What Can I Do
What Everybody Can Do — Everywhere

War changes the pattern of our lives. It cannot change our way of life, unless we are beaten. The kids still play baseball in the corner lot — but they knock off early to weed the victory garden, cart scrap paper to the salvage center, carry home the groceries that used to be delivered. The factory whistle blows — but it calls 3 shifts of workers instead of one. The daily paper still has comics, but it’s the front page that carries the answer to the urgent question “how are we doing”. All over America there’s a new tempo, a new purpose, a new spirit.

Hard work isn’t hard — it’s a badge of courage. That “old clothes look” doesn’t matter. It’s smart to be mended. “Sorry m’am, we can’t get any more of those.” Good! That means materials are going where they belong — into war weapons.

Only one thing worries us.
“I’m too old to fight!”
“I’m too young too fight!”
“I’m busy all day cooking and cleaning and mending.”

“How can I get into this war?” “What can I do?”

This chapter tells, under 8 general headings, what everybody—everywhere—can do to help win the war. It tells how each of us can become a small fighting unit on the biggest front of all — the home front. It is written for people who have the will to fight but who have little or no spare time to give to committees, meetings, training courses, community war work.

This chapter is for you, Mrs. Jones: You rarely see the bottom of your mending basket.

It is for you, Mr. Clayburg: you work so hard that you hardly ever, get around to fixing leaky faucets.

But this is your war—and your part in it is clear. You don’t need spare time. You need imagination to see the connection between tasks which to you may seem small and unimportant and winning the war.

You need understanding, resourcefulness, self-discipline, determination, and love of America.

Here’s what you can do:

(1) Protecting Ourselves

One thing that all of us can and should do is to prepare our homes against possible enemy air raids. This is important not only for our own protection but for the safety of the whole area in which we live: Not every town is an important target, but every lighted community may be a beacon that guides enemy planes to their targets.

The purpose of enemy raids, is, of course, to destroy factories, shipyards, oil tanks, and railroads; to terrorize the citizens, disrupt communications, and interfere with the war effort of entire communities. The enemy, in short, wants to stop us from making weapons and from sending them to our men at the; front. He wants frightened people to block our highways so as to slow up military movements. He wants to catch us so unprepared that his bombs will create panic and terror and start an outcry to bring our armed forces home.

We have studied the enemy’s plans. We know that we can defeat them by training the civilian army on the home front to be as skilled and disciplined, in its way, as the professional army in the field.

The experience of European cities teaches that where the civilian protection services are well organized and where people can be relied on for obedience and teamwork, enemy air raids tails in their purpose. Even the worst raids in Britain failed to cause panic among the people or to interfere seriously with war production and shipping.

Our own situation is, or course, different from Britain’s. No town in England is more than an hour’s flying time from an enemy base. But in this country the danger of enemy bombs varies, in general, with the distance from the seacoast. Our “target areas” are much more exposed to enemy raids than the rest of the country, and should be better protected. But it is very important that every community should find out how much air-raid protection its location makes necessary.

Each of us must know our part in the community plan and do what is necessary with the greatest economy of money and materials. It may mean preparing our homes or places of business for possible blackouts, taking special precautions against fires, or simply knowing where our own warden post is located. The local Defense Council, the State Defense Council, and the regional office of Civilian Defense are ready to advise each community, but the job is up to the citizens themselves. Once our civilian protection is in full swing and everybody knows what to do in an emergency, the community can give its whole energy to the all-important business of mobilizing for war.

(2) Civilian Mobilization

What can we as civilians, contribute to this mobilization?

1. We can contribute the manpower and womanpower that is pouring into war factories.

2. We can guard the health and welfare of our families and communities so that they can be efficient units in the war effort.

3. We can be better citizens and take a more active interest in local government and so help to make American democracy our greatest strength and inspiration.

4. We can tighten our belts and change our daily habits along each of the lines suggested in this chapter.

In the chapters that follow you will find civilian mobilization described in terms of specific people and the jobs they can — and indeed must — do, if this war is to be won. There is a job for everyone who has spare time to give, and every job included in this article is a war job.

