11-4 War Rationing
SANTA FE -- New Mexicans helped the World War II effort in many ways other than providing food for the troops. In addition to many personal sacrifices, we gave of our state's natural resources in a very big way.
During the war, New Mexico was the largest producer of potash, tantalum and pumice. We were second in zinc and tin; third in copper, molybdenum and vanadium; fourth in beryllium, lithium and fluorspar and seventh in oil and gas. We also were likely first in uranium, but the government doesn't talk about that.
Some of these minerals may not sound particularly valuable to the war effort, but they were. Potash was used for ammunition and fertilizer. Pumice was for insulation and an abrasive used in skid-proof paint for ships. Fluorspar was a metal alloy. Beryllium was used in atomic bombs.
Everything mined in New Mexico was considered either critical, essential or necessary. Mining occurred around the clock and seriously depleted many of our natural resources. New reserves often were found, but toward the end of the war, engineers looking for new deposits were transferred to production.
Everyone sacrificed. Food wasn't the only commodity rationed. Clothing was, too. In 1942, the War Production Board issued the following regulations. Women are encouraged to make or "remodel" the family's clothes. New Clothes cannot have French cuffs or sleeves, no pockets of wool, no cuffs on coats, no belts wider than two inches, and no hoods on jackets or blouses.
Cars could have no more than one extra tire. No new passenger car tires were made after June 1942. Worn out tires were recapped, up to four times. Maximum speeds were lowered to 40 miles per hour, then 35. Gasoline was rationed and people were told to drive only when necessary. By the end of 1942, two million cars had been taken off the roads.
Lumber, paper bags, cotton mattresses, burlap and cotton became nearly impossible to find and all the nation's scrap iron was snatched up. The 40-hour work week became 56 hours. Child labor laws were suspended and children were told to expect less free time during evenings and weekends.
Women also were deeply involved with the war effort. When they weren't working in industrial plants, they were working at home. Existing women's clubs around the state were mobilized to work with home extension agents.
New clubs sprung up to wrap bandages and sew articles for the troops. One of those, called "Stitch and Bitch," formed in Santa Fe among wives of top government officials and is still in existence.
The New Mexico Home Extension Service designed a pledge for New Mexico homemakers, which read in part: "I am resolved:
"To keep myself and my family fit by producing, conserving and properly using food and thus also help our military forces and allies by releasing food to them.
"To combat waste through proper care of all clothing and equipment in our home, through the salvage of all usable materials and through the sharing of transportation and equipment with neighbors I will not forget to give proper care to borrowed equipment.
"To share with neighbors by supporting all rationing programs.
"To combat inflation by buying carefully, cutting waste, spending less and saving more.
"To support our fighting men on battle fronts by turning in critical scrap materials and by buying war stamps and bonds.
"To combat disunity by refusing to spread rumors ad by working harmoniously with others, placing the success of our Nation in the war effort above personal comforts and desires.
"To maintain community morale by being cheerful and by taking an active interest in community work."
It might not be a bad idea for all of us, today, to look carefully at that list and take the take the same pledge to help take on some of our world's very similar problems.