World War II in Color: the Greatest Generation

At the very end of the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!—about the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japan—Naval Marshal General Isoroku Yamamoto said,

I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve

America’s response to World War II was the most extraordinary mobilization in the history of the world.

Creating 17 million new civilian jobs, the war effort increased industrial productivity by 96 percent and doubled corporate after-tax profits.

The economic recovery that had eluded even the New Deal was finally underway.

Although the war consumed over a third of industrial output, and despite rationing, the increased productivity made consumer goods more widely available.

By 1944, workers enjoyed weekly wages 50% higher than in 1939.

The war brought full employment and a fairer distribution of income. Entirely new industries and technologies were created and new skills learned.

Returning veterans were revered, and rewarded with the GI Bill that laid the foundation for the remarkable economic expansion that we still benefit from today.

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In his 1998 book “The Greatest Generation“, Tom Brokaw wrote,

it is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.

He said these men and women fought not for fame and recognition, but because it was the “right thing to do.”

In 1942, the United States Office of War Information documented aspects of World War II mobilization in a series of color photographs.

It was a time when the whole country came together as one—to help win the war and build the American Dream.

We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the greatest generation.

M-3 tanks in action, Ft. Knox., Ky
M-3 tanks in action, Ft. Knox., Ky
A young soldier of the armored forces holds and sights his Garand rifle like an old timer, 1942
A young soldier of the armored forces holds and sights his Garand rifle like an old timer, 1942
An M3 Stuart light tank going through water obstacle, Ft Knox, KY, 1942
An M3 Stuart light tank going through water obstacle, Ft Knox, KY, 1942
Crewman of an M-3 tank, Ft. Knox, KY, 1942
Crewman of an M-3 tank, Ft. Knox, KY, 1942
Combustion Engineering Co., Chattanooga. Welder making boilers for a ship
Combustion Engineering Co., Chattanooga. Welder making boilers for a ship
Cleaning the air filter of an army truck 1942
Cleaning the air fillter of an army truck 1942
M3 Stuart light tanks at Fort Knox, Kentucky, 1942
M3 Stuart light tanks at Fort Knox, Kentucky, 1942
M-3 and M4 tank company at bivouac, Ft. Knox, KY, 1942
M-3 and M4 tank company at bivouac, Ft. Knox, KY, 1942
Halftrack infantryman with Garand rifle, Ft. Knox, KY, 1942
Halftrack infantryman with Garand rifle, Ft. Knox, KY, 1942
Better known as the Flying Fortress, the B-17F bomber is a later model of the B-17, which distinguished itself in action in the south Pacific, over Germany and elsewhere. It is a long range, high altitude, heavy bomber, with a crew of seven to nine men -- and with armament sufficient to defend itself on daylight missions
A girl riveting machine operator at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant joins sections of wing ribs to reinforce the inner wing assemblies of B-17F heavy bombers, Long Beach, Calif. Better known as the Flying Fortress, the B-17F bomber is a later model of the B-17, which distinguished itself in action in the south Pacific, over Germany and elsewhere. It is a long range, high altitude, heavy bomber, with a crew of seven to nine men — and with armament sufficient to defend itself on daylight missions
M-3 tanks and crews, Ft. Knox, Ky
M-3 tanks and crews, Ft. Knox, Ky
Hitler would like this man to go home and forget about the war. A good American non-com at the side machine gun of a huge YB-17 bomber is a man who knows his business and works hard at it.
Hitler would like this man to go home and forget about the war. A good American non-com at the side machine gun of a huge YB-17 bomber is a man who knows his business and works hard at it.
B-25 bombers on the outdoor assembly line at the North American Aviation plant in Kansas City, Kansas. Almost ready for their first test flight.
B-25 bombers on the outdoor assembly line at the North American Aviation plant in Kansas City, Kansas. Almost ready for their first test flight.
