NARA Coast to Coast: WWII Homefront and Chicago Radio

Today’s post is written by Katie Dishman, of the National Archives at Chicago.

September 2 is not necessarily a day which will live in infamy; nevertheless it is significant in world history marking the formal end of World War II in 1945 when Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender on the USS Missouri.

While the military fought overseas, Americans at home were doing their part with a little push from the government.  The Office of Price Administration (OPA) was a leader in providing important home front information.

While New York and Los Angeles were the main locations for radio programming, Chicago, too, was a big player in the radio market not only with NBC at the Merchandise Mart but also with many local radio stations available for war messaging.  The OPA used WJJD for “OPA Reports to the People” on Wednesdays and WIND for “The Home Front in Action!” on Thursdays, both 15‑minute programs.

Amongst Record Group 188, the Office of Price Administration, in the Records of Region VI (Chicago), there are dozens of scripts for these and similar programs which ran from 1942 through 1947 on several stations including WCFL, WSCB, and WAAF.  The scripts impart a variety of messages about inflation and the importance of controlling it; gasoline, fuel oil, and tires; the ration stamp system and counterfeit stamps; and the black market, among other issues.

Not only are these scripts worthwhile documents to learn about the home front during World War II, but they include news about other events of the day.  For instance, on WGN’s show airing August 14, 1945, which turned out to be V‑J Day, there was no mention of Japan’s initial surrender since the script had been prepared in advance.  Instead it talked about helping veterans adjust to life back home and making them aware of what happened while they were gone since some issues might affect them, like rent control.

“The Home Front in Action!” program that aired just two days later talked about how history has “struck the jackpot” with news of the “mighty atom in the world‑shaking atomic bomb” and how the Russians and Allied troops fought the “land of the rising sun.”  This news was a lead‑in to the actual message about the importance of price controls to suppress a potential depression.

Home front programs were an essential part of keeping Americans informed, and no better place than radio helped spread the word of what needed to be done.  The radio scripts from the OPA are proof of that.

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