(3) Conservation

Conservation is a war weapon in the hands of every man, woman, and child. And here are two simple rules for using your weapon:

1. Get along with less. — Every time you decide not to buy something, you help to win the war. Be tough with yourself in making each decision. Luxuries are out, and lots of things we used to think of as necessities begin to look like luxuries as we get more and more war-minded.

2. Take good care of the things you have. Most of the comforts and conveniences you now enjoy will have to last you for the duration. It's only common sense to make them last as long as possible. But there is no need to become frantic about your possessions, — or to attach too much importance, to them. That kind of thinking leads to a wild scramble for possessions and then to hoarding. In wartime, hoarders are on the same level as spies; both help the enemy.

War production goes faster when home life runs smoothly, and so it is a good idea to keep our homes and personal possessions in good order and repair. Do it now — don’t wait until your things are past repairing. The more shipshape and tidy we keep our homes and personal possessions the less we will feel the need to buy new things.

Most people understand the why of conservation, but they want to know how — how to get on without, how to use less so as to contribute to the war supply, how to save, substitute, and salvage. Here are some of the ‘hows.’’

Consider, for example, a material so scarce that civilians will not get any more of it for the duration — rubber. Rubber is high up on the list of things we must contribute to the war.

We have been slow in changing our driving habits. Toll bridge receipts were higher in January 1942 than in January 1941. It is bad news for Americans — as bad as losing a battle.

We are beginning to do much better. Pleasure riding is out for the duration. As of today, we must pool our cars for necessary use, for driving to work, to school, to the shops. We must share necessary rides with our friends and neighbors so that no car goes on the road with even one empty seat. The empty seat is a gift to Hitler.

All other rubber things should be kept in good repair, such as galoshes, raincoats, hot-water bags. When they can’t be mended any more or converted to other use, don’t throw them away.

This new simple life means fewer household gadgets, because the skills and materials that made them are needed for War. Such things as refrigerators, cooking ranges, heaters, electric irons, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, toasters, sewing machines, radios, flashlights, carpentry and garden tools are precious. You won’t be getting any new ones until after the war. Usually the household repair jobs are done by Dad or by the local carpenter, plumber, and electrician. Now, all of us should be brushing up on the hundred and one home skills. (If you have a little spare time see about classes in repair at the local school or elsewhere. Ask your local Defense Council about this).

In Britain and Germany clothes are strictly rationed. In the conquered countries people shivered last winter; the Nazis simply ripped the clothes off their backs, the blankets off their beds.

Put clothing high up on your conservation list. We need more materials — we have less. Wool used to come from Australia, silk from Japan. We have an army to clothe — less wool with which to do it.

Your clothing needs should be carefully planned so that you don’t make mistakes in buying. Rotating clothes makes them last longer. “Turning” suits and coats is an old-fashioned device that is coming back into use.

Fuels of all kinds are desperately needed to run the war factories. It’s easy to save electricity — — just turn off the lights, the radio, the iron, the heater, when you are not using them. Gas and oil burners can be cleaned and adjusted for economical use. Adjusting your carburetor saves gasoline ; cleaning your oil filter saves oil. Conservation is a weapon with a thousand blades. Use them all!

(4) Salvage

Salvage means saving things that you cannot use any more and sending them back to the smelters and the mills to be remade. Salvaged material is a vital source of war materials. To date the Government has asked for papers, rags, scrap metals, including collapsible tin tubes, fats, and scrap rubber.

Salvage committees have been established as a part of the local Defense Council in most of the cities of the country to encourage salvage programs. Many of these committees issue special local instructions. Find out what is wanted in your community.

You can either sell salvaged materials to your local junk dealer or give them to a charity, school or service organization. Either way the material will get back to war factories, which is the important thing.

Collecting from every home is a difficult problem. You can help, particularly if your collection is small, by taking it to a nearby junk dealer, or to a charity, church or school.

