Born October 5, 1899
Green Lake, Wisconsin
Died April 17, 1961
Oak Ridge, Tennessee
"Elda Emma Anderson not only worked on the atomic bomb, but was also a pioneer in the field of Health Physics, the study of the effects of radiation on human health."
—Cited from the Penn State University College of Engineering Web site
Elda Anderson was a member of the U.S. team of scientists who developed the atomic bomb during World War II (1939–45). She was a physicist with the Manhattan Project and was present at the Trinity Event, which was the first atomic explosion that took place in the New Mexico desert in 1945.
Following the war Anderson became an internationally recognized authority on radiation protection and health physics. In 1955 she was a founding member of the Health Physics Society that sought independent status for the new science. In 1960 she helped formally establish the American Board of Health Physics, a professional certifying agency. Anderson was the first person to serve as chief of education and training in the Health Physics Division of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. She published a Manual of Radiological Protection for Civil Defense, and was...
(The entire section is 1735 words.)
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The Andrews Sisters
Born July 6, 1911
Died May 8, 1967
Born January 3, 1916
Died October 21, 1995
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Patricia (Patty) Andrews
Born February 16, 1918
During World War II (1939–45), a trio of sisters known as the Andrews Sisters topped the music charts with hits such as their Oscar-nominated...
(The entire section is 2025 words.)
Born April 4, 1928
St. Louis, Missouri
Poet, author, actress, director
Decades before she rose to great acclaim in the arts, Maya Angelou was breaking down barriers and laying the groundwork for her life's mission of helping others. As a teenager during World War II (1939–45), she became the first black American streetcar conductor in San Francisco, California. She also witnessed firsthand the removal of thousands of Japanese American citizens from San Francisco by the War Relocation Authority (WRA). These citizens were forced to leave their homes and evacuate to camps spread throughout the United States. The tragic scene made a lasting impression on Angelou, who worked to better the lives of others the rest of her life.
Angelou became a noted author, poet, teacher, and historian. The first black American woman director in Hollywood, Angelou...
(The entire section is 1997 words.)
New York City, New York
"Put me down with people, and it's just overwhelming."
Esther Bubley was a photojournalist whose body of work serves as a document of American culture in the mid-twentieth century. By the mid-1930s photography was mostly concerned with landscapes, snapshots, and family portraits. However, photography was quickly being discovered as a worthy tool of communication in making serious statements. With her unparalleled technical excellence with a camera, Bubley created a visual scene of American society beginning in the 1940s and enduring for decades.
Bubley's photographic documentation of American life began with her documentary photography work for the U.S. Office of War Information (OWI) in 1942 and 1943 on the home front during World War II (1939–45). It continued on an international scale during the golden age of photojournalism from the 1940s to the 1960s. She captured Americans in very ordinary circumstances, going about their usual routines, in images that are compelling while being realistic and artistic as well. Bubley focused on the human dimension of war mobilization on the home front. Her style recalls a Norman Rockwell (1894–1978;...
(The entire section is 1579 words.)
Born March 11, 1890
Died June 28, 1974
Physicist, electrical research engineer, inventor, science administrator
A brilliant visionary with his sights always set to the future, engineer and mathematician Vannevar Bush guided much of the rapid-paced scientific research and development of U.S. weapons used to win World War II (1939–45). As a leading scientific advisor to the federal government in the 1940s, he revolutionized the interaction and cooperation between the science community, industry, and government. In doing so, Bush charted a new course in the way science research and its eventual application was carried out in the United States. Additionally, by the start of the twenty-first century, the innovative Bush was widely regarded as the "godfather" of the computer age. By 1945 he had...
(The entire section is 2380 words.)
Byrnes, James F.
Born May 2, 1879
Charleston, South Carolina
Died April 9, 1972
Columbia, South Carolina
Secretary of state, U.S. senator, Supreme Court justice, governor
One of the few Americans to serve in all three branches of the federal government—as U.S. congressman and senator, Supreme Court justice, and secretary of state—James F. Byrnes became known as "assistant president on the home front" during World War II (1939–45). To guide wartime home front economic activities, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945; served 1933–45; see entry) assigned Byrnes more powers than ever held by a public official. He was clearly one of the most powerful men in Washington through much of the 1940s.
James Francis Byrnes was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to Irish...
(The entire section is 2333 words.)
Born May 18, 1897
Died September 3, 1991
La Quinta, California
Frank Capra was one of the most famous American film directors in the twentieth century. Three times he earned Academy Awards for best director for the movies It Happened One Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), and You Can't Take It With You (1938). During World War II (1939–45), Capra produced the film series Why We Fight for the U.S. War Department. His military service earned him the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest American military decoration for non-combat service.
