Joanna Slusarewicz

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Families in Kentucky
Joanna Slusarewicz

When the US entered World War II in 1941, the nation immediately began setting up factories and sending soldiers overseas. American troops would leave their families to fight in foreign lands, never knowing when and if they would make it home. However, it wasn’t soldiers alone who sacrificed to further the war effort; all people — men, women and children — in Kentucky and around the nation contributed in many ways, sacrificing comfort and convenience to aid in the war effort. Families that stayed at home worked hard to help the troops overseas and were an essential part of the Allies’ ultimate victory.

Men in Kentucky who did not become soldiers had other ways of helping their country. Photograph 1 shows workers in a factory making weapons and other equipment for soldiers; 73,000 workers labored in nearly 300 factories in Louisville, canning food, making tools, and producing other goods. However, not every man in Kentucky worked in a factory. Photograph 2 pictures a Kentucky farmer harvesting hemp, a crop used to make rope for Navy ships. Because of Japan’s attacks on Asia, the major producer of rope, workers in Kentucky had to grow crops for use in the war, replacing tobacco with hemp and foods that could be preserved. Though they had to grow more and work longer hours, farmers and factory workers were still able to help.

Women played an equally important role in helping the soldiers overseas. While their husbands went into battle, many women worked in the factories and companies and kept them running. Photograph 3 pictures a Kentucky woman working at a company as a call recipient. Many women of the Commonwealth joined the American War Mothers to give further aid to those overseas. Photograph 4 is a news article featuring women making carnation bunches for prisoners of war, and one of the actual carnations. Kentucky women, and women around the nation, were willing to help the war effort in any way they could.

Even Kentucky’s children pitched in to help. In a poster (photograph 5), children of the Commonwealth and their families were asked to grow their own food in “victory gardens”, leaving more canned goods that could be shipped to soldiers. Another news article (photograph 6) features a school where children made hospital kits for troops overseas, showing how everyone in the community was involved in helping the country.

World War II pushed communities to change their way of life to support their nation. While troops sacrificed their lives in foreign lands, families back home did everything they could to provide the soldiers supplies and medical care and to help the country to keep running while the soldiers were gone. The families in Kentucky and across the country, were the ones who kept the factories open and ensured that life in the US could go on.