Glossary to What Did You Do in the War, Grandma?
This glossary defines terms frequently used in the What Did You Do in
the War, Grandma? interviews.
- Air Raid Shelter
- In anticipation of attack by aircraft, especially bombers, many cities built and
maintained air raid shelters. They regularly practiced air raid drills in which a
"false" alarm was sent off and people were evacuated to these special shelters for
- In World War II, the nations allied against the Axis forces, especially Great Britain,
the Soviet Union, and the US.
- The countries allied against the Allies in World War II, originally applied
to Nazi-Germany and Fascist Italy, later extended to include Japan, etc.
- Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, there were fears of bombing
attacks by Germany as well as the more realistic threat of German U-boats operating in
the Atlantic. Coastal "blackouts," and "dimouts" went into effect along a fifteen-mile strip on the
Eastern Seaboard. They required that the lights of all houses and neighborhoods along
the shores be put out at specified curfews.
- A bomb is generally a heavy container filled with an explosive substance, dropped
from a military aircraft to cause death or destruction by concussion. Special types of
bombs may be used to spread fire, gas, smoke, or disease germs, or to distribute
leaflets. World War II saw the growth of aerial bombardment as a very
effective tool of war. About 6,000 tons of bombs were dropped by the Allies on Europe
in 1942 and in 1945, the US Army Air Forces dropped a total of 445,000 tons of bombs
in only four months.
An illustration of some of the bombs
used by Allied forces.
An atomic bomb's effects differ from those of conventional bombs in three
- the amount of energy released (blast) is about a million
times that of the same weight of high-explosive bombs
- the atomic explosion is
accompanied by the immediate release of penetrating, harmful, and invisible radiation
- substances remaining in the area long after the explosion are radioactive
and harmful to living organisms.
On October 11, 1939, a letter written by Albert
Einstein was delivered to President Roosevelt. In it, Einstein discussed the implications of a
nuclear chain reaction and the powerful bombs that might be constructed. He said,"A
single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well
destroy the whole port, together with some of the surrounding territory." After
receiving this letter, Roosevelt began a secret military undertaking (the Manhattan Project) that would result
in the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb dropped on
Hiroshima in 1945 leveled 98 percent of
the city's buildings and killed 80,000 people immediately, seriously wounding another
100,000 (out of a total population of 344,000). The two atomic bombs dropped on Japan
during World War II had the total equivalent effect of approximately 40,000 tons of TNT.
- GI Bill
- In June, 1944 President Roosevelt signed the Servicemen's Readjustment Act,
otherwise known as the GI BIll. It provided funds for housing and education after
- During World War II, Hitler's "final solution," or extermination of the Jews,
took the lives of at least 6 million Jews; most of these died in
where they were separated from family members, tortured, beaten, and upon whom many
unspeakable and loathsome crimes were committed. The atrocities of the Holocaust also
included the notorious gas chambers and ovens. Millions of Slavs, Eastern Europeans,
gypsies, and homosexuals were similarly engulfed by the Holocaust. (For more: The
Diary of Anne Frank gives a young Jewish girl's account of her life during World
- Internment Camps
- In 1942, President Roosevelt approved the plan to remove approximately 110,000
Japanese-Americans living on the Pacific Coast of the U.S. from their homes -- nearly two-thirds of
them American citizens -- and
send them to internment camps in Colorado, Utah, Arkansas, and other interior states.
Japanese-Americans were given numbers to identify their families and the conditions
that they lived in were often very poor. (For more: Mine Okubo's novel Citizen 13660 gives a vividly illustrated account of her life in two relocation centers.)
- Mein Kampf
- the German National Socialist "bible," dictated by Hitler while he was imprisoned in Bavaria in 1923. Hitler argued that the German people, racially superior, were threatened by liberalism, Marxism, humanism, and Bolshevism, which were directed from behind the scenes by Jews.
- Rationing began in the US in 1942 in order to preserve resources, such as gas and
food, for the war. Americans were given ration tickets to control the amount of
gasoline, meat, sugar, butter, even shoes they bought. Many of those women interviewed
remember seeing horse meat sold in some markets due to the
shortage of other meat.
- Rosie the Riveter
- Created by Norman Rockwell in 1943, the character "Rosie" was a sandwich-munching,
brawny, yet innocent-looking
woman in coveralls, cradling her rivet gun in her lap, goggles pushed up onto her
forehead. Rockwell's "Rosie" is an admiring tribute to the more than 6 million women
who entered the job force during the war, many of them taking up positions in what
was considered "man's work," including the defense industries. However, the image was
destined to last only as long as the war.
One illustration of "Rosie."
- Though both Black and White soldiers fought and died for the U.S. during World War
II, Blacks were still segregated from the Whites. In the
South, water fountains, eating establishments, and
transportation were separated. Even after Black soldiers came back from the war, they
were discriminated against by the very country for whom they risked their lives.
It would be twenty years later that the Civil Rights Movement would slowly
begin to address such discrimination.
- Victory Gardens
- Victory Gardens were cultivated soon after rationing was put into effect. They were
small gardens of vegetables which provided some food in place of those items which were
rationed by the government. In addition to their practical aspects, victory gardens
also cultivated morale by showing civilian support for the
war effort. A Victory Garden advertisement from the Providence
- V-E Day
- Victory over Europe Day, the day on which the surrender of Germany was announced (May 7th, 1945), officially ending the European phase of World War II.
- V-J Day
- Victory over Japan Day, the day on which the fighting with Japan officially ended
in (August 15, 1945) or the day surrender was formally signed (September 2, 1945).
Table of Contents