Saturday, January 21, 2012

Plowshares Into Swords; Farmers' Respond to Pearl Harbor, 1942

Dec. 7, 1941—Pearl Harbor; On Dec. 15, the Secretary of the Navy would tell Congress that 2,729 people were killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Dec. 8--President addresses Congress and the House and Senate declare war on Japan.

Dec. 11--In response to German and Italian declarations of war, Congress declares war on Germany and Italy.

Dec. 12--In response to Hungarian, Romanian, and Bulgarian declarations of war, Congress declares war these countries.

From the January 1942 issue of the Farm Journal

Plowshares Into Swords

“I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.”

Ringing farm telephones from California to New England, Farm Journal, before Congress had declared war Monday, could report first hand that President Roosevelt’s words had agricultures’ determined approval.

Months of suspense and uncertainty had ended quickly when Sunday’s afternoon quiet was stirred by radio flashes reporting the Japanese attack upon Hawaii. Every farm that heard knew what it meant. Overnight, America turned from uncertain pacifism to certain war.

Reflection soon led to the expectation that America was shortly to be at war not only with Japan, but with all the Axis group. Now the world was fully ablaze with war, a war whose course would be unforeseeable, unpredictable, probably long and difficult. It would be one thing to beat Japan, but a long, hard haul to mop all the military aggressors.

From Chicago, Albert S. Goss, the newly-elected master of the National Grange, succeeding the able veteran, L.J. Taber, read Farm Journal a copy of his Sunday night telegram to President Roosevelt:
“You can depend upon The National Grange and our hundreds of thousands of members from coast to coast to do our full part to answer any call made upon us. We pledge our fullest co-operation.”

Deep in the preliminaries of the 23rd annual meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation at Chicago, Edward A. O’Neal, president, took time off to say: “This attack upon us will unite the American people as nothing else could. Our farm people, along with all the American people, are determined to defend our rights. I have felt for a long time that the situation in the Pacific must be cleared up. The treachery and perfidy of the aggressor nation in this case will, I am sure, greatly intensify our energy and determination. I hope we are prepared for any eventuality, and I think we are.”

H.E. Babcock, leader of the National Council of Farmer Co-operatives, told Farm Journal that “Today, minor things and petty and selfish things go automatically into the background. Most of us, shocked and angry, are craving action. So far as we can see now, in agriculture we can best express action by setting resolutely to do better the constructive and necessary work we are already doing. Later we shall perhaps see clearly that there is still more we can do.”
“I didn’t want to fight, but it is necessary now,” said W.H. Jeffcoat of Orangeburg County [South Carolina]. “We have fooled around too long. Should have been in it long ago, but we are in now all right,” said Archie Porth of Lexington [S.C.].
Draft quotas will be doubled and trebled for January and succeeding months. Draft boards, will take their jobs more seriously. Furloughs will be less frequent. Service outside of the United States is a distinct possibility for farm boys in the Army and Navy.

Farm labor? With a tightening up of the draft and with defense industries speeded up, there won’t begin to be as much help as farmers want and could use—but they’ll do the best they can to make up for it. They will have to work longer hours, and they will wish for more hours in the day. They will plow corn nights.

Farm boys and girls will have to work in the fields instead of going to camp. Farmers’ wives will lend their husbands a hand. Farmerettes there will be, but most farmers would rather work longer hours than take the time to teach farmerettes what it is all about. Even if agriculture gets all the consideration it can reasonably expect, there will not be enough good help to go around.

Machinery and equipment? Farms won’t be able to get all they can use—this is certain. Guns, tanks and other fighting equipment will get first chance at metals….

Prices? It will take a lot of ballast to keep them down. What the farmer buys will go up faster than what he sells (just as in peace times). The farms which are able to keep costs down (and which grow as much of their food as possible) will fare best. Sound farm management, essential in peace, is more essential in war times.

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