RE: WWII Rationing : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I remember reading a thread started by E. Coli I think on hoarding and rationing. I made some enquiries at the time but they didn't pan out. Then other Y2K events took over and I forgot all about it.

Anyhow the recent testimony by Secretary Glickman on the Food Supply, especially one part where he promised that his agency would work with FEMA to distribute food if there were shortages got me thinking about it again.

I did some ferreting on the net and came up with the following:

WWII Rationing:

What did all those Coupons Mean?

War time rationing, which was already in effect in Europe, came to the United States in late 1941. This was to be the major sacrifice required of people on the "Home Front", and was neither voluntary or popular. Initially 20 items deemed essential by the federal government, under the Office Price Administration were included. The goal was equal distribution of commodities, and price control.

(There's a long Time Line next which I shall leave out)

The onset of Rationing

Rationing took many forms.

Ration books distributed directly to consumers and used for the point programs for food, sugar, coffee and shoes. The coupon books were tightly controlled. It was necessary to surrender coupon books within 10 days after the death of the holder, and people eating more than 12 meals per week at a place registered as an institutional user had to surrender his book to the manager.

Separate Stamps and coupons used when only part of the public was eligible for the item such as gasoline.

Tokens used as change for point stamps.

Certificates when only a limited number of persons were elegible and single purchases made such as stoves, tire, automobiles, and rubber footwear.


Sugar and other foods

The first food item to be controlled was sugar. Civilians were told "every boatload of sugar that is shipped endangers the lives of American Seamen. Ask for as much as you really need!" and "Each jar of home canned fruit used leaves a commercially packed fruit for our armed forces."

Book One: Retail sales of sugar ceased on April 26, 1942. Each family unit was required to register, indicating how much sugar they had on hand. Each individual within the family, including children, was allowed two pounds of sugar on hand. For each pound over two, a stamp was torn from the individual's ration book at the time of registration. If he had over six pounds, he could complete a registration but would not be issued a ration book until his supplies were exhausted. Housewives requiring additional sugar for home canning or preserving were required to apply to local rationing boards on special forms which would allow them an additional five pounds of sugar. My grandmother was involved in the Home Bureau, and was responsible for distributing sugar ration coupons for the ladies who were canning.

Each of the first four stamps in the 28 stamp ration book provided a consumer the opportunity to buy a pound of sugar every two weeks. The dates of availability were May 5, to May 16. Each stamp was coded, to prevent hoarding, limiting redemption to a specified period of time, usually a month.

Coffee stocks during the period August 1942-January 1943 were

"materially reduced as the result of interrupted ocean communications and the diversion of much of the available shipping space to the transportation of war materials. In addition, there have been greatly expanded purchases of coffee for the use of the armed forces."

The sale of all coffee was prohibited between November 22 and 28 to enable dealers to replenish supplies. When actual rationing started on November 29, stamps 19-28 in Book one were designated as coffee stamps. The coffee stamps in the books of children under age 15 had to be turned in. The coffee allowance allowed the equivalent of about one cup of coffee daily.

Apparently hoarding was accomplished anyway, as my Father-in-law who ran a store tells. Women would come into the store and whisper "What do you have that is in short supply today?" Then they would buy as much of it as possible. He also told of people hoarding sugar, then wanting to sell it back after the rationing ended. Sugar rationing created a real problem in our household, as my mother had a problem with extremely low blood sugar. Her doctor prescribed sugar and Karo syrup in large quantities for her treatment. Generous neighbors gave her their sugar.

Book Two began distribution on January 1, 1943. Prior to the rationing of processed foods, women were seen wheeling away canned goods in baby carriages and toy wagons. This book consisted of four pages of blue stamps and four pages of red stamps. Each book had 24 stamps per page, each of which bore a letter and a number (the number was either 8, 5, 2, or 1). Colors indicated which rationing program the stamps were used for. Letters indicated the time period during which the stamps were valid, and the number represented the point value. Blue stamps were good for canned goods such as vegetables and dried fruits. Red stamps were used later when meat was added to the rationed foods. Meat included fish and dairy products. People were instructed to take the correct amount of stamps out of the book "in front of the grocer or delivery man." Exchange, lending or borrowing of poducts from friends and neighbors was allowed, but not trading the stamps. It was necessary to budget points so there would be food throughout the ration period, although during the last week of each period, it was acceptable to use the stamps of the next period.