Make a thorough search of your closets, attic, cellar and garage. You will be surprised at the amount of useless metal, rubber, rags, and paper that can be salvaged. Have a special place to put each kind of salvaged material. The children can help.

(5) Your War Budget

The family budget must be put on a war basis. There is no quicker way of getting into the fight than by changing your habits of spending and saving.

Don’t sit back and wait to be taxed. Taxes alone will not pay for the war. Taxes, in fact, cover less than half of what it costs to fight — and win — a war these days. Here are two ways in which every one can and must help foot the bill:

1. Save your money and invest regularly each pay day in war bonds and stamps. Right now a war bond is your weapon for beating Hitler, as well as your security for the future.

2. Save to pay your taxes. The policy of pay-as-you go is sound in war items—as always — and this means higher taxes.

Don’t let tax-day find you unprepared. Put aside part of each pay check toward your income tax. The Treasury has offered Tax Anticipation Notes to help you save, and pays you a small rate of interest for the use of your money. You can buy Notes at any time and use them to pay your income tax.

When you have done these things you have taken a big step toward converting your way of life to war. Once you have mastered the art of saving, give your attention to the art of spending. This problem is not new but it has new angles in wartime. To a great extent you can solve the problem of good sense, good taste. You can also receive help from the Consumer Committee of your local Defense Council in your community who are eager to give you sound advice about wise spending.

(6) Health

War means longer, harder work. It means also greater strain and weariness. In wartime health is more than ever a national asset — illness a liability. Illness slows down production, lowers efficiency. It uses up the time and skill of doctors and nurses who are urgently needed for war service. It consumes valuable drugs and medical materials. Good health actually creates medical services and materials for the fighting fronts. The epidemic of “flu” which followed the first World War killed 500,000 Americans — 10 times more than the Germans killed. We cannot afford epidemics this time. We cannot afford accidents either. To maintain health of body and mind, work at the job you have with all your heart and all your skill. Improve and extend your skills so you may fill other jobs in an emergency. Fit into your schedule enough time for recreation, preferably out of doors, and regular sleep.

Check up on your health and on your family’s health regularly. This preventive medicine means: going to the dentist or dental clinic twice a year at least, going to the doctor or clinic for a general physical examination at least once a year.

If you have some spare time you should take the standard Red Cross course in first aid (20 hours), followed by the advanced course (10 hours) There should be:

One person in every home with training in first aid.

One worker out of every 20 in factories and business with training in first aid.

If you have an aptitude for teaching, you can make yourself even more useful by going on and taking the Instructors’ Course. Instructors are badly needed.

Keep a minimum supply of first aid materials in your medicine chest — but only what you ordinarily use. Don’t stock up. The Army’s need is greater than yours.

The Red Cross is building up a vast reserve of blood plasma at the request of the Army and Navy. Civilians are urgently requested to contribute to this vitally needed supply. Giving your blood does not involve any pain or danger. It may help to save the lives of soldiers, sailors, and air-raid victims. Consult your local Red Cross about making your contribution. If there is no Red Cross blood donor center in your community, you can volunteer now at your local hospital to give your blood in case of air raids or other emergencies.

(7) Information

Truth is a powerful weapon in time of war, but so, also, is the lie. The enemy is trying to divide us and conquer us by means of a carefully planned campaign of lies. We can beat him at his own game by a carefully planned campaign of truth. Each of us can be a soldier in that campaign.

It is not possible to know the whole truth in wartime. Some information has to be withheld because it would' help the enemy. Information which has to be withheld because it would help the enemy. Information which has to be withheld is of two kinds:

1. Military facts about our armed forces and what they are doing.

2. Production facts about the number and kinds of weapons we are making.

Most other information about our war effort is yours for the asking. For it is the principle of democracy that the people shall know the truth, and the truth shall make them free.

Learning the truth is a complicated job. It means reading the newspapers carefully from day to day, studying the news articles, testing the editorial opinions against your own experience and common sense.

