Abstract

During World War II, the United States needed to raise a sufficient military force while at the same time maintaining a sizeable farm labor force to meet increased wartime production goals. At a time when the word farmer was emphatically gendered male, and many farming communities resisted employing inexperienced outside labor, the nation’s agricultural sector focused on keeping as many young men as possible on the farm. The strategies the nation employed to secure both military personnel and agricultural producers played on a set of common themes regarding American masculinity. Visual images designed to persuade young men to stay on the farm echoed the iconography intended to recruit men into the military. Wartime propaganda portrayed both the ideal serviceman and the ideal farmer as white, muscular, and ready to use his powerful body to fight the war on the battlefield as well as in the farm field.

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Notes

1. James MacGregor Burns,
Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom
(
New York
:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
,
1970
),
34
35
. For an overview of women’s recruitment into war industry employment, see Doris Weatherford,
American Women and World War II
(
Edison, NJ
:
Castle Books
,
2008
),
116
27
. For a discussion of farmers’ preference for experienced farm labor during wartime, see Katherine Jellison,
Entitled to Power: Farm Women and Technology, 1913–1963
(
Chapel Hill
:
University of North Carolina Press
,
1993
),
132
37
.
2. Howard R. Tolley,
The Farmer Citizen at War
(
New York
:
The Macmillan Company
,
1943
),
32–33
,
214
.
3.
Selective Training and Service Act of 1940
, Public Law 76-783, 54, Stat. 885, Chpt. 720, enacted Sept. 16,
1940
. Wickard quotation from Meredith C. Wilson,
How and to What Extent is the Extension Service Reaching Low-Income Farm Families
(
Washington, DC
:
Government Printing Office
,
1941
),
18
.
4. Christina S. Jarvis,
The Male Body at War: American Masculinity during World War II
(
DeKalb
:
Northern Illinois University Press
,
2010
),
60
.
5. Draft policies in place once the United States actively entered the war made men eighteen to forty-five subject to possible military service. In reality, however, the military drew the majority of its personnel from the male population aged eighteen to thirty-four. The average age of a US serviceman in World War II was twenty-six. Information on Nebraska draft boards is from “Farming in the 1940s,”
Wessels Living History Farm
, http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe40s/crops_01.html (Accessed Sept. 6,
2016
); Rita Oberholzer, conversation with Katherine Jellison, The Plains, Ohio, Sept. 22, 2016.
6. For a discussion of the Disney film, see David Lesjak,
Service with Character: The Disney Studios and World War II
(
New York
:
Theme Park Press
,
2014
),
68
69
.
7. Although contemporary viewers would undoubtedly categorize it as a propaganda film, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences classified It’s Everybody’s War as a documentary and granted it an Oscar nomination for the best documentary of 1942. For discussion of Henry Fonda’s portrayal of Tom Joad and of his wartime naval career, see Devin McKinney,
The Man Who Saw a Ghost: The Life and Work of Henry Fonda
(
New York
:
St. Martin’s Press
,
2012
),
86–92
,
108
120
.
8. Jarvis,
The Male Body at War
,
4
5
,
10
13
,
39
44
,
54
55
,
57
60
. For discussion of Clark Gable’s war career, see Warren G. Harris,
Clark Gable: A Biography
(
New York
:
Three Rivers Press
,
2002
),
241
44
,
259
75
. The hyper-masculinized presentation of male bodies in World War II government publicity was not entirely unprecedented. For instance, although some New Deal visual propaganda portrayed depression-era men as underfed and ill-clothed victims in need of government assistance, publicity that focused on men already successfully enrolled in government programs frequently presented a more virile picture of American manhood. This was particularly true for materials promoting the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). See Jarvis,
The Male Body at War
,
20
25
; and Colin R. Johnson,
Just Queer Folks: Gender and Sexuality in Rural America
(
Philadelphia
:
Temple University Press
,
2013
),
129
57
.
9.
Want Action? and Plant More Sugar Beets
, World War II Posters, RG 44, Records of the Office of Government Reports, National Archives, https://catalog.archives.gov/id/513498 (Accessed Nov. 17,
2017
).
10.
Get Your Farm in the Fight! and Farmers! Uncle Sam Asks You
, World War II Posters, RG 44, Records of the Office of Government Reports, National Archives, https://catalog.archives.gov/id/513498 (Accessed Nov. 17,
2017
). Although male figures were the ones that appeared most often in such publicity, female bodies also sometimes appeared in wartime images with their sleeves rolled up and muscles exposed, ready to defeat the Axis. Several visual representations of the fictional war plant worker Rosie the Riveter, including Norman Rockwell’s iconic 1943 Saturday Evening Post cover, portrayed her with biceps exposed. Rockwell, however, based his Rosie’s body on a male model—the burly figure of the Prophet Isaiah on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. See Karal Ann Marling,
Norman Rockwell
(
New York
:
Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
,
1997
),
101
.
11. Elmer C. Stauffer,
“In the Pennsylvania Dutch Country,”
National Geographic Magazine
, July 1941,
73
74
. In the wake of Stauffer’s praise of Lancaster County’s agricultural bounty, local clergyman Calvin G. Bachman and cultural geographer Walter M. Kollmorgen both published widely read studies in 1942 specifically touting the success of Lancaster County’s Amish farmers. In his study, published under the auspices of the US Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE), Kollmorgen even pronounced the county’s Amish enclave to be the most stable and successful rural community in the nation. See Calvin G. Bachman,
The Old Order Amish of Lancaster County
(
Norristown, PA
:
Pennsylvania German Society
,
1942
); Walter M. Kollmorgen,
Culture of a Contemporary Rural Community: The Old Order Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
, Rural Life Studies, Vol.
4
(
Washington, DC
:
Government Printing Office
,
1942
). For a thoughtful analysis of these and other works that have portrayed Lancaster County as America’s ideal agrarian location, see David Walbert,
Garden Spot: Lancaster County, the Old Order Amish, and the Selling of Rural America
(
New York
:
Oxford University Press
,
2002
).
12.
Farmer at War
(
1943
), RG 208, Records of the Office of War Information,
1926–1951
, National Archives; Ruth Zimmerman Hershey, interview by Katherine Jellison and Steven D. Reschly, Lititz, PA, Dec. 5, 2010. For further information about the Zimmerman family and the film, see Katherine Jellison and Steven D. Reschly,
“Picturing World War II on the ‘Garden Spot’ Home Front: Images and Memories of Mennonite Farm Families in Lancaster County,”
Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage
37
(Oct.
2014
):
114
18
.
13. Stryker is quoted in James Guimond,
American Photography and the American Dream
(
Chapel Hill
:
University of North Carolina Press
,
1991
),
138
. For discussion of Collins’s portrayal of the female body in her Lancaster County photos, see Katherine Jellison,
“Peculiar Poster Girls: Images of Pacifist Women in American World War II Propaganda,”
in
Gender and the Second World War: Lessons of War
, eds. Corrina Peniston-Bird and Emma Vickers (
London
:
Palgrave Macmillan
,
2017
),
171
84
.
14. Captions for photographs LC-USW3-011746-E and LC-USW3-011282-E, FSA/OWI Collection, Library of Congress, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/fsahtml/fahome.html (Accessed Dec. 14,
2017
).
15. Descriptions of Newswanger and the factory where he worked are from the captions for photographs LC-USW3-011777-D and LC-USE6-D-004655, FSA/OWI Collection. Wickard is quoted in Rachel Waltner Goossen,
Women Against the Good War: Conscientious Objection and Gender on the American Home Front, 1941–1947
(
Chapel Hill
:
University of North Carolina Press
,
1997
),
87
.
16. For further discussion of some of these alternative sources of labor, see Erasmo Gamboa,
Mexican Labor and World War II: Braceros in the Pacific Northwest, 1942–1947
(
Seattle
:
University of Washington Press
,
2000
); Duane Ernest Miller,
“Barbed-Wire Farm Laborers: Michigan’s Prisoners of War Experience during World War II,”
Michigan History
73
(Sept.
1989
):
12
17
; Stephanie A. Carpenter,
On the Farm Front: The Women’s Land Army in World War II
(
DeKalb
:
Northern Illinois University Press
,
2003
).
17. Grace Larew Young, interview by Katherine Jellison, North Liberty, Iowa, June 15, 1996.