Post WWII rationing

When did food and gasoline rationing end in the U.S. after WWII?

Food shortages continued after the war, so some rationing persisted until 1946 or 1947 depending on the food item and where you were located.

I’m not sure when gasoline rationing ended, but it was sometime in 1945 I think.

There never really was a gasoline shortage in the U.S. during WWII. Gasoline was rationed to reduce driving in order to save on the rubber which would have been needed to produce more tires.

Why were there food shortages during the war?

Things like chocolate were reserved for sending to troops. When my dad was a little kid during the war he remembered that a train derailed near his hometown spilling, among other things, several boxcars of chocolate bars. Since everything was written off by the army and/or govt., it was free for the taking and hordes of people from several counties descended on the site of the accident.

I have a newspaper clipping of my Grandmother who had a son in the war going ballistic on a guy complaining about not having sugar with his morning grapefruit.
:slight_smile:

Farms in Europe were often abandoned or were very undermanned, partly due to people fleeing combat areas and partly due to field workers going into military service. The U.S. sent food and supplies to help its allies, and also had to send over food to feed its own armies, since they couldn’t obtain enough food locally to feed themselves.

Gasoline and rubber were also rationed as these both had direct military uses. This reduced the amount of stuff that was shipped by rail and truck from one place to another, producing shortages in areas that tended to rely on food production from elsewhere.

Farmers also had to ration the gasoline used in their tractors, and many farm workers in the U.S. also went off to war, or went off to factories to make weapons and ammunition and such for the war effort.

After the war, we still had to feed all of our troops that were still overseas for peacekeeping, and our allies still needed food as many of their farms had been destroyed or abandoned, so a lot of food was still being sent to Europe. After the war, European farms started to recover, and our troops were sent home. Gasoline and rubber restrictions were lifted, allowing truck and rail shipping in the U.S. to resume unrestricted. Farm workers left their factory jobs and returned to the farms. It took a while for everything to get back to normal though, so food shortages persisted for a while in many areas.

I understand that gasoline rationing was in place to conserve rubber supplies-there was plenty of gasoline (the USA was an oil exporter until 1947. Rubber was scarce because the Maylaysian production was unavailable (due to Japan seizing it in 1941). But synthetic rubber was developed in 1943, so tires should not have been a problem after 1945.

Louis Jordan’s "You Can’t Get That No More". :wink:

Most rationing ended in 1946. The last rationing to end in the United States was sugar which ended in June 1947.

In the United Kingdom rationing went on longer and didn’t officially end until July 1954.

One of my grandfather’s had a small farm, near Detroit. During the war, he had problems with his neighbor’s stealing gas, he had a overhead tank, and a allotment due to his farm production. He locked up his tanks, and finally ran the neighbor off with a shotgun. Most tractors back then were gas. This started a neighborhood feud that lasted 20 years. My grandfather also got into trouble for having too many pigs - not reporting all his livestock to the government. He suspected the neighbor ratted him out. The charges were dropped because the war ended.

I suspect most American rationing of WW2 was more an anti-inflationary measure than a true shortage of goods. Wars are traditionally a time of high inflation, due to increased income chasing a shrinking civilian sector. Yet from 1943 to 1945 the U.S. inflation rate didn’t top 3% a year. Rationing curtails the spending ability of the consumer sector, which kept civilian supply-demand to reasonable levels.

http://smile.amazon.com/Taste-War-World-Battle-Food/dp/0143123017/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440047234&sr=8-1&keywords=the+taste+of+war

The Taste of War, Lizzie Collingham.

Very in-depth work on rationing and shortages, world-wide. The US really had it pretty easy, probably easier than any other country. I remember my grandfather training for his subsequent assignment to a B-29 crew, and he was in Texas. He was used to walking into Hondo on weekends for steaks that were always “bigger than the plate they were served on.” When he came back in the summer of '45, he tried to order steak in San Francisco, and was always greeted with “Do you know where you are? There’s a war on.”

Depending on where you were, Texas cattle country, (the local economy did as it pleased and cut those steers up under the table), or the west coast and you had to suffer through such commodities being imported to your region and documented and regulated. Versa vice, you probably couldn’t get an orange in Texas, while you’d have them coming out your ears in California.

Not everything that happened 1941 and 1945 in the US made sense. That’s the first thing you have to keep in mind when looking at stateside activities and issues.

The scrap drives were essentially failures.

Victory Gardens probably made little difference, over and above people who already grew their own veggies etc.

Gas rationing was about saving tires first, helping save gas second, and was a civil control/propaganda effort almost as much as the first two.

Food rationing was probably unnecessary but may have helped keep the rations shipments flowing a little more smoothly.

All in all, life stateside could have gone on as normal - better than normal, since employment was extremely high for the first time in a decade - and most of the wartime “deprivations” were either voluntary, unnecessary or as much from “social choice” as any real need. (The boys were suffering, so by gum we’re going to suffer too…)
The very best book I know about the loopiness of US policy and life during the war is David Brinkley’s Washington at War. A rather casual memoir, but the absurdities leap off every page and will probably completely rewrite your notions of wartime life, rationing, etc.

Thre’s a clever and funny film by Michael Palin, “A Private Function” (1984) about the snobby upper crust in a small English town secretly raising an “unlicensed” pig to roast for their local feast to celebrate the royal wedding. Any livestock had to be registered, licensed, and tracked to prevent just such a black market in meat.

At least one source, the National WWII Museum (and if you find yourself in New Orleans, I recommend you visit), claims otherwise:

victory gardens

I have a booklet published by the government during the war that urges women to can their victory garden produce for use in the winter months. I’d have to dig it out to get the exact info but IIRC the government diverted some war manufacturing efforts to produce pressure canners. The booklet urged women to get together with their neighbors and buy a canner for communal use.

I truly love this booklet, given to me by a dear friend who is an avid antiquer. It gives the quantities to can to feed your family for the year, and the totals are mind-boggling. I doubt very many had storage space for that amount of food.

As someone who has grown most of the vegetables used by a household for a year without devoting an excess of effort I question the assumption that victory gardens made little difference. Not everyone had the space or ability for such a garden but for those that did it could significantly impact what they bought and ate.

My father also recalls keeps chickens and rabbits during the Depression and the war, which were also a useful supplement. It didn’t substitute for professional agriculture, and I’m sure there were failed gardens and some ridiculous things that happened, but I’d like to see a solid cite on the victory gardens.

Not over and above those who already grew their vegetables, which was a significant number. Those not inclined, experienced or with room to grow a garden didn’t accomplish all that much more than those who were already doing it.

Hmmm… really? Because I’ve seen claims that in the later years of the war the population was growing about 40% of the vegetables eaten in the country. That’s far from insignificant.

Also - it’s not beyond reason that some people who were gardening already expanded their effort, then traded/bartered for other things or services with people who didn’t have either the room or inclination to do their own growing.

The intention was never to make the population self-sufficient, the idea was to supplement local supplies, and to act as a buffer against possible supply shortages.

My grandfather went from having a few chickens to over a 1000. And raising bull calves, ( he was a small dairy guy ) plus he added pigs. Sweetcorn and tomatoes and beans were also produced in larger volume. His official production was dairy, but he actually made a lot more money on beef, pork, and veggies, all of which were off the books. My other grandfather got into chickens, over a 1000, plus strawberries, sweetcorn and veggies. Btw, this was all hard manual labor. Before the war, you couldn’t make any money at it. By 1950, there were no chickens, and the last pigs were in 1960. The last strawberries were in 65. One other thing, shipping produce was restricted, so local suppliers had a chance to compete.