My mother tells of my brother running home from the grocery store saying "They have hot dogs!" By the time Mother gave him money and stamps, and he retuned to the store, which was about 2 blocks away, the meat was gone. She also remembers butter as being very difficult to come by, although butter cost 16 points per pound.

Each person was allowed 48 blue points and 64 red points per month. Our family of 5 would have a total of 560 points per month, and the point value on items might change from month to month. For example, in March of 1943 apple sauce took 10 points, and a year later was 25 points, while grapefruit juice dropped from 23 to four. It became so confusing that it was necessary to post charts and provide booklets showing customers how to get the most for their ration coupons.

Distribution of Book three began in October of 1943. These books contained brown stamps which were used for meats, canned milk, canned fish, butter, cheese, lards and fats. Examples of point values are 1 pound of pork chops 7 points, one can of condensed milk 22 points, and baby food 1 point per jar. There were also black stmps.

Book four, which was distributed through the mail during July and August of 1943, introduced additional types of stamps in the ration book. The book was 8 pages consisting of 384 stamps in four colors, blue, red, green and black. These stamps were also lettered ex. A, B, C. Green stamps were used in conjunction with blue stamps for processed foods such as canned and bottle fruit, juice, vegetables, soup, baby food, frozen food, spreads and dried foods. Red stamps continued to be used for meat. In addition there were 96 black unit stamps. The work "spare" appeared on 72 of these to be used in the event additional adjustments were made in the food program. Red and blue tokens, each with a one point value, were used as change instead of printing additional books. Twelve of the stamps were pre-printed "sugar" and 12 had "coffee" on them. Since the coffee rationing had been lifted, these stamps were then used as spares. Five processed food stamps and 6 meat and fat stamps were validated each month. Stamps 30 and 31 were valid indefinitely for 5 pounds of sugar each and #40 was good for 5 pounds of canning sugar.

A little known Book five was also issued. Although I have seen the book, I found no information about it. It was the size of a gas ration book and contained numbered stamps in blue, brown and orange, as well as stamps specifying shoes and sugar.

The War Production Board appealed to restaurants to voluntarily cooperate in a meat rationing program. Many parts of the nation observed "Meatless Tuesdays." The goal of the government was to limit meat to 2 1/2 pounds per week. Price ceilings were also placed on 90 varieties of pork to divert supplies from preferential markets and spread them uniformly throughout the nation. A similar ceiling was placed on flour.

Emergence of a black market was inevitable. The neighborhood grocer, for a price could find a pound of steak or other desired items for loyal customers. Rationing was so unpopular, that many people had a tendency to look the other way when they knew someone was providing black market foods. Even the courts went lightly on the convicted, handling out light fines. One Gallop poll found one of four respondents condoned and occasionally patronized "Mr. Black." As might be expected, organized crime became involved in black market activities. They printed and sold counterfeit ration stamps. When the government switched to specially treated paper, the gangsters stole the special paper from the government warehouses.


May 15, 1942 saw the onset of gas rationing. Citing a loss in tanker capacity due to submarine attacks, including the sinking of coastwise tankers and lend-lease operations, the government estimated only 50% of the 1941 fuel capacity would be received. The East coast was the hardest hit by the decreased fuel.

Initially, rationing was to be accomplished by the service station owner controlling the distribution. Hours of service at the stations were also reduced.

*"A Minimum basic ration--the A book--is allowed to all passenger registrants because it is an established engineering fact that moderate usage is necessary to keep motors and tires in good condition.------These millions of privately owned cars are potentially invaluable in emergencies such as fires, floods, tornadoes, or air raids."

*Categories of Gasoline Rationing were established as follows.

*Basic Ration--A and D Coupon Books for automobiles and motorcycles

*Supplemental Ration B for essential users up to 470 miles per month, including the 150 miles of occupational allowed usage

*Supplemental Ration C for preferred mileage use totaling more than 470 miles per month. This class included Doctors; defense workers; mail; government official business; school to school business; news; clergy; transportation of farm products and supplies, etc.

