Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Committed to Victory: The Kentucky Home Front during World War II

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Committed to Victory: The Kentucky Home Front during World War II

Article excerpt

Committed to Victory: The Kentucky Home Front during World War II. By Richard E. Holl. Topics in Kentucky History. (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2015. Pp. [viii], 396. $45.00, ISBN 978-0-8131-6563-9.)

In his new book, Richard E. Holl offers a comprehensive narrative history of the Kentucky home front during World War II. Organized thematically with chapters focusing on industry, labor, agriculture, politics, race, and culture, the book places the Kentucky story into a broader national context. As a result of the war, Kentuckians, like all Americans, saw their relationship with the federal government fundamentally altered. The armed forces conscripted male residents, defense plants employed scores of men and women, and the Office of Price Administration set prices for retailers and imposed on consumers a ration system for foods and other products vital to the war effort but in short supply. Residents of the Bluegrass State, like Americans elsewhere, volunteered to serve civil defense units, purchased defense bonds, established victory gardens, and participated in scrap drives. At the same time, a significant number of Kentuckians bristled at federal intrusions into daily life. Holl documents the rise of the black market that illegally flouted rationing restrictions, retailers who illegally raised prices, and coal miners who launched one of the few major strikes to take place during the war.

Was World War II a "good war" for Kentucky? Agriculturally, farmers thrived as commodity prices soared, but they struggled to find laborers, especially at harvest time. Industrially, Kentucky lagged behind most other southern states in the share of defense contracts awarded to local businesses. Moreover, most of the defense dollars coming into the state were spent in Louisville and a handful of other communities. Although most state residents enjoyed a modicum of prosperity, the tremendous outmigration from poorer regions indicates how unevenly the gains of the war were distributed. Although some barriers of discrimination in employment fell, opportunities were still circumscribed for black and female workers. …

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