Educator Resources

World War II At Home: California-Background


After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the American economy shifted into a wartime production mode to meet new demands. Like Americans everywhere, Californians contributed significantly to U.S. efforts during the Second World War. They lived with rations of such necessities as tires, gasoline, sugar, and other foodstuffs and volunteered for organizations such as the Red Cross. Many women went to war as nurses, Women's Army Corps (WACs), Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVEs), and Women Air Service Pilots (WASPs), or to work in manufacturing jobs. Schools and families planted "Victory Gardens" to stave off a food shortage.

A large bureaucracy was needed to manage this new economy. Federal agencies such as the Office of Price Administration and the Petroleum Administration for War regulated the prices and availability of consumer goods while the National War Labor Board worked to ensure a steady supply of labor for American industries. The Office of Civilian Defense coordinated efforts of local agencies to ensure preparedness in the event of an attack on the United States. These agencies and others assisted in the struggle to meet wartime demands, and the records they generated provide a unique window on statewide conditions during the war.