Dec. 7, 1941 – “A date that will live in infamy,” President Franklin Roosevelt – The day Japanese planes attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory. The bombing killed more than 2,300 Americans.
When the United States joined World War II after the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, the global trade of raw materials was in a state of uncertainty and disruption. Basic commodities such as rubber and cloth immediately became precious and valuable to the war effort.
Scrap drives were organized across the country, encouraging citizens to contribute their rubber to make jeep tires, their clothing to make cleaning rags, their nylon and silk stockings to make parachutes, and their leftover cooking fat to make explosives.
One of the most vital materials to collect was scrap metal. A single medium tank required 18 tons of it, and a single Navy ship hundreds more.
Scrap metal drives became competitive, almost frenzied affairs, as communities vied to out-contribute each other. Housewives threw in their aluminum pots and pans, farmers sacrificed their old tractors, and cities and towns ripped up wrought iron fences, trolley tracks and historic Civil War cannons.