It means listening to news broadcasts, talks, and discussions, and checking the facts opinions you hear against your experience. It means making full use of your local public library for history books and magazines which give you the background of the news. It means studying the geography of this world-wide war.

It means sizing up the enemy. He is responsible for turning this world into a madhouse, for driving innocent people from their homes, for shooting them in rows against a stone wall, for hanging them from trees by the roadside.

He has turned his own people into slaves, and he will enslave us if he gets a chance. It is hard for Americans to believe this, but it is a fact. Is it possible that a man can be shot for speaking his mind, turning on the radio, reading a book? The Frenchmen did not believe it. His liberty is just as dear to him as ours is to us. He once fought a great revolution for liberty, equality, and fraternity. Today, he is a slave. We and our children will also be slaves — unless the Nazis and Japs are beaten and beaten decisively. Anyone who tells you that we can live decently in a Nazi world is giving you Nazi propaganda.

The enemy has built up the most powerful military machine ever seen — to destroy us. But we are going to destroy him — and that means his methods and his plans.

Learning the truth means keeping a healthy skepticism always about stories you read or hear that lead us to doubt or distrust each other, our Government and the things we are fighting for.

Your Government is not a cold impersonal institution. It is made up of people very much like you, who are trying, like you, to do a job. They have troubles like; they make mistakes like you. But their devotion and good faith is as great as yours. Like you, they have only one purpose—to help win the war. Your Government has made a careful study of all the Axis broadcasts to the U. S., Canada, Latin America, and to Britain. From these studies we know the Axis ‘line.’ We know that stories that make us distrust one another are deliberately and cleverly planted by the enemy through short-wave broadcasts, and through their agents in the country. They rely upon innocent and gullible people to repeat these stories and spread the poison like “Typhoid Mary.” It is an important part of your war job to recognize this poison, to show it up for what it is, and to keep it from spreading. Don't be an unwitting Nazi agent Spreading the truth actively and systematically is the second part of your war information job. At your dinner table, on your front porch, in the barber shop, the beauty shop, in your grocery store, at your place of work, at your club, don't be ashamed to speak up for the truth. Don’t be afraid to nail a lie. Don’t be ashamed to speak up for democracy, for religious freedom, for racial equality, for all the things which have made America great and respected. These things need your support for they are in great danger.

(8) V-Homes

Millions of Americans are fighting this war in their homes every day in the week, every week in the year. They are doing millions of hard jobs, dull chores, making millions of small sacrifices. They are saving and salvaging, conserving and converting. They are foregoing small pleasures, putting up with inconveniences and annoyances. They are doing these things freely and gladly because they understand the meaning of their fight for freedom : freedom for themselves, their children, and the America they love.

These steadfast and devoted people receive no medals, no citations. They do not ask for recognition, but they deserve it, not only in justice to them, but as an incentive to go on working for victory. The road is long and hard, and all of us need cheer and encouragement.

The V-Home award is a badge of honor for those families which have made themselves into a fighting unit on the home front. If you and your family have earned such an award, you are entitled to put the V-Home certificate in your window. You will receive the award from your local Defense Council. If you and your family have not yet enlisted on the home front you can join today — the greatest civilian army in American history.

The V-Home certificate means something: it has to be earned.

This is what it says:

This is a V-Home!

We in this home are fighting. We know this war will be easy to lose and hard to win. We mean to win it. Therefore we solemnly pledge all our energies and all our resources to the fight for freedom and against fascism. We serve notice to all that we are personally carrying the fight to the enemy, in these ways:

1. This home follows the instructions of its air-raid warden, in order to protect itself against attack by air.

2. This home conserves food, clothing, transportation, and health, in order to hasten an unceasing flow of war materials to our men at the front.

3. This home salvages essential materials, in order that they may be converted to immediate uses.

4. This home refuses to spread rumors designed to divide our Nation.

5. This home buys War Savings Stamps and Bonds regularly.

We