Perhaps nothing represents
the community-minded patriotism of the US Home Front in World War II better than
the scrap drive.
Seventy years ago, the United States was in the middle of its first major national scrap drive - for rubber.
Enemy conquests cut off supplies of crucial raw materials such
as tin and rubber, and the need for products made from these materials
skyrocketed due to the war. Since useful materials often ended up in the trash
can or languished unused in homes and on farms, the War Production Board
encouraged scrap drives throughout the war.
From June 15-30, 1942, the United States held a nationwide
rubber drive. People brought in old or excess tires, raincoats, hot water
bottles, boots, and floor mats. In exchange they received a penny a pound.
Although 450,000 tons of scrap rubber was collected, used rubber was found to be
of poor quality.
Scrap Metal Drives
In 1942 citizens scoured their homes, farms, and businesses for
metal. Housewives donated pots and pans, farmers turned in farm equipment, and
children even sacrificed their metal toys. Many people removed bumpers and
fenders from their cars for the war effort. Communities melted down Civil War
cannons and tore down wrought iron fences, sacrificing their history for their
These drives were often great community events, with performers,
speeches, and opportunities to throw your scrap metal at a bust of Hitler.
Competitions were held to see which town, county, and state produced the most
scrap, and the winners boasted of their feats. These drives had mixed results.
Used aluminum was found to be useless for aircraft, but used tin, steel, and
copper were easily melted down and reused.
The use of tin packaging was greatly reduced during
the war, due to the use of alternative packaging materials and to rationing of canned goods. However, consumer use of tin continued throughout
the war, and this irreplaceable resource needed to be
Most communities collected tin cans once a month. In some towns,
people places boxes of cleaned and crushed tin cans by the curb for collection,
and other towns had central collection sites. Youth groups, especially the Boy
Scouts, were highly involved in these drives.
The need for paper increased during the war. The military’s love
for paperwork could be blamed, but the military also used lots of paper
packaging for supplies. On the civilian side, paper packaging had replaced tin
for many products.
A paper drive in mid-1942 brought in so much paper that
mills were inundated and actually called for a stop. However, by 1944
an acute paper shortage existed.
The lumber industry was hard-hit by the manpower shortage caused
by the draft. Lumberjacks went on strike, demanding a higher meat ration, which
they did not receive. Many of these men left for higher-paying jobs in the
Publishers found their paper allotment cut by 15 percent.
Newspapers, magazines, and books were printed on fewer pages with thinner paper
and narrow margins. Paperback books had been introduced in 1939 and also allowed
for less paper. However, more scrap paper was needed.
The children of America stepped up. The Boy Scouts and local
schools organized regular paper drives, often coordinated with the tin can
drives. The War Production Board started the Paper Troopers program, designed to
sound like “paratroopers,” to involve schoolchildren in the effort. Participants
received arm patches and certificates for collecting certain amounts.
Scrap drives were a vital part of the American war effort.
While not all scrap materials proved useful, many did and provided a small but
significant source of material. Most importantly, these drives galvanized the
Home Front and made each individual, even children, feel like a crucial part of
the war effort.
Labels: paper drives, scrap drives, tin can drives, World War II