1942: Carbon patriotism shows in war funding
Editor's Note: This is one of a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate and the county it covers as a newspaper. These articles are being prepared as the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth approaches in 2011.
On May 1, 1942, the first of many maps to assign War Bond/Loan quotas appeared in the Sun Advocate. The state was divided up by counties and the federal government gave out goals for war bond drives (of which there were many during the war) and those maps and figures were published in papers around the state.
World War II brought on sacrifice of Carbon County residents like no other event in the history of the county. The coal that was mined by hard work, the tracks and rolling stock for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad that was maintained, the money that was spent on bonds and stamps to support the war effort and the young men who never returned because of their demise on battlefields far away, were huge parts of everyone's lives.
The newspaper, like others across the country, gave a lot too. Many of the young men who had worked at the paper were gone to the military during the years between 1941-1946. But besides its workforce the paper also gave a lot of advertising space to support the military and the home front as well. While it was true that local merchants sponsored stories about soldiers and sailors, the Sun Advocate staff made an extra effort to get people to recognize the sacrifices of others and also asked people who had no one directly in the military to contribute to the war effort by buying war bonds and stamps.
The map that appeared that spring day in 1942 was on the surface not very significant. The first real drive since World War I for money to support a war, it listed Carbon Counties goal as $38,500. Not much by today's standard, but in a time when making one to two dollars per day was big wages, it was a huge amount of money for a county with only 20,000 people in it. The total war bond quota for that month for the state of Utah was $1,201,000.
But taking the bull by the horns when it came to War Bond drives was nothing new to Carbon residents who were over 40 years old at the time. Those that had lived in the county during World War I remembered the drives and one in particular in which an offer was made to the counties in the state that no one could refuse. In early 1918 it was announced that county the state that collected the most money for a bond drive (per capita) during that particular drive would get a liberty ship that was under construction in Alameda, Calif. named after their county. The drive, which began before the war ended in November 1918, continued after the Armistice because the country continued on a ship building frenzy for some time after the war. By the beginning of 1919, Carbon had raised $187,000 in bonds, almost as much as the entire rest of the state combined. The ship, christened later that year, was called the Utacarbon and it served in the country's merchant marine until World War II, at which time it was lent to the Russian government. The ship worked through the war and was finally returned to the United States and scrapped in the late 1940s.
For World War II the prize was different. Unlike World War I, where the battles had never touched American soil, and only some of her sea lanes close to the east coast, this war had brought the battle home, first to Pearl Harbor and then to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. The reward for those buying war bonds in 1942 would be victory over enemies who had threatened actual invasion of the mainland.
During the war the United States government sold almost $186 billion in war bonds. This was done in many ways, but the general populace's response was unbelievable. It was estimated that two thirds of the country's population spent some money for War Bonds by 1946. This contribution, however, did not happen just because the government asked for it or needed it. Newspapers, radio and magazines designed ads and spots not only for customers to be part of the process, but they also ran large amounts of ads for no cost across the five years of the war.
The War Finance Committee (part of the federal government) oversaw the sale of bonds and stamps. At first they thought they would have to pay for the solicitation, but the response from the media was overwhelming. Everyone wanted - and understandably needed - to be a patriot. The initial estimate was that space to buy advertising would cost about $4 million for just a couple of drives, but in the end between 1941 and 1944, the media industry donated over $250,000,000 in advertising space and spots. The key part of the savings success was the Payroll Savings Plan where money would be automatically deducted by employers from paychecks to buy bonds. The advertising did wonders in this area. It was estimated that over 90 percent of the people who lived in the U.S. knew about the plan by the end of the war.
"Every income earner in the state is expected to step up War Bond purchases on a basis of 10 percent or more of income," said a statement in the Sun Advocate during the first drive. "This is necessary to help America's armed forces take the offensive against the Axis powers. The job of every American now is to stop spending and save dollars to help win the war."
While bond drives went on during the entire war, between the actual drives bonds were also sold at record levels. In the end, after the war was actually over in October 1945 an eighth drive, called the Victory Drive was started. While the quota for this drive was set exceptionally low at less than the very first drive of the war, the public still responded by almost doubling the amount of money expected to be brought in. The media, still in war mode, gave their advertising freely for this last hurrah of the war too.