*Service Ration S-1 of S-2 for taxis, busses, trucks, ambulances or hearses and government-owned vehicles

*Non-highway E and R rations for all uses other than highway transportation such as farm tractors, gasoline stoves, boats, and cleaning establishments.

Posters which were used effectively during the war touted "When you ride ALONE you ride with Hitler Join a car-sharing club today!" For a while, pleasure driving was also restricted.

Each vehicle had to display a windshield sticker showing the ration under which the car was operating. My father worked for a company which was transporting milk by truck to the military bases, and needed to be able to travel to repair broken down vehicles. It was necessary for him to petition for extra gasoline rations to drive his truck.

In applying for a gas rationing card, it was necessary to file an application which included questions such as:

If you drive to work, what is the shortest mileage from your home to your regular place of work or communting point?

Are you making every possible effort to reduce this mileage by using public transportation and by "doubling-up" with your neighbors? (The start of Car Pooling)

For supplemental gas rations, additional questions were asked, such as:

Do you claim that no public transportation facilities would be adequate for your purpose?

Are there any other vehicles or boats available for your use (for example, vehicles or boats owned by other members of your family, or by friends or business associates?

Effective December 1, 1942, dealers were instructed to

1. Be sure the ID on the coupon book or folder checks with the person or vehicle buying the gas.

2. Put no gas in the tank until the coupons are endorsed and handed to you.

3. Gas may be transferred only into the fuel tank of the vehicle identified on the coupon book.


Tires and other rubber based products were also declared to be in acute shortage. Citing concern over the Japanese threat to shipping from the Pacific and the need for rubber in the production of armored vehicles, airplane wheels, and pneumatic rafts, domestic use of rubber was rationed on Decemver 30, 1941. Women were told that exercise would have to replace their girdles as part of the war effort.

To conserve tires and decrease the demand for rubber, a 35 mile per hour speed limit was mandated. Rubber scrap drives collected old tires by the millions; usable tires for automobiles had to be retread again and again until they were deemed unsafe. My father, Forrest tells that the tires on his car became so bad he would not allow my mother to drive. What he needed, were new tires. He had an acquaintance at a truck company who had an extra set which would fit the car. Forrest offered to buy them, but the man said he couldn't sell them without getting in trouble. Forrest told the man to tell him how much he wanted for them, and to set them in his garage. He said "I'll steal them and leave you a check on your desk." That is how he got his new tires.

Tires were not the only commodity rationed, Rubber heels and soles on shoes, rubber boots, and rubber raincoats were controlled and reuired special certificates to permit purchase. These restrictions lead to the development of plastics.


The last automobiles for civilian use rolled off the assembly lines in February, 1942. Factories were converted to war production plants. Citizens wanting a new cars needed a certificate of elegibility obtained from the regional OPA board. To qualify for a new car, the person must lack other suitable transportation, and their present vehicle must not be suitable. New car dealers were reluctant to sell cars to someone unless they had a car to trade, as the dealer could command a substantial profit.

The following were eligible to acquire new autos without a certificate. Army, Navy, Marine and other military personnel, people who were exporting the vehicle to a foreign country.

Other limited and/or rationed commodities

A wide variety of items were in short supply. Consumers were met with signs telling them to "Use it up/Wear it out/Make it do/Or do without." Among the items difficult to come by were bicycles (with gas rationing, bikes became a popular form of transportation), typewriters, lawn mowers, boxed candy, beer mugs, glass eyes (two-thirds of which were imported from Germany), alarm clocks, whiskey and typewriters (the factories were suited to use for making parts for rifles, pistols and machine gun parts essential to the war).

Fashion trends followed the needed patriotic sacrifice. Men wore "Victory suites", with narrow lapels, short jackets and no vests or cuffs. Women's skirts ended an inch above the knee--by OPA decree. Bathing suits were two-piece and ladies used leg made up.

Shoes were rationed as the armed forces used 56 million pair in 1944. Each GI wore out 2 1/2 pairs of shoes each year.

Cattle tail hair and winter hog hair were price controlled, as the curly hair was used in mattresses.

Paraffin was used in coating cartridges and as a waterproofing agent for explosives, and therefore in short supply.


