Domestic Leadership and Economy
Franklin D. Roosevelt and World War II
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) was the 32nd President of the United States and the only one to be elected to more than two terms in office. Roosevelt held the presidency from 1934-1945, in presidency for both the Great Depression and World War II. His legislative program, the New Deal, greatly expanded the role of the federal government in American society as well as helped recover the economy during and after the Great Depression. Under Roosevelt's leadership, the nation rebounded from the devastating surprise attack at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, nearly achieving victory in both Europe and the Pacific. He led the United States from isolationism to victory over Nazi Germany and its allies in World War II. He spearheaded the successful wartime alliance between Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States and helped lay the groundwork for the post-war peace organization that would become the United Nations.
War Bonds and Rationing
World War II was very expensive. The United States spent more than $300 billion fighting the Axis Powers and supplying our Allies—that equals more than $4 trillion today! To help fund this effort, the government turned to ordinary Americans. The United States Treasury offered Americans a series of War Bonds they could purchase during the war. A War Bond was both an investment in one’s country and an investment in one’s own financial future. Everywhere they went Americans were encouraged to help support the war effort by purchasing War Bonds. Posters picturing Uncle Sam or a soldier on the battlefield implored people to do they part. Celebrities like Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis, and Marlene Dietrich, traveled the country putting on live shows or radio programs promoting War Bond sales. During the Second World War, you couldn't just walk into a shop and buy as much sugar or butter or meat as you wanted, nor could you fill up your car with gasoline whenever you liked. All these things were rationed, which meant you were only allowed to buy a small amount (even if you could afford more). The government introduced rationing because certain things were in short supply during the war, and rationing was the only way to make sure everyone got their fair share.
United States Office of War Information and Industrial Production Changes
The United States Office of War Information (OWI) was a United States government agency created during World War II to consolidate existing government information services and deliver propaganda both at home and abroad. OWI operated from June 1942 until September 1945. Through radio broadcasts, newspapers, posters, photographs, films and other forms of media, the OWI was the connection between the battlefront and civilian communities. The office also established several overseas branches, which launched a large-scale information and propaganda campaign abroad. The new-found prosperity of American workers allowed them to buy goods which had previously been out of their reach. But the desires generated by wealth were thwarted by shortages of every imaginable consumable as industry focused its energies on armaments. Instead, consumers were urged to save and, to encourage them, a vision of a post-war world of plenty was disseminated through advertising campaigns which spread the government’s propaganda messages while maintaining a brand presence in the eyes of potential consumers. The relentless advertising created an absurd sense that the only thing Americans were fighting for was for the right to consume.