxes of V-Mail forms that I own to this day. For my most recent birthday my grandmother (knowing of my interest in old WWII stuff) sent me an old leather war ration envelope that she found. The soft leather envelope is still embossed with the initials “J.B.S” in gold lettering and fits two ration books perfectly. Sort of a funny thing to use, a leather ration envelope. It makes you think that during those days the war was not a short term thing and government rationing was a real part of daily life.