Compiled and condensed from the writings and speeches of Ralph D. Winter
Transformation of a Nation
Here is an analogy: Not many people alive today lived through World War II. Those of us who did can recall the utter transformation of a nation involved in all-out war. Swarms of “servicemen” (including women) swirled about on planes, trains, and buses, heading off to ports of departure for the various “theaters of war” around the world. Eleven million were sprayed out across the globe in the Army, Air Corps, and the Navy. But 200 million “civilians” staying behind were equally occupied by the war. As millions of men disappeared from their jobs women back home took their places. A largely women’s workforce (“Rosie the riveter”) built entire ships one every fourteen days, medium bombers one every four hours. It was no longer a peacetime situation. Crime dropped, and thousands of industries were transformed. Factories that once made cars now built tanks. Others that made nylon stockings now made nylon cords for parachutes. Still others made new things like ammunition, thousands and thousands of vehicles of strange new types, plus thousands of ships (six thousand of which went to the bottom in the Atlantic war alone).
Don’t you know there is a war on?
I vividly recall that even domestic activity was extensively bent and refitted to support both the true essentials of society as well as the war effort. The gasoline being burned up by war vehicles on land, armadas of ships and submarines at sea, and hundreds and even thousands of fuel-burning planes in the air, did not leave enough gasoline for anything but truly essential use at home. You could be fined $50 (today that would be $500) for going on a Sunday drive with the family if that trip did not include some war-related or crucial civilian-related purpose. I mean, you can’t believe the strictures on the civilian population during an all-out war like that. Coffee totally disappeared as a non-essential: incoming ships had no room for such trivialities because more crucial goods took their place. Women saved their bacon grease to make explosives and planted victory gardens. People on the coastlines drove twenty miles per hour after dark with their headlights partially blacked out, or volunteered as air-raid wardens or donated their rubber raincoats and tires and bathing caps, even though they couldn’t be recycled for military use. Any idle moments or carelessly disposed materials were instantly challenged by “Don’t you know there is a war on?”
Now I wish today, I wish today that Christians would say that also and they would say it often to another Christian who is blowing his time or his money or his interest on something that is very trivial. “Don’t you know there is a war on?”
(See reconsecration.org for more of Ralph and Roberta's thoughts on the subject of wartime lifestyle.)
• Pictured above: An authentic U.S. ration booklet from World War II. These instructions appeared on the back cover of the booklet: "Rationing is a vital part of the war effort. Any attempt to violate the rules is an effort to deny someone his share and will create hardship and help the enemy. Be guided by the rule: “If you don’t need it, DON’T BUY IT.”•