As a film director, Capra was a poet of the personal and the moral rather than the social and the political. He focused on the way individuals react to situations and each other rather...
(The entire section is 2055 words.)
Born January 13, 1890
Died May 18, 1958
Federal administrator, radio commentator, news reporter
Elmer Davis, a popular national radio newscaster, became director of the newly formed Office of War Information (OWI), charged with coordinating government information about World War II's (1939–45) progress to the home front. It was a role that placed him in continual confrontation with U.S. military leaders concerning what the public had a right to know.
A desire to learn
Elmer Davis was born on January 13, 1890, in the southeast Indiana town of Aurora. He was raised in a family that valued education and knowledge. His father, Elam H. Davis, was a cashier at the First National Bank of Aurora, and his mother, Louise Severin, was a high...
(The entire section is 2132 words.)
Born April 6, 1892
Brooklyn, New York
Died February 1, 1981
Santa Monica, California
Aircraft engineer, industrial executive
Donald Douglas is one of the most famous aircraft builders in the history of aviation. Although he never personally obtained a pilot's license, Douglas became fascinated with the idea of flight after he saw Orville Wright (1871–1948) fly a plane in 1909. He was a brilliant engineer and a shrewd businessman but he also had the rare gift of vision. Douglas was a pioneer in the technology that would introduce global air transportation and change world travel. While ocean liners required weeks to span the globe, airliners measured distances in hours.
In 1924 Douglas was responsible for the design and production of the first airplane capable of cross-continental flight, the Douglas...
(The entire section is 2108 words.)
Born December 18, 1916
St. Louis, Missouri
Died July 2, 1973
Santa Monica, California
A Hollywood movie studio dubbed the 1943 pinup of actress Betty Grable "the picture that launched a million dreams." The term "pinup" was coined to describe the photographs of female actresses and singers that would decorate the barracks and planes of countless soldiers during World War II (1939–45). Entertainers remaining on the home front during the war used their celebrity in a variety of ways to advance the war effort. The most famous pinup to come out of World War II was Grable's. Her photograph, showing Grable from behind in a bathing suit, peering over her shoulder and smiling playfully with her hands on her hips, represented the girl back on the home front for thousands of homesick soldiers and reminded them...
(The entire section is 2161 words.)
Born August 1888
Director of Women's Land Army, home economist
In April 1943 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the appointment of home economist Florence Hall as chief of the Women's Land Army (WLA). The goal of the WLA was to recruit and organize a large number of women to provide farm labor in place of the many farmers and hired hands who had joined the military or left home to take a job in a defense plant.
Hall had been serving as a senior home economist in the Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Extension Service, in cooperation with state and county government extension services, provided educational services covering all aspects of farming and homemaking on the farm. Hall drew on her experience to skillfully and quickly begin a nationwide recruitment campaign for the...
(The entire section is 1989 words.)
Hobby, Oveta Culp
Born January 19, 1905
Died August 16, 1995
Director of the Women's Army Corps
Oveta Culp Hobby was an attorney and a journalist who became director of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). On July 1, 1943, WAAC was given full military status, making it part of the U.S. Army. The unit was renamed Women's Army Corps (WAC) and Hobby became the first female commanding officer in the U.S. Army. She was commissioned a WAC colonel in 1943 and remained as director until July 1945. In January of that year, Hobby received the military's Distinguished Service Medal for outstanding service to her country during World War II (1939–45).
President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969; served 1953–61) called Hobby back to Washington, D.C., in 1953. Eisenhower appointed her as administrator of the Federal Security Agency....
(The entire section is 1879 words.)
Born March 15, 1874
Died February 3, 1952
In May 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945; served 1933–45; see entry) designated his trusted adviser, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, to be the national coordinator for ensuring the military and home front had adequate gasoline and oil in the event the United States entered the war in Europe. The United States did indeed enter the war less than seven months later. Ickes carried out this important responsibility throughout the war years.
Ickes, known for his crusty and combative personality, promoted the orderly development of the nation's rich natural resources throughout his career, including his time as wartime petroleum administrator during World War II (1939–45). Ickes served as...
(The entire section is 2319 words.)
Born May 9, 1882
Sprout Brook, New York
Died August 24, 1967
Henry Kaiser's imprint on American industry was remarkable. He has been called the "father of modern shipbuilding" and was considered the most powerful businessman in the U.S. West during World War II (1939–45). The concrete he manufactured went to build Pacific military bases, his aluminum into new advanced warplanes, his steel into warships, and the thousands of cargo ships he built carried troops and supplies across the oceans to the European and Pacific war fronts. The electricity generated by the dams he built fueled the West Coast war industries. Kaiser became a favorite of the news media and was considered by many to be the most influential civilian to...
(The entire section is 2657 words.)
