Many of Gene's observations about the war are connected to conditions in the United States as a result of the war. Many items are in short supply, including "nylon, meat, gasoline, and steel." He comments that "string and tinfoil are treasures." Because of all the shortages, "money is very easy to earn but rather hard to spend, because there isn't very much to buy."
Because of the men who have been drafted and left, there are not enough people to fill all the positions that need to be filled. To be sixteen years old is to be regarded as almost being at the center point or the dividing line - younger than that, you're still a child; older than that, and you're on your way to the military and the war.
Gene finds that everything is constantly on the move. People frequently go on leave or return from leave. Trains are still running, but are filled with "servicemen." And yet, "all travel and sports...are in the very shortest supply."
The war seems "very far from America." Foreign maps and names of foreign towns fill the newspapers. The rulers of those foreign lands are Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. The only people who can travel to these foreign lands are the military personnel.
People are constantly listening to the news. Most of the time, it's filled with strange place names and the names of people. Sometimes, however, it is something different and amazing,
such as the time Mussolini, who had almost seemed one of the eternal leaders, is photographed hanging upside down on a meathook.