Visit the Classroom Victory Garden Project website to learn about food production during WWII, find lesson plans and activities for elementary students, get tips for starting your own garden and try out simple Victory Garden recipes!
Visit our new interactive website to learn about wartime technical and scientific advances that forever changed our world.
Turn your students into history detectives as they ponder over the origins and uses of these intriguing pieces of WWII history.
The National WWII Museum asks…
How Can Your Community Achieve Victory?
Pride and Unprejudiced
Third Place: Jacqueline Thornton, 11th grade, Granite Hills High School,
El Cajon, CA
At the age of seventeen, the only thing I can proclaim to know with complete confidence is that there is still much for me to learn. As a young woman, I am now formulating for myself the basic definitions of the world, sculpting the way in which I perceive society. Each day, the convictions which I held to be true on the previous eve, are revised. By using the tools of education and experience, I have begun to build a tentative construct of my own truth, my own interpretation of the world. I volunteer the disclaimer that my answer to your question may be tweaked a month from now, may perhaps be drastically altered five years from now because my idea of life is constantly transforming.
I have only seventeen years worth of experience with which to understand and define the concepts of “community” and “victory,” but I am hardly ill-equipped. In my ninth grade biology class, the term “community” was defined as: “an assemblage of populations which interact with and affect one another.” Based upon this definition, it seems narrow-minded to classify a single neighborhood or school as an entire community, simply because locality is influenced by society on a national level. Although it defies the common idea of “community,” I think our country can be described as such because it is a collection of populations which overlap and intertwine to create a “melting pot” of cultures.
Currently, the issue which holds the attention of our national community is the upcoming presidential election. Political viewpoints and opinions aside, I am thrilled to see that running alongside the customary white male candidates are an African American man and a Caucasian woman. This staggering occurrence is a monumental step forward, in and of itself. However, not everyone is as delighted as I am. To my surprise, I have witnessed attacks directed at these two individuals based solely on the fact that one is black and the other is female. The first time I overheard such a remark I was utterly horrified. I continue to be as I realize, more and more, the palpable part discrimination still plays within our society. I am reminded of Voltaire, who once wrote, “Prejudices are what fools use for reason.” It seems wholly outrageous to me to discount someone’s words and thoughts because of his or her appearance. Grand and motivational ideas are not exclusive to one race or one gender and should not be evaluated through filters of superficiality.
African Americans and women have contributed remarkably to our society. Indeed, we are a better nation and people because of their presence and involvement. In the global crisis that was World War II, the roles of these groups were astronomical in the war effort, at home and overseas.
At the time, the plague of racism within the United States was causing a degree of inner turmoil. Lynching was not as frequent as it once had been, but it was hardly unheard of. Hate crimes and racial slurs were socially acceptable and openly practiced. African Americans were denied their basic rights as citizens and consistently degraded and neglected. In spite of all of this, when the need arrived, roughly 2.5 million black citizens volunteered for military service. Ironically, they set off to combat discrimination overseas while experiencing it at home. Three-fourths of African American soldiers joined the army, but under the conditions of racism. Even while putting their lives on the line, black soldiers were placed in segregated units and separated from their white counterparts. Nonetheless, African Americans remained willing and proved their worth undeniably. The 92nd Division and the 761st Tank Battalion both received outstanding decorations and awards, as well as presidential praise. Similarly, the aerial battlefield was not without black participants. The Tuskegee Airmen, the first squadron of African American fighter pilots, shot down numerous German aircrafts and left a substantial mark on the aerial arena.
The case of women is just as astounding. Even though they existed within a cage of social restrictions and were by no means equal citizens, women readily met the challenges of World War II. Roughly ten million men had shipped off to battle. The gargantuan demands placed on American industry constituted an enormous need for workers. The only solution was to tap into the last available resource: women. Millions of females, across the country, reacted eagerly and applied for industrial employment, to build planes, tanks, and other essentials. At the height of the war in 1944, nearly nineteen million women were wielding tools, sporting trousers and aptly performing the work of men. This shift in female employment broke every social norm and limitation. Suddenly, women could do the jobs of their husbands and brothers, and were proving to be just as valuable.
The calamity of World War II necessitated aid from every American, even those who had never been truly regarded as worthy or important. Once in my sophomore history class I read the words, “How can we defend freedom overseas by abandoning it at home?” While existing under the blanket of discrimination, the mistreated minorities of our nation volunteered their lives and careers to help the country, yet sixty years later, they are sometimes still regarded with a degree of prejudice.
Our national community will have achieved victory when a person’s character and value can be judged exclusively on his or her morals and actions, regardless of skin tone and gender. Although change is still necessary, our country has evolved tremendously since the days of World War II. Today, men and woman of all colors fight courageously side by side, regarding one another as brothers and sisters in arms. Now, in the 21st century, Americans of countless cultures are joined together in a unified front, and while the current political situation demonstrates the need for further transformation, we are on the path to success. There is no doubt that our community will one day achieve complete victory.