La Guardia, Fiorello
Born December 11, 1882
New York, New York
Died September 20, 1947
Bronx, New York
New York City mayor, national director of Civilian Defense
A highly successful three-term mayor of New York City from 1933 to 1945, Fiorello La Guardia was director of the nation's civilian defense programs at the beginning of World War II (1939–45) and provided leadership to the nation's largest city throughout the war. He brought organization and rapid growth to such programs as air raid warning systems, scrap metal drives, and Victory gardens. Under his direction more than eight thousand community civil defense organizations, consisting of more than five million volunteers, were loosely linked into a national network within only weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
A worldly start
Fiorello Henry La Guardia was born on...
(The entire section is 1868 words.)
Born December 10, 1914
New Orleans, Louisiana
Died September 22, 1996
Los Angeles, California
Dorothy Lamour was a famous Hollywood actress known as "the bond bombshell" because of her volunteer work selling U.S. war bonds during World War II (1939–45). The sale of war bonds became a patriotic way for those on the home front to contribute to the national defense and war effort. It was a unique combination of patriotism and consumerism that sold $185.7 billion in securities (bonds). Over the course of the war, Lamour sold some $300 million of the bonds around the country. Other members of Hollywood's entertainment community used their celebrity status to help sell war bonds, but Lamour was credited with being the first star to offer her services to do so.
The first U.S. Savings Bond was sold to President Franklin D. Roosevelt...
(The entire section is 1952 words.)
Born February 14, 1914
Died October 22, 1976
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Nancy Love was director of the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, or WAFS. The WAFS was a division within the Air Transport Command of the U.S. Army. WAFS were the first women to fly for the U.S. military, serving from 1942 until 1945. By flying home front missions, Love and the WAFS were in a unique position to advance the American cause in World War II (1939–45). Her highly experienced pilots made it possible to free active-duty male pilots for combat. The WAFS were charged with transporting military aircraft between factories, modification centers, depots, and operational units.
Nancy Love was one of the most accomplished women flyers of her time. She was the first woman in U.S. military history to fly the B-25 Mitchell, the P-51 Mustang, and the Douglas C-54...
(The entire section is 2337 words.)
Born October 29, 1921
Mountain Park, New Mexico
Died January 22, 2003
Newport Beach, California
Bill Mauldin was one of the twentieth century's outstanding editorial cartoonists. The Pulitzer Prize-winning artist portrayed World War II's (1939–45) grim reality, laced with his own brand of humor, and in so doing he immortalized the American serviceman. He was considered a great reporter and was also credited with being a positive influence on morale for the armed services during the war.
Mauldin's cartoon characters, Willie and Joe, slogged their way through battle-scarred Europe surviving the enemy and the elements with their humor intact. They mirrored the lives of soldiers in the European theater as they encountered the blunders and efficiency, the...
(The entire section is 1965 words.)
Born August 30, 1907
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Died November 4, 1992
"During World War II … women took advantage of the wartime demand for their labor to advance their interests … Energetic labor organizers like Luisa Moreno … built a powerful union of women workers."
—From Pushing the Limits: 1940–1961
Luisa Moreno was a trade union leader and a civil rights activist. Fluent in both English and Spanish, she was a major figure in the struggle for Hispanic civil rights and fair treatment for nearly three decades. During World War II (1939–45), Moreno's efforts led to better pay and working conditions for women workers, particularly Hispanic workers in the war industries.
While the U.S. economy was booming in the mid-1920s, many workers emigrated from Mexico to the United States. However, when the Great Depression (1929–41), a period of high unemployment and decreased business activity through the 1930s, began, the U.S. government enforced the Mexican Repatriation Program. This program forced hundreds of thousands of Mexican Americans back into Mexico until the United States once again needed them for the work force during World War II. With the repatriation program in...
(The entire section is 2067 words.)
Born June 27, 1912
Died February 10, 2001
New York, New York
"What is beautiful about Citizen 13660 … and the reason it is still in print and used in college classes all across the country today, is that it combines detailed, evocative sketches with simple, elegant prose."
—Washington Journal, December 15–21, 2000
Born an American citizen, Mine Okubo had never been to Japan and spoke little Japanese. Yet she was imprisoned during World War II (1939–45) along with 112,000 other Japanese Americans because of her Japanese ancestry. Before the war, Mine was building an art career through academic studies in California and training in Europe. She would later apply her artistic skills to record her almost two years in the stark, isolated internment camps. The resulting drawings and written accounts would document this gross injustice toward a segment of the American population for later generations to learn from. She also managed to establish a highly acclaimed, longstanding art career following her imprisonment.
An artist mother
The daughter of Japanese parents, Mine Okubo was born on June 27, 1912, in Riverside, California. She had...
