During WWII, the United States set an impressive bench mark for unity and home front efforts that has yet to be matched. Everyone was expected to do what they could to help. Goods were rationed and factories were diverted from their primary products to products that could directly support the war time efforts. Lumber and wood product industries took and active part in these efforts. The United States government want to make sure they had a reliable supply chain for all wood goods.
The Source – Forest were valuable and the War Department took them seriously. They made sure the forest resources were well managed and that they had plenty of labor resources to help harvest when needed. They also took forest fires seriously. If the conditions were right a forest fire would wipe out several square miles of forest in no time and with the war in progress they didn’t have the man power to fight the fire.
The Goods – Wood was used to make a variety of war time supplies. It was used wherever possible to reduce the demand for iron, brass, and rubber. Wood was used for planes of all kinds, gliders, boats, landing water craft, and trucks. Wood was also used for building necessary war time structures like hangers, barracks, and bridges. All of this increased the competition for the wood being used for crating and boxing. Crates and boxes were already in high demand due to the amounts of goods being shipped to the front lines overseas.
And Making Them Last – One of the most interesting things I ran across while researching wood and WWII posters was a poster with an image of a hardwood floor in the back ground with the message “Clean Wood Floors Right”, followed by a list of best practices for taking care of them, and then the statement “Make ’em last… Lumber is Scarce”. I found this one particularly interesting. The message in this poster is ‘take care of what we have, because there is not enough to replace them during the war.’ When you think about how much wood flooring consumes it is easy to see why flooring was the focus on the poster to the right. A wood floor that is 10ft by 10ft by .75″ thick takes 6.25 cubic feet of wood assuming a 100% yield. The reality is, material is lost to yield in the forest, in the saw mill, in the flooring mill, and when the flooring installer cuts it to length. It adds up quick.
The importance of wood and lumber is quite evident by looking at the collection of posters. They help to tell the story about of the importance of wood during WWII. The posters were created by the US Army, Navy, War Department Bureau of Public Relations, and the Forest Service. Click on a specific poster to learn more about it.
4 thoughts on “WWII Wood Posters”
Hey – thanks for following us! We love your blog. We’ll definitely follow its progress. Very interesting, about the cambium borers. Makes me think we should do a post on “shipworms,” or teredoes, which are not worms at all!
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Wilders, Thanks for your comment. Excited to know you like what we are doing. I hope to learn more about “shipworms”! Sounds like an interesting article.
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Some of the highlights from discussion on the poster s from readers on LinkedIn.
John: Among other things, the Japanese had a fixation on the idea of generating huge forest fires in North America. On September 9th, 1942, a Japanese float plane launched from a submarine and dropped incendiary bomb to starts a small forest fire in rural Oregon – take that you American devils! Japanese submarines shelled an oil refinery in California and a lighthouse in British Columbia without major effect in 1942, but the idea of igniting major forest fires stayed with them. Later in the war they released between 9-10,000 fire balloons in the hope of causing such in North America.
Claro: Which American WWII planes used wood for body? Reason I ask is can’t think of any. The planes that come to mind: B-17, B-29, P-47, P-51…..aren’t they of metal? Otherwise, which major plane parts used mainly wood?
John, would like to kindly verify if Commonwealth bombers were of wood and fabric body. The Lancaster came to mind. Were the Spitfire and Hurricane similar.
As we recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of Operation Market-Garden, recalled the American Waco and British Horsa and Hamilcar gliders for the glider infantry. I believe, unless mistaken, all of them are definitely of wood.
Kyle: The Mosquito also referred to as the Timber Terror” is the most famous combat plane. Wood was used as the primary material for many gliders and training air craft. And the most famous wooden plane the Spruce Goose was also a product of the times, however it was a bit behind and made no contribution to the war.
John: The Lancaster, like the Spitfire, the Beaufighter, the Typhoon and virtually everything else in the British/Commonwealth inventory of combat aircraft was of steel and aluminum. The Mosquito was not quite alone, however, Swordfish Torpedo bombers, early Hurricanes, and a number of training aircraft still had either wooden structures and/or doped-fabric skins.
Claro: I confused the Lancaster with a Wellington. And this is where I hope John can sort me out with his expertise. In his masterpiece, “The Winds of War”, recalled that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Herman Wouk had his fictional USN protagonist join the first RAF bombing raid on Berlin in the well-known Wellington aircraft, “F for Freddie”. Before climbing in, the USN Commander slapped the body and being used to all-metal on US military planes, was surprised when he apparently felt wood and fabric.
I’ve always thought from that reference that “F for Freddie”–Herman Wouk’s historical research on both trivia and major points of WWII was usually superb–was a wooden plane. I’ve also always thought that fabric was only used with wood never with metal planes. However, further Internet readings gave me impression, both metal and wood were combined in a Wellington….meaning where the fictional character likely slapped was wooden and fabric component.
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