OCD and Civilian Defense

The Office of Civilian Defense was established in May 1941 under director Fiorella LaGuardia, former mayor of New York City. Eleanor Roosevelt became an assistant director in September. By the summer of 1942, the OCD had enlisted 10 million volunteers in 11,000 local committees to supervise the community's total defense effort, including blackouts, whiteouts, scrap drives, child care, the V-Home campaign. It also included the Civil Air Patrol of 40,000 civilian pilots and the coastal anti-submarine watch of local boatowners. A blackout drill involved three stages of warning: at 9 pm the "yellow" warning signal sounded, allowing 15 minutes to get out spotters, to prepare pumps and ambulances and emergency shelters, and to extinguish all lights. After the 15 minutes had elapsed, the "Blue" signal sounded that officially started the blackout. If enemy aircraft were sighted within 10 miles, the "Red" warning was sounded, all traffic stopped, air-raid sirens sounded and searchlights turned on. Every scrap drive was successful during the war, starting with the first drive in the summer of 1941 that collected 70,000 tons of aluminum from donated pots and pans (but only virgin aluminum could be used in aircraft, and most of the collected aluminum was re-melted into pots and pans again). Phonograph records were melted for shellac, and five million tons of scrap steel was collected in just three weeks for the war effort. But most scrap was militarily useless or never processed. Newspapers piled up but never used; junk dealers collected scrap and sold the good junk to the government at market prices. The most important result of the scrap drives was raising morale with a sense of participation. The OCD resurrected the Victory Garden program used in World War I to encourage homes to plant gardens to raise extra food. By 1944, 18 million gardens grew 40% of the fresh vegetables consumed in the U.S. By 1945, the agency had expanded its activities to deal with manpower and social problems caused by the war.

Neighborhood fingerprint station : Fingerprints are your identification and protection during wartime - have the entire family take theirs now! : War Identification Bureau - CDVO / designed by Advertising Mobilization Committee ca. 1942. Work Projects Administration Poster Collection (Library of Congress) LC-USZC2-1126 DLC

"V" home campaign, Washington, DC, 10/1942, R.G. 171 Office of Civilian Defense, NWDNS-171-OCD-140

Poster calling for volunteers for "air raid wardens, auxiliary firemen, auxiliary policemen, and other services in the civilian defense army." Sponsored by Philadelphia Council of Defense ca. 1941. Work Projects Administration Poster Collection (Library of Congress) LC-USZC2-5514 DLC

Family of Marine in their living room. They live in one of the units of the Navy defense housing project which is designed for Naval people, Marines and some civilian defense workers. Other defense housing was built by Reuben Fleet. Russell Lee, photographer, San Diego, California, June 1941. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress) LC-USF34-039406-D DLC and LC-USF34-039407-D DLC


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