Scrap metal was one of the most vital materials, as one single tank required 18 tons of metal while one of the navy’s largest ship needed 900 tons. So, everything from chicken wire through to household items to iron Bambi sculptures had to be rationed. Americans across the country were encouraged to contribute with their scrap metal through patriotic propaganda such as “give your scrap metal and help our boys save our way of life .” or “Salvage Scrap to Blast the Jap.” Celebrities also helped to promote these efforts with publicity photos of them donating some valuable metal. Citizens were encouraged to imagine their household items into weaponry for their soldiers and sailors.
So, American citizens really stepped up as they scoured their homes, farms and every property they had for metal, housewives gave away their favorite pots and pans, children said goodbye to their metal toys, Walt Disney donated two of his iron Bambi sculptures, men removed the fenders and bumpers of their cars. It seemed that these events brought America together more than ever, as entire neighborhoods gathered around and tore down wrought iron fences, sacrificing their protection for the sake of the country.
Scrap metal drives were usually turned into amusing community events with performers, motivational and patriotic speeches, there was even a bust of Hitler that you can throw at with your scrap metal. There were also competitions to see which county town and the state that could contribute the most scrap.
Some of these drives were extremely successful, for example, a national scrap metal drive in October 1942 resulted in an average of almost eighty-two pounds of scrap per American.
All photos by Leslie Jones Collection, Boston Public Library