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Overview

During World War II, shortages of a variety of civilian goods became commonplace. To ensure fair distribution, and that vital materials would be conserved for military use, the Federal government implemented a rationing policy on a wide variety of products. Gasoline, rubber, bicycles, shoes, sugar, fruits and vegetables, fats and oils, cheese, coffee, butter, meats, fish, certain canned goods, and even dried peas and beans were among the many products rationed for all or part of the war.

Many other non-rationed items were in chronically short supply and virtually impossible to obtain. One historian has written that “[a]s the war drew on, nearly every item Americans ate, wore, used or lived in was rationed or otherwise regulated. It was the most concerted attack on wartime inflation and scarcity in the nation’s history and by and large it worked.”

To enforce the system, the Office of Price Administration issued ration books for gasoline and foodstuffs, which civilians had to present and turn over the required ration coupons before they were allowed to purchase the rationed item. To ensure cooperation, the Office of War Information (OWI) provided information to the public on the often confusing system.

Objectives

Students will:

  • Analyze primary source documents about rationing during World War II.
  • Critically examine the role of the civilian during World War II.
  • Write about rationing using primary sources.

Grade

4

Next Generation Sunshine State Standards

  • SS.4.A.1.1: Analyze primary and secondary resources to identify significant individuals and events throughout Florida history.
  • SS.4.A.7.3: Identify Florida’s role in World War II.

    Examples may include, but are not limited to, warfare near Florida’s shores and training bases in Florida (Miami, Tampa, Tallahassee, etc.), spying near the coast, Mosquito Fleet.

Florida Standards

  • LAFS.4.RI.1.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

Materials Needed

  1. Document Analysis Worksheet from the National Archives and Records Administration.
  2. Rationing documents from the State Archives of Florida.

Procedure

Part I: Introducing Content

  1. Teachers should review previously discussed material dealing with the homefront during World War II.
  2. Conduct an in-class discussion/survey of students’ prior knowledge of conditions on the homefront during World War II.
    • What is rationing?
    • What goods and activities did Americans have to sacrifice for the war effort?
  3. Explain to students that they will be reading a document related to rationing efforts in the United States during World War II.
  4. Give students brief background information on the document.
  5. Show students an example of ration stamps.

Part II: Document Analysis

  1. Students will analyze the first two pages of What Uncle Sam Asks of You using the Document Analysis Worksheet.
  2. The teacher can conduct an in-class discussion/survey.
    • What did you learn about the rationing program?
    • What goods were rationed.

Part III: Writing about Rationing and World War II

How did the rationing of goods effect the lives of adults and children during World War II? Site specific examples from the text. Use detail and examples when drawing inferences from the text.

Extension Activities

Students can further explore the impact of rationing on civilians through these primary source documents.