Many items were salvaged for recycle. Nylon and silk stockings were turned into large barrels placed in stores, school, offices and factories. The silk was reprocessed for parachutes and nylon was used for tow ropes.

Scrap metal, car fenders, old pipes, oil barrels etc were recycled into planes, tanks, ships and guns. Children surrendered their old metal toy cars and trucks out of patriotic duty. One slogan seen on banners was "Slap the Jap right off the map by salvaging scrap!" Tin cans were also melted down.

Another commodity recycled was fat. A wartime bulletin read

"It is necessary to find substitutes...fat makes glycerin. And glycerin makes explosives for us and our Allies--explosives to down Axis planes, stop their tanks, and sink their ships. We need millions of pounds of glycerin and you housewives can help supply it."

Women were urged to save all their cooking fat, bacon fat, meat drippings, fry fats, etc and take them to their butcher. Some butcher shops offered two red ration-points per every pound of used fat.

The End of Rationing

Late in 1944, important classes of food returned to the rationing list, including many processed vegetables (December 27, 1944) and most meats. (December 31, 1942). A large volume of ration currency was invalidated on December 26, 1944. All red and blue stamps valid before December and all sugar except #34 and home canning. Some stamps were cancelled in October 1944 when a survey showed the average ration book holder had 2 1/2 months supply of both red and blue stamps, and two months of sugar stamps. If all of the valid old stamps were cashed in, it would produce a run on products. So items were deregulated in a slow fashion.

Rationing was once again tightened in 1945. On February 1, 1945, sugar expiration dates were reinstated.

Final cancellation of rationing stamps began when lard was removed on April 1944. All rationing restrictions on the sale of processed foods, gas fuel oil, and oil stoves ended August 15, 1945. Controls on firewood, and coal in the Pacific Northwest ended on September 1, 1945, followed by men's rubber boots and rubber soled work shoes on September 5, 1945.

New car restrictions were lifter on July 18, 1945, but it was necessary to liquidate the 1942 inventor before the 1945 models went out.

VJ day became the last day of rationing for processed foods. Dairy products followed in October, shoes on October 31, and meat, fat and oil on November 25, tires on December 31.

Sugar, the first item to be rationed was also the last to be lifted. Congress enacted "The sugar control Extension act of 1947", ending sugar rationing on October 31, 1947.


-- Will Therebe (, February 06, 1999


This is February 1999, how long would it take for the government to plan and implement such a massive program such as a "ration stamp," program? We truly will then become a socialist state. Depend on Uncle Sam for everything. Aren't people in Russia standing in line for the same things we soon will be?

-- thinkahead (, February 06, 1999.

thinkahead the above is about rationing that went on in the US during WWII....guess that made it a socialist state at that time.

-- Us Was (, February 06, 1999.

I was disgusting. When gasoline rationing began I lived with my uncle, and he was allotted an "A" card which permitted three gallons per week. The nearest retail activity was eight miles away. I them moved to Washington D.C. where everone worked for the government, and had a "C" card, which was generally unlimited. And this was in an area had generally excellent public transportation, particularly to government employment centers. Food rationing was even worse, and the whole thing became a status game.

Look for more of the same.

-- dave (, February 06, 1999.

And so it goes, your tax money going to fill the bellies of those that will do you in. Do I smell Boston Tea Party Revolution?

-- thinkahead (, February 06, 1999.

My husband is 70. I picked his brain about the WWII this am. He would have been about 15. (I still have my ration books...but I was only one or two years old.!)

He said it was imposed overnight. Very little forewarning. His parents were surprised and disbelieving at first. Everyone had to the grammer school for his neighborhood, to get the booklets. If you were an illegal alien you could not get booklets. A legal alien was OK. Vegetables and fruits were not rationed, as he remembers, but this is California, where they are plentiful.

Gasoline was rationed, but more to discourage driving and save on the tires. The farmers got more gasoline, to run the farms. He does not remember any real deprivation during this period. It was all patriotic, with big posters around town, exhorting the people to do this and that.....plant a victory garden. The society was very cohesive, as the bombing of Pearl Harbor had had a galvanizing effect on people.

