With the recent remembrance services to honour those that served their respective countries and made the ultimate sacrifice we also remember the service men and women who returned home but we seem to sometimes overlook the part played by civilians in wartime. There has always been the necessity to support the armed forces engaged in major conflicts and these forces would never have been able to function correctly without the effort to supply, resupply and maintain the arms, vehicles, planes and ships required to continue any campaign. With “Total War” the whole country becomes engaged with “Doing their bit”!
Because of this involvement, should “Innocent” civilians employed in war production become legitimate targets? Difficult question and somewhat controversial I know but the bombing of factories engaged in war material production was prosecuted relentlessly during World War 2 on all sides. These civilians also served their country, so let us not forget the Grandparents, Fathers, Mothers, Aunties and Uncles who were employed in the manufacture of the necessary equipment required to support the armed forces.
The United States was seen as the “Arsenal of Democracy”, a phrase used by President Franklin D Roosevelt as he rallied support in favour of supply of armaments to those countries fighting against the tyranny of National Socialism in Europe but after Pearl Harbor the US turned its industrial might to that of War production not only for lend lease but arms and equipment to supply its own armed forces. We tend to lose sight of the monumental effort not only by civilians but the industries themselves that changed production from everyday household items to weapons. IBM producers of tabulating equipment and more recently computer systems manufacturing the M1 Carbine. Car manufacturers in Detroit building armoured vehicles such as the Sherman Tank, over 49,000 by 1946. 12700 Boeing B17 Flying Fortress aircraft being produced at various plants throughout the country. Ford making B24 Consolidated Liberators at the Willow Run complex near Michigan. Liberty ships made specifically for transporting goods across the Atlantic under the control of the Merchant Navy, a civilian service.
All this work from both civilian men and women should not be forgotten on both sides of the Atlantic, because without this monumental effort the allies would never have been able to gain the final victory in Europe and the Far East.
The Merchant Marine issued a number of service medals after WW2 and since then there have been established meritorious and service medals for civilians while serving alongside the Navy, Airforce and Army.
Lest we forget….