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.