He had salvaged 4 model T's from the junk yard by then....and at two gallons per car per week (they were licensed....only one ran well, and he put kerosene in with the gas...painted it purple with yellow polka dots) he could run all over town....but if you were coming close to had to be careful that the draft agent didn't see you lollygagging about....your number would be up!

All the eligble men, and I think a little later the women's corps started, volunteered at the beginning....the draft didn't start until later, I think. He signed into the National Guard at about 15....but they found him out and he had to wait . Can you imagine....having to WAIT to go to war????

Somehow.... I don't think it is going to get that bad...and on the other hand, I'm not sure if we are as managable a people as we were in those days, or as willing to sacrifice individual desires for the greater needs. And yet, I know this country has a backbone...somewhere.

Mary P.

-- Mary P. (, February 07, 1999.

Will, Very interesting. The absolute crime in the current situation is that the world is awash in commodities of all kinds right now. If politicians had the courage, they would begin an inventory program now. It wouldn't solve the problem, but it would severely lessen any chance of a tragic catastrophe. How will history judge this generation where we have a surplus in the budget and a surplus of goods, yet a pathetic weakness of leadership might cause the nation to go cold and hungry within 12 short months. Unthinkable irony.

-- Puddintame (, February 07, 1999.

Will, It's funny, when I read the same thing that Glickman said - rationing came to mind. I also wondered about if they might do anything about the so called "needless and frivolous" hoarded goods that people might have.

I was wondering how the government and FEMA plan to deal with shortages and distribute food to people. I think it would be considerably harder now dealing with a much larger population and especially such heavily populated cities.

However, I guess they must be doing some thinking about it for him to make such a statement.

It was interesting to note that the amount of sugar that people had on hand had to be registered. There was some intrusion into peoples private lives there.

I agree with Puddintime I don't think people will be quite as civilised and cooperative now. Then there's all the extra fire power that must be in peoples homes to deal with. I wonder if fire-arms would be required to be handed in. I can imagine that all the firearms would pose the biggest problem of all. But we face a "catch 22" there - we've become a nation of victimization. Most of us have been conditioned to think that we NEED a gun to protect ourselves. Can you imagine that whilst rising towards a higher level of civilization we advocated that people should have the right to arm themselves for defensive purposes. Yet the majority of shootings that either produce a dead or wounded victim are never the result of someone defending themselves. I think the premise of individual citizens being armed for their own protection is somewhat of a fallacy. There it is though you have to consider the nutcases out there with their weapons and arm yourself likewise - what a crazy situation it is. Doesn't seem much like civilization does it? WWII is also similar to this situation as well because a lot of Americans were aware of the problem but also felt sure that the problem in Europe couldn't possibly reach their own shores. They couldn't see the bigger picture then and can't see the bigger picture now.

-- An (, February 07, 1999.

Fascinating to read the details of rationing. Not to be macabre, but the swiftness with which it was imposed reminds me of the "re- locations" in Warsaw. A large population can be controlled if there appears to be no alternative. Since the government works so well with corporations, it would only take an agreement at the commodity source to create a flow conditioned on rationing.

That said, rationing's not necessarily bad. The images of rioting and looting fade in the face of an Orwellian peace. Whatever gets you through the night... I just hope they don't come and get my sugar -- it was only $9 for a 25 pound bag at Albertson's this week. I sure don't want to try to replace it next year!!!!

-- D. Good (, February 08, 1999.


You are missing one thing, I believe. People nowadays feel the need to arm themselves to defend themselves because there is a need in many cases. Our society has lost all moral direction, and crime is rampant. It's not the weapons that cause the violence, but the people who have lost their way.

Look at Switzerland. Most people would say that they are quite civilized, yet they are armed to the teeth. Low crime rate. I don't believe it's all the guns, it's the different morality. Guns help sometimes, but they don't make you bad or good. Look at Australia. They are now confiscating KNIVES and other non-gun weapons. Do you think that they will become more civilized or will they become more enslaved/oppressed?

People being armed for their own protection is not a fallacy. Obviously you've never been assaulted, or perhaps you might think differently. Reminds me of the saying (I'm paraphrasing): "A conservative gun-toter is a liberal who has just been mugged/assaulted"

-- Bill (, February 08, 1999.

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