Women workers install fixtures and assemblies to a tail fuselage section of a B-17 bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant, Long Beach, Calif. Better known as the "Flying Fortress," the B-17F is a later model of the B-17, which distinguished itself i
Women workers install fixtures and assemblies to a tail fuselage section of a B-17 bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant, Long Beach, Calif. Better known as the “Flying Fortress,” the B-17F is a later model of the B-17, which distinguished itself i
Mounting of a Wright R-2600 Cyclone engine on a North American B-25 Mitchell bomber, at North American Aviation, Inglewood, California (USA). The Wright R-2600 was the standard engine on the B-25.[1] Original description: "Mounting motor [on a] Fairfax B-25 bomber, at North American Aviation, Inc., plant in [Inglewood], Calif."
Mounting of a Wright R-2600 Cyclone engine on a North American B-25 Mitchell bomber, at North American Aviation, Inglewood, California (USA). The Wright R-2600 was the standard engine on the B-25.[1] Original description: “Mounting motor [on a] Fairfax B-25 bomber, at North American Aviation, Inc., plant in [Inglewood], Calif.”
An experimental scale model of the B-25 plane is prepared for wind tunnel tests in the plant of the North American Aviation, Inc, Inglewood, Calif, The model maker holds an exact miniature reproduction of the type of bomb the plane will carry.
An experimental scale model of the B-25 plane is prepared for wind tunnel tests in the plant of the North American Aviation, Inc, Inglewood, Calif, The model maker holds an exact miniature reproduction of the type of bomb the plane will carry.
A U.S. Navy aviation cadet in training on a Vought OS2U Kingfisher at the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas (USA)
A U.S. Navy aviation cadet in training on a Vought OS2U Kingfisher at the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas (USA)
A North American Mustang Mk. IA on a test flight from NAA's Inglewood, California facility in October 1942. The painted-over serial number appears to be 41-37416. According to Warbird-Central.com it was damaged during shipment to Europe in late 1943.
A North American Mustang Mk. IA on a test flight from NAA’s Inglewood, California facility in October 1942. The painted-over serial number appears to be 41-37416. According to Warbird-Central.com it was damaged during shipment to Europe in late 1943.
American mothers and sisters, like these women at the Douglas Aircraft Company, give important help in producing dependable planes for their men at the front, Long Beach, Calif. Most important of the many types of aircraft made at this plant are the B-17F
American mothers and sisters, like these women at the Douglas Aircraft Company, give important help in producing dependable planes for their men at the front, Long Beach, Calif. Most important of the many types of aircraft made at this plant are the B-17F
A U.S. Navy Brewster SB2A-4 Buccaneer in flight near Vero Beach, Florida (USA), in 1942
A U.S. Navy Brewster SB2A-4 Buccaneer in flight near Vero Beach, Florida (USA), in 1942
Parade of M-4 (General Sherman) and M-3 (General Grant) tanks in training maneuvers, Ft. Knox, Ky,1942
Parade of M-4 (General Sherman) and M-3 (General Grant) tanks in training maneuvers, Ft. Knox, Ky,1942
Tank commander, Ft. Knox, Ky.
Tank commander, Ft. Knox, Ky.
Tank crew standing in front of M4 Sherman tank; Fort Knox, Kentucky, 1942
Tank crew standing in front of M4 Sherman tank; Fort Knox, Kentucky, 1942
Tank driver, Ft. Knox, Ky, 1942
Tank driver, Ft. Knox, Ky, 1942
Switch boxes on the firewalls of B-25 bombers are assembled by women workers at North American Aviation, Inc's Inglewood, Calif, plant
Switch boxes on the firewalls of B-25 bombers are assembled by women workers at North American Aviation, Inc’s Inglewood, Calif, plant
Servicing an A-20 bomber, Langley Field, Va
Servicing an A-20 bomber, Langley Field, Va
Production of B-24 bombers and C-87 transports, Consolidated Aircraft Corp., Fort Worth, Texas. Cabbie Coleman, former housewife, works at western aircraft plant
Production of B-24 bombers and C-87 transports, Consolidated Aircraft Corp., Fort Worth, Texas. Cabbie Coleman, former housewife, works at western aircraft plant
Operating a hand drill at North American Aviation, Inc, a woman is working in the control surface department assembling a section of the leading edge for the horizontal stabilizer of a plane, Inglewood, Calif.
Operating a hand drill at North American Aviation, Inc, a woman is working in the control surface department assembling a section of the leading edge for the horizontal stabilizer of a plane, Inglewood, Calif.
North American NA-91 Mustang fighters being serviced at North American Aviation at Inglewood, California (USA), in October 1942. After passing of the lend-lease act in March 1941, the USAAF ordered 150 NA-93 Mustang Mk IA fighters on 25 September 1941 for delivery to the United Kingdom. The RAF serial numbers assigned were FD418-FD567 (FD553 is visible on the left). For contractual purposes, these aircraft were assigned the U.S. designation of P-51 (USAAF serials 41-37320 to 41-37469). The Mustang IA differed from earlier versions in having the machine guns replaced by four 20 mm wing-mounted Hispano cannon. After December 1941 serials FD418-FD437, FD450-FD464, FD466-FD469, and FD510-FD527 were reposessed by the USAAF (and briefly named A-36A Apache). Original caption: "P-51 fighter planes being prepared for test flight at the field of the North American Aviation, Inc., plant in Inglewood, Calif.
North American NA-91 Mustang fighters being serviced at North American Aviation at Inglewood, California (USA), in October 1942. After passing of the lend-lease act in March 1941, the USAAF ordered 150 NA-93 Mustang Mk IA fighters on 25 September 1941 for delivery to the United Kingdom. The RAF serial numbers assigned were FD418-FD567 (FD553 is visible on the left). For contractual purposes, these aircraft were assigned the U.S. designation of P-51 (USAAF serials 41-37320 to 41-37469). The Mustang IA differed from earlier versions in having the machine guns replaced by four 20 mm wing-mounted Hispano cannon. After December 1941 serials FD418-FD437, FD450-FD464, FD466-FD469, and FD510-FD527 were reposessed by the USAAF (and briefly named A-36A Apache). Original caption: “P-51 fighter planes being prepared for test flight at the field of the North American Aviation, Inc., plant in Inglewood, Calif.
M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, KY, 1942
M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, KY, 1942
M-4 tank crews of the United States, Ft. Knox, KY, 1942
M-4 tank crews of the United States, Ft. Knox, KY, 1942
Assembling the North American B-25 Mitchell at Kansas City, Kansas (USA).
Assembling the North American B-25 Mitchell at Kansas City, Kansas (USA).
North American B-25 bomber is prepared for painting on the outside assembly line, North American Aviation, Inc., Inglewood, Calif
North American B-25 bomber is prepared for painting on the outside assembly line, North American Aviation, Inc., Inglewood, Calif
Part of the cowling for one of the motors for a B-25 bomber is assembled in the engine department of North American Aviation's Inglewood, Calif., plant
Part of the cowling for one of the motors for a B-25 bomber is assembled in the engine department of North American Aviation’s Inglewood, Calif., plant
Bomb bay gasoline tanks for long flights of B-25 bombers await assembly in the plant of North American Aviation, Inc., Inglewood, Calif. This plant produces the battle-tested B-25 ("Billy Mitchell") bomber used in General Doolittle's raid on Tokyo, and the P-51 ("Mustang") fighter plane which was first brought into prominence by the British raid on Dieppe.
Bomb bay gasoline tanks for long flights of B-25 bombers await assembly in the plant of North American Aviation, Inc., Inglewood, Calif. This plant produces the battle-tested B-25 (“Billy Mitchell”) bomber used in General Doolittle’s raid on Tokyo, and the P-51 (“Mustang”) fighter plane which was first brought into prominence by the British raid on Dieppe.
A combat crew receives final instructions just before taking off in a YB-17 bomber from a bombardment squadron base at the field, Langley Field, Va.
A combat crew receives final instructions just before taking off in a YB-17 bomber from a bombardment squadron base at the field, Langley Field, Va.
Annette del Sur publicizing salvage campaign in yard of Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.
Annette del Sur publicizing salvage campaign in yard of Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.

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References
The Way We Won: America’s Economic Breakthrough During World War II
Wikipedia.org

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David James

David James

I'm an Englishman in Boston. History is a joy—it binds us, it connects us, it guides us. I'm interested in making history more accessible and more fun. Join me on this fantastic voyage through time.