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.
Hobbies included: drinking, cigar smoking, bricklaying and painting. Sir Winston = a true gentleman.
Founded in 1875 in Springfield, Illinois, the Armbruster Manufacturing Co. is America’s oldest tent maker. As you can see from the building in the above archival photo, the company started out as a canvas goods and upholstery shop but eventually came to specialize in tent making. Armbruster was also a supplier to the U.S. military during WWII — which is how I came to discover them. I was looking to buy an authentic WWII tent, of all things. I considered buying an old original, but didn’t really want to deal with the smell of such an artifact. The good news is, Armbruster is remaking a variety of WWII olive drab canvas tents on the exact same equipment as it did in the 1940s — that is definitely the best-of-both-worlds.
As the U.S. Navy ramped up for WWII, its leadership began the unprecedented task of recruiting 27,000 female sailors called WAVES, or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. Previously, it was only during the first world war that the Navy accepted females into its ranks, and mainly for clerical roles and as nurses, not as officers. According to the USN History and Heritage Command, in 1942 the WAVES performed previously atypical duties in the aviation community, Judge Advocate General Corps, medical professions, communications, intelligence, science and technology.
The idea of painting a ship in odd patterns is credited to British artist Norman Wilkinson during the time of the first world war. The concept — which became known commonly as “dazzle” — was an attempt to confuse German U-boats by making a ship’s course and speed difficult to judge, and thus difficult to torpedo. The technique was eventually adopted by the American Navy in 1918 and the practice continued (mostly by the U.S.) throughout WWII. It was during the 1930s and 1940s that a standardized set of ship camouflage patterns were adopted and deployed across all Tennessee class battleships and Essex class aircraft carriers by the camouflage unit of the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships.