$185.7B raised to support fight
“I promise to die if necessary to protect your investment” was part of an American Bantam honor roll push for War Bonds published April 23, 1943, in the Butler Eagle.
More than 16 million Americans were called to serve their country during the struggle that was World War II, and over 400,000 of them made the ultimate sacrifice by giving up their lives.
Pennsylvanians did more than their share; of the nearly 1.25 million Keystone State residents who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during the war, some 33,000 men and women died.
Wartime sacrifices extended beyond the battlefields of Europe and the Far East, however. On the homefront, a different type of sacrifice was made — going without various goods, for example, and plunking down a portion of their hard-earned salaries and savings to help finance that war.
And while there’s no comparison between sacrificing one’s life and going without sugar, meat or gasoline, or giving up a portion of a weekly paycheck to buy what were called war bonds, those who spent the war years at home certainly contributed to what ultimately proved to be victory over the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan.
On the financial front alone, war bonds proved to be a major boost to the war effort. According to ExplorePAHistory.com, the U.S. government began a bombardment of its own – flooding the country with advertising that urged residents to buy bonds as a way to help finance the war. By the time the bond drive ended in early 1946, U.S. residents had purchased $185.7 billion in government bonds. Pennsylvania was second only to New York in the amount of war bonds purchased.
Those bonds made up a sizable part of the U.S. war chest; the federal government raised almost half the money it needed with taxes, and the rest came from borrowing, and most of that borrowing came through the sale of war bonds.
War bond advertising was ubiquitous; the Treasury Department called on some of the top Madison Avenue advertising firms to help design posters and other means of promoting the sale of bonds.
In one poster, a wounded U.S. soldier with a blood-stained bandage wrapped around his head asks, “Doing all you can, brother?” while the message “Buy War Bonds” in all uppercase letters is pasted across his chest.
Another poster shows three young children in a field — one holding a model fighter plane, one holding a makeshift tool with a U.S. flag attached and a young girl holding a doll — with the dark outline of a Nazi swastika on the green grass beneath them. “Don’t Let That Shadow Touch Them — Buy WAR BONDS,” the message reads.
Yet another bond ad shows a U.S. pilot in the cockpit of his fighter plane, with more than a half-dozen planes in the sky above him, saying “You buy ‘em we’ll fly em!”
Even in local newspapers, the advertising was relentless. A full-page ad in the April 23, 1943, edition of the Butler Eagle lists the names of all the American Bantam employees in the armed services. The names serve as a border to a cartoon that features a soldier holding a rifle with a bayonet in a what appears to be a forest or jungle; in the background a crude sign reads: “I promise to die, if necessary, to protect your investment.” At the bottom of the cartoon, a message reads: “They give their lives – you lend your money.”
A text block beneath the cartoon tugs at the heartstrings. “You know these men and women … your neighbors. They are former American Bantam Car Company employees. They have laid their lives on the line … surely you can not hesitate to willingly and gladly lay your dollars on the line in the form of WAR BONDS … today! If you fail in this duty, perhaps many of these Butler friends and neighbors will not come back. Every day lost in winning the war lessens their chance at returning safe and sound to their homes and loved ones.”
The “Let’s Go U.S.” appeal for buying war bonds with a list of Butler County sponors was published on July 25, 1942, in the Butler Eagle.
Another Butler Eagle ad, which appeared in the July 25, 1942, edition, encourages readers to “get aboard the bond wagon!”
“Let’s go, Butler County! Come on, everybody! It takes more than heroes. To win this war, our fighting forces need millions of dollars’ worth of equipment and clothing NOW, in addition to billions of dollars’ worth of planes, tanks, ships and guns. They need them NOW. ‘Later’ may be too late. This is your country. This is your war. What do you say? You have only one answer: Buy War Savings Stamps every day. Buy a Bond every pay day. Can’t afford them? Yes, you can … if you realize that you can’t afford to risk losing this war. That will mean losing your freedom. Better buy those bonds and stamps … they’re cheap at any price.”
Yet another Eagle ad, which ran on July 16, 1942, urges readers to celebrate American Heroes Day the following day by buying bonds. “This day has been set aside to honor the brave boys of Butler County, who are fighting now on every battle front to protect our freedom and the flag we live under. To these brave boys … to the heroes of all our wars, we the people of Butler County, dedicate American Heroes Day. We pledge that on this day we shall honor our heroes in the best possible way … by redoubling our own efforts to win the war … by buying U.S. War Bonds and Stamps in record-breaking numbers so that our boys will have the tools they need to finish the job.”
A Montgomery Ward ad urges Butler County residents to buy but buy only what they need to help out the war effort in this ad published April 26, 1943, in the Butler Eagle.
A Montgomery Ward ad that appeared in the Eagle on April 26, 1943, meanwhile, took a different tack. The ad touted an upcoming sale — America’s Greatest Sale, in fact — but at the same time warned that quantities would be limited because America’s war production “has first call on all raw materials and factories. So, please buy only what you need and let your neighbors have their share of the special Ward Week values.”
In another large advertisement purchased by Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co. that appeared in the Post-Gazette on April 9, 1943, readers were told of the need to reach into their pockets for the start of the second war loan period, which would get underway three days later.
“13 billion dollars must be raised!” the ad screamed. “The Government of the United States is asking us to lend it 13 billion dollars in the next few weeks.”
The advertisement explained the seven different types of U.S. government securities available, including United States War Savings Bonds Series E, which returned $4 for every $3 spent when the bond matured. These bonds were designed especially for the smaller investor in denominations of $25, $50, $100, $500 and $1,000. The bonds could be redeemed anytime 60 days after the issue date, and the price was 75% of maturity value.
The newspapers didn’t miss an opportunity to promote the war bond effort; a story in the Jan. 11, 1945, issue of the Post-Gazette told the tale of Mrs. Viola Corp of Freedom, Beaver County, who lost two sons in the war but remained undaunted in her efforts to help her country. Her oldest son, Joseph, 23, was killed when the destroyer escort Leopold was sunk in the Atlantic, and her youngest son, Thomas, 22, died after the aircraft carrier Yorktown was sunk.
Despite the deaths of her sons, Viola Corp vowed that she would be “sticking to my war job (at the Beaver plant of the Curtiss-Wright Corp.) and investing every cent I can in war bonds.” The story noted that she bought $3,000 in bonds in the most recent bond drive.
Doing our share
In the first year of the war, Pennsylvania certainly proved it was doing its share; from September 1941 to September 1942, the sale of Series E bonds totaled more than $370 million within the state, and another $287 million in Series F and G bonds also were sold.
Even children got into the act; in addition to bonds, the government created war savings stamps, which came in small denominations – 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents, $1 and $5 – and could be collected in a war bond stamp book. One promotion poster featured a woman in a suit of armor holding a sword. “Joan of Arc Saved France,” the wording at the top of the poster read. “Women of American Save Your Country. Buy War Savings Stamps.”
Theresa Yerman, of Pittsburgh, who was 12 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, remembers those war savings stamps. “We would bring our dimes or 25 cents in to school and they’d put it toward a savings bond,” she recalled. “They called them victory bonds.”
Don Weiland, 96, who was living in Oakland Township until he was drafted in 1944, remembers his family contributed to the cause. “We bought war bonds,” he said. “Everyone was patriotic.”
Yerman also recalled some of the other efforts in place to help America and its allies win the war, including asking residents to contribute unused or unwanted metal and rubber items that could be repurposed for the military use. This effort was launched a little over a month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and was known as the “Salvage for Victory” program.
“Kids went around the neighborhood collecting aluminum pots and pans and rubber items,” she said. “Toys were not exempt from donation — even some train sets were sacrificed.”
This poster was created by the Work Projects Administration Services between 1941 and 1943.Library of Congress image
Library of Congress
The Conservation Division of the War Production Board, working with the federal Office of Education, encouraged school communities to join statewide “Junior Armies” that would organize large-scale salvage drives. The effort had a two-pronged purpose – to collect vital scrap iron, steel, rubber and other materials and to give school-age children a chance to participate in a patriotic activity.
Children also helped their families in another major effort on the homefront — victory gardens. America’s entry into the war in late 1941 meant that food would be needed for the armed forces, and that ultimately led to a nationwide rationing program that began with sugar in May 1942 and would eventually include many food items that Americans came to rely on.
To help offset the loss — or at least the reduced availability — of some of those items, the call went out to those at home to begin planting gardens, which became known as victory gardens. In Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Press and KDKA radio joined to build a model victory garden near Children’s Hospital in Oakland. Local department stores, including Gimbels, hosted training sessions to “encourage bigger and better Victory Garden efforts,” according to one advertisement in the May 19, 1943, edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Yerman remembers her grandfather helping out at a victory garden near Frick Park in Pittsburgh; another grandparent had her own backyard garden.
Although the numbers of those participating in victory gardens dropped as the war went along, the project overall proved very successful. Some research showed that at its peak, the gardens produced as much as 40% of the nation’s fresh vegetables. The effort was thought to have had some residual impact beyond the fresh fruits and vegetables that were harvested, as the time it took to plan the gardens, obtain seeds and actually work the land took people’s minds off the fighting overseas.
For those items that couldn’t be grown at home, families had to shop carefully and in some cases had to restrict their purchases, thanks to the widespread rationing program in place for such items as sugar, canned fruit and vegetables, cheese, processed food and meats. The program was designed to make sure the armed forces were fed and at the same time make sure that everyone at home received their fair share of the food that remained.
Families relied on rationing books that contained coupons of various point values to purchase those items; other nonfood items that were rationed included gasoline and fuel oil. The program was overseen by the Office of Price Administration, and some 8,000 rationing boards were established to administer the program.
Yerman remembered going to a nearby meat market and watching her mother purchase various items. “They’d measure it out, of course, because you could only buy so much,” she said. “And then they’d take one of your coupons. I remember eating a lot of canned tuna — that was our main protein for the meal. And I remember getting cracked eggs at the store because they were cheaper. And there were so many of us, they used (the eggs) up fast, so it didn’t matter if they were cracked. Today you wouldn’t eat a cracked egg.”
Weiland recalled having to make do with less gasoline than he was used to having prior to the war. “We were only allowed to have three or four gallons a week,” he said.
To get around that, Weiland’s family would buy “homemade gas” made from local oil wells. “We called it ‘high-test,’” he laughed. “It worked, but it burned pretty quick.”
Gasoline needed to be rationed because it was essential for military uses. Not only did it power the planes, tanks, trucks, jeeps and many water craft, but it was used in army kitchens and medical stations.
“In fact, gasoline is our standard war fuel. Our fighting machine has been geared to it,” a fact sheet from the Office of Price Administration stated. “Perhaps the biggest and most complex single conversion job of the war was the change-over of gasoline and its transportation facilities from unlimited civilian use to emergency war use.”
As a result of rationing, the consumption of gasoline by civilian passenger cars fell to about 61% of pre-war levels by 1943. Of course, there was always a way around rationing, whether it was for gasoline or food.
Bob Leslie, who grew up in New Castle, served in the U.S. Army infantry during World War II. The Cabot resident recalled getting both K-rations and C-rations while serving in the 8th Armored Division in France, Germany and Austria.Submitted photo
Bob Leslie while serving in the U.S. Army infantry. Submitted photo
“There was a black market,” said Bob Leslie, who grew up in New Castle and served in the U.S. Army infantry. “I didn’t know much about it, but I knew some people who participated.”
Yerman knew someone as well; one of her brothers had a friend who could get counterfeit rationing coupons. “It was a racket,” she said. “There were racketeers everywhere.”
The Post-Gazette exposed a thriving black market for meat in a series of stories in which a reporter went undercover and bought over a ton of black market meat and 10,000 red rationing points in less than a month. The series sparked a special U.S. Senate committee hearing, and that resulted in some changes, but the problems were never completely solved before meat was finally removed from the rationing rolls in late 1946 — more than a year after the war ended.
About the only ones who were not affected by rationing were those serving in the armed forces, either at home or abroad.
Helen Buckham Rogerson
Helen Buckham Rogerson, 96, who grew up in Butler and now resides in the Concordia at Cabot campus in Butler County, was in the U.S. Marine Corps and worked in an office at Paris Island, S.C. “In the service, you got your food,” Rogerson said.
Helen Buckham Rogerson, right, grew up in Butler served in the U.S. Marine Corps, working at an office at Paris Island, S.C. Submitted photo
Weiland recalled getting K-rations while stationed in the Far East; he was on board a ship headed to fight the Japanese in August 1945 when President Harry Truman ordered two atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Weiland ultimately spent time in the Philippines, Okinawa and Korea.
“You’d get a little can of some kind of vegetables, some crackers, a candy bar that was made out of some kind of chocolate and four cigarettes,” he said of the K-rations. “We didn’t mind it; when you’re young, you don’t give a damn.”
Leslie, who also resides in the Concordia at Cabot campus, recalled getting both K-rations and C-rations while serving in the 8th Armored Division in France, Germany and Austria. C-rations contained more calories, but that didn’t help Leslie much.
“We all lost weight because we were carrying a load,” he recalled. “I was a machine gunner – I had to carry a rifle, ammunition for it and two boxes of ammunition for the machine gun that weighed 25 pounds apiece.
“It was kind of tough on me. I’m not a big person — I was 5-foot-7 and weighed 130 pounds when I went into the service, but I lost a lot of weight overseas.”
By the time the war ended, Leslie weighed barely 100 pounds. He also suffered from what is now call PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, and was treated for it.
When he looks back on his experiences overseas, he doesn’t mince words.
“War is wrong,” he said. “And anyone who inflicts it should be punished.
“Man can be inhuman.”
Frank Garland is a retired college professor, freelance writer and coordinator of the Pittsburgh Media Partnership, based at Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation.
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World War II
Bonds were bought by over 84 million Americans. There was a nationwide effort to advertise the bonds, ranging from sports events to radio show promotions. The purchase of the bonds was largely linked to patriotism and to people's feeling of “doing their part” in the war.
The bonds sold for 50% to 75% of their face value and had denominations ranging from $10 to $1,000, depending on the year they were issued.What is the main reason that many Americans bought war bonds during World War II? ›
President Roosevelt settled on two major means of raising money: increased taxes and borrowing, through the sale of massive amounts of war bonds. Besides paying for the enormous costs of war, these measures would remove excess wages and other spendable money in a time of shortages, helping to keep a lid on inflation.How many war bonds were sold in ww2? ›
Over the course of the war 85 million Americans purchased bonds totalling approximately $185 billion. Named after the 1942 Hollywood Victory Caravan, a 1945 Paramount-produced film promoted bond sales after the end of World War II.Can you still cash in war bonds? ›
While war bonds are no longer being sold, old bonds that were sold by the U.S. government to finance the country's participation in wars may still be worth something today. The value of your war bond will depend on factors such as its series type, its denomination and its issue date.Did people get paid back for war bonds? ›
Known as debt securities for the purpose of financing military operations during war time, the bonds yielded a mere 2.9 percent return after a 10-year maturity. Living in the United States with a median income during World War II meant earning about $2,000 a year.How do I cash in old war bonds? ›
Bondholders have two options for cashing in paper Series E bonds. You can visit certain local financial institutions that are authorized to handle savings bond transactions. Alternatively, you can mail them to the Treasury Retail Securities Site. Contact information is available at the TreasuryDirect website.What did ww2 war bonds pay? ›
By the end of the war, 85 million Americans (out of a population of 131 million) had purchased $185.7 billion dollars of bonds—over $2000 per person, at a time when the average income was $2000 per year.How much is a 500 dollar bond worth? ›
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The gross national product of the U.S., as measured in constant dollars, grew from $88.6 billion in 1939 — while the country was still suffering from the depression — to $135 billion in 1944. War-related production skyrocketed from just two percent of GNP to 40 percent in 1943 (Milward, 63).
Financing to pay for the war came mostly by borrowing from the American people through the sale of war bonds, which raised about $50 billion. Another $150 billion came from financial institutions. During the war, commercial banks alone increased their Treasuries holdings from $1 billion to $24 billion.Did the US make money from ww2? ›
America's response to World War II was the most extraordinary mobilization of an idle economy in the history of the world. During the war 17 million new civilian jobs were created, industrial productivity increased by 96 percent, and corporate profits after taxes doubled.How much is a WW2 bond? ›
Series E Bonds were war bonds issued by the federal government in 1941 in the midst of World War II with face amounts between $18.75 to $10,000 and a maturity of 10 years. A war bond is an initiative by a government to fund military operations and spending by issuing debt for the public to purchase.Were WW2 war bonds profitable? ›
The government issued several bonds during World War I and II (WW1 and WW2). They are not as profitable as other commercial bonds. Therefore people buy them mostly for sentimental reasons. Governments used propaganda to convince people to buy them throughout history.
The $25 bonds became the most publicized and most popular, selling for $18.75 and maturing over a ten-year period to pay the bondholder $25. Beginning in 1942, these bonds—which eventually became better known as “War Bonds”—could be purchased on an installment plan through payroll deductions at the work place.What happens if you don't cash in bonds? ›
After the one-year mark, you can go ahead and cash in your bond, but you will get hit with a penalty of three months' interest earned on the bond. There is no penalty if you simply hold onto the bond after five years. There is value in holding onto most bonds.How long do you have to keep I bonds before you can cash them in? ›
You can cash in (redeem) your I bond after 12 months. However, if you cash in the bond in less than 5 years, you lose the last 3 months of interest. For example, if you cash in the bond after 18 months, you get the first 15 months of interest.How much is a $50 US savings bond worth today? ›
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“Your money is safe inside a bank. Bank deposits are insured by the FDIC and are protected up to at least $250,000. The best place for your emergency fund is a money market account or savings account. If you want to keep some cash at home, that's fine, but I don't recommend cashing out your savings.”What were Americans promised in return for purchasing war bonds? ›
Their aim was to convince individual citizens to purchase bonds as a personal investment. It was a relatively simple financial bargain: The government would use the money to prosecute the war, while the citizen would receive an elaborate paper bond issued by the Treasury.
Get a certified copy of the death certificate for everyone who has died who is named on any of the bonds. Have each person who is entitled to a distributed bond also fill out and sign the appropriate forms: If they want cash for their bond: FS Form 1522.Can you look up savings bonds by Social Security Number? ›
(Treasury Hunt) With your Social Security Number (or Taxpayer Identification Number), you can use our Treasury Hunt search to see if you have any matured bonds listed in our database. If you do, you'll get information on how to claim and cash them.How do I avoid taxes when cashing in savings bonds? ›
Use the Education Exclusion
With that in mind, you have one option for avoiding taxes on savings bonds: the education exclusion. You can skip paying taxes on interest earned with Series EE and Series I savings bonds if you're using the money to pay for qualified higher education costs.
War bonds are sold at less than face value, and buyers receive the full face value plus interest upon maturity.How much money was lost in ww2? ›
Though it lasted fewer than four years, World War II was the most expensive war in United States history. Adjusted for inflation to today's dollars, the war cost over $4 trillion and in 1945, the war's last year, defense spending comprised about 40% of gross domestic product (GDP).Are old German bonds worth anything? ›
The old bond papers still in circulation today are worthless - apart from a possible collector's value. The historical background to this is that the German Reich stopped payments on foreign bonds from the mid-1930s. Even after the end of World War 2, no payments were made at first.How do I know if my bond is worth anything? ›
- Click the 'Get Started' Link on the Savings Bond Calculator home page.
- Once open, choose the series and denomination of your paper bond from the series and denomination drop down boxes.
- Enter the issue date that is printed on the paper bond. ...
- Click the 'Calculate' button.
- Issue date.
- Bond series.
A $500 Series EE savings bond is worth $1,000, if you hold it for 20 years. A $10,000 bond is worth $20,000 after 20 years.Was Captain America used to sell war bonds? ›
During World War II, comic books were used as propaganda to sell war bonds to children and adults. Batman, Superman, and Robin promoted the purchase of War Bonds with the World's Finest Comics series. The character of Captain America was even made to support the war effort.
The borrowing effort was called the “Liberty Loan” and was made operational through the sale of Liberty Bonds. These securities were issued by the Treasury, but the Federal Reserve and its member banks conducted the bond sales.Did Americans buy Liberty Bonds during World War? ›
A liberty bond (or liberty loan) was a war bond that was sold in the United States to support the Allied cause in World War I. Subscribing to the bonds became a symbol of patriotic duty in the United States and introduced the idea of financial securities to many citizens for the first time.When did the US start selling war bonds in ww2? ›
Defense Bonds first went on the market on May 1, 1941, and they were renamed War Bonds after the US entered the war in December 1941. Bonds were available in denominations of $25 through $1000, designed to be affordable for everyone. For 10 cents, people could also purchase stamps, which were placed in special albums.How much does the military owe Captain America? ›
Redditor Anon33249038 first crunched the numbers and concluded that Captain America is owed $3,154,619.52 adjusted for inflation. The Redditor factored in the 1945 pay rate for U.S. Army O-3 Captains, biannual raises, and the 66 years Rogers spent frozen in ice.How much is Captain America #1 worth? ›
Captain America #1 in Mint condition would sell for at least $2,000,000 if it ever came up for sale. A copy in CGC NM 9.4 from the San Francisco Pedigree recently sold for $$3,120,000, which is the highest public sale for this issue. In mid and low grades, Cap #1 is still a very expensive book.What were people who refused to buy war bonds called? ›
Today, some clips from the morgue concerning “bond slackers” who refused to buy United States war bonds during World War Ⅰ, and the vigilantes who persecuted them.Who owns the most US government bonds? ›
1. Japan. Japan held $1.08 trillion in Treasury securities as of November 2022, beating out China as the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt.3 The low and negative yield market in Japan makes holding U.S. debt attractive.Were Americans encouraged to buy war bonds? ›
Everywhere they went Americans were encouraged to help support the war effort by purchasing War Bonds. Posters picturing Uncle Sam or a soldier on the battlefield implored people to do their part.Why did the government need to sell the war? ›
To influence public opinion in favor of the war, the U.S produced films, commissioned colorful posters, published pamphlets and recruited everyday Americans to “sell the war.” These efforts helped create both modern American wartime propaganda and spurred the 20th century advertising industry.How do I find old war bonds? ›
An online tool from the Treasury can help you determine if you have any lost bonds, before submitting a recovery claim. “A shortcut you can take to find missing savings bonds is to head to treasuryhunt.gov, which shows matured, uncashed savings bonds,” says Leslie H.
Though it lasted fewer than four years, World War II was the most expensive war in United States history. Adjusted for inflation to today's dollars, the war cost over $4 trillion and in 1945, the war's last year, defense spending comprised about 40% of gross domestic product (GDP).