(The entire section is 2197 words.)
Randolph, A. Philip
Born April 15, 1889
Crescent City, Florida
Died May 16, 1979
New York, New York
Labor and civil rights leader
During World War II (1939–45), A. Philip Randolph fought racial discrimination in war industries and the armed services. His efforts built a foundation for the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. A. Philip Randolph was one of the most influential black American leaders of the twentieth century.
A. Philip Randolph was born on April 15, 1889, the second of two sons born to a poor family in Crescent City, Florida. His father, an itinerant minister who traveled about the area to various small rural churches, also worked as a tailor to provide for his family. The Randolph family emphasized religion and education. In 1903 Randolph attended Cookman Institute, an all-black male Methodist school, where he excelled. In addition to being a good athlete, he showed particular skill at drama, public speaking, singing,...
(The entire section is 2320 words.)
Born February 3, 1894
New York, New York
Died November 8, 1978
Norman Rockwell was one of America's leading artists. He considered himself first and foremost an illustrator. Rockwell painted a great number of pictures for story illustrations, advertising campaigns, posters, calendars, and books. His long career spanned the days of horses and buggies to the days of space travel. The cover of the highly respected The Saturday Evening Post was his showcase for nearly fifty years.
Rockwell was taught that an illustration is an author's words in paint. He chose to tell the story of the American dream. The story he told, in great detail, was of a simpler time. He painted with warmth and humor and tapped into the...
(The entire section is 2626 words.)
Born October 11, 1884
New York, New York
Died November 7, 1962
Hyde Park, New York
First lady of the United States, social activist
Eleanor Roosevelt served as first lady from March 1933 to April 1945, longer than any other president's wife. She also was one of the first first ladies to work tirelessly for social reforms both in the United States and worldwide. Checking on conditions throughout the nation during World War II (1939–45) and earlier, she was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's (1882–1945; served 1933–45; see entry) "eyes and ears." During the war years, she advocated for improved employment opportunities for women and minorities and helped her husband give comfort to the nation during the times of crisis.
Early childhood lessons...
(The entire section is 2535 words.)
Roosevelt, Franklin D.
Born January 30, 1882
Hyde Park, New York
Died April 12, 1945
Warm Springs, Georgia
Thirty-second president of the United States
Franklin D. Roosevelt, commonly referred to as FDR, was the thirty-second president of the United States. Largely owing to the home front uncertainties of World War II (1939–45), Roosevelt is the only U.S. president to have been elected four times. Roosevelt entered the White House in March 1933 at the height of the Great Depression (1929–41). The Great Depression, which began in the fall of 1929, was the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. Approximately 25 percent of the nation's workforce was unemployed as business activity dramatically slowed, and many Americans did not have enough food. Roosevelt's charm, broad grin, and willingness to surround himself with able advisors brought hope to most Americans, first during the Depression...
(The entire section is 3218 words.)
Stimson, Henry L.
Born September 21, 1867
New York, New York
Died October 20, 1950
Huntington, New York
Secretary of war, diplomat
Henry L. Stimson became one of the most respected U.S. leaders during World War II (1939–45). Many considered Stimson the chief architect for Allied victory in the war by organizing the U.S. war effort, including home front mobilization. Stimson also played a major role in preparing Americans on the home front for future sacrifices. As a result, the United States had the best-equipped army in the world. Stimson was outspoken in taking a strong stand against German military expansion in Europe. He was one of the most influential policy makers of the twentieth century as the United States emerged as a great military and economic world leader. However, his inspired foreign policy was tempered by a strong racial bias. This bias was reflected by his resistance to racially integrate the armed...
(The entire section is 2132 words.)
Born c. 1922
"The first work I had after the Depression was at a shell-loading plant in Viola, Kentucky. My mother, my sister, and myself worked there."
Prior to World War II (1939–45), women usually only worked outside of the home following the completion of their education until marriage. However, as twelve million men joined the military in the early 1940s, critical industrial jobs faced a worker shortage. Peggy Terry was one of nineteen million women who found work on the home front during the war years. Not only did the work vastly improve women's personal financial condition, but it opened the doors much wider for the acceptance of women in the workplace in America.
An early life of need
Peggy Terry was born around 1922 to a family that lived in poverty for most of her early years. Her mother was born in Kentucky and her father in Oklahoma. Her father fought in World War I (1914–18) as a machine gunner and was left emotionally scarred from the experience. Peggy was born only a few years after the war. For the next fifteen years, the family moved back and forth between Kentucky and Oklahoma. While living in Oklahoma between 1929 and 1936, they experienced the worst of the Great Depression (1929–41). The Great Depression, beginning in the fall of 1929 and...
(The entire section is 1625 words.)