At War on the Home Front

By Edward F. Dolan

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United We Stand

No matter how divided they had been, once the United States entered the war, people at home quickly got to work providing the materials needed for the fighting. Crowding into factories all across the country they began to produce everything from munitions to uniforms. Before the war ended, they had turned out among other equipment, a half-million rifles, 3.5 billion bullets, and 20 million artillery shells.
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Food for Thought

One of the most important home-front tasks was to grow food, not only for the soldiers overseas and stateside but also for America's families and the people of the beleaguered Allied nations. Thousands of men and women went to work on farms, increasing the nation's agricultural output by 25 percent. To make sure that the growing food supply was not wasted, the government urged the conversation of food. Everyone was asked to save leftovers for future meals. "Meatless Tuesdays" and "Porkless Thursdays" were introduced. Children were reminded to be "patriotic to the core" when eating apples and to waste nothing.

Bond or Bust

By 1918 the war was costing $44 million a day. To raise the needed money, the government increased taxes and embarked on a program of Liberty Loans. Under the loan program, Americans could purchase government bonds for a few dollars or, when children bought them, a few cents. The government promised to repay the loans at a later date and to add a profit in the form of interest. Liberty Loan campaigns brought in a total of more than $21 billion in sales.
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The Ugly Side

Unfortunately despite all the fine work and spirt going into the war effort, there was an ugly side to life on the home front. The nation's German Americans became the victims of a hate-insprired hysteria that gripped the United States immediately before the war and lasted throughout it. This hysteria led to a variety of injustices. The teaching of the German language was banned in many high schools and universities. Eggs and garbage were thrown at some German American homes. Worst of all, number of innocent Germans were physically beaten, and one man was lynched by a drunken mob.


Some German Americans changed their names for safety's sake. Also changed were the names of things that had their origins in the German language. Hamburger steak and the German measles were rechristened "Liberty steak" and "Liberty measles." The dachshund dog was given the new name "Liberty pup."

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Women in the War

America's women were at work everywhere during World War I. They labored on the home front and over seas. They took jobs on the nation's farms, in factories, and in shipyards, and served in the military forces.


Approximately a million women filled the vacancies left by the men who were now in uniform. Many were young girls who had previously worked in local shops and department stores or who and never worked before. Many were wives who had once worked, but had left their jobs to raise families.


World War I also marked an important "first" for American women. For the first time in the nation's history, women were permitted to join the armed forces. Some 13,000 enlisted in the navy to do clerical work stateside. Nearly 300 entered the marine corps as clerks and more than 230 women traveled to France as part of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Some 11,000 women, although not actual members of the armed forces, served abroad as nurses, other became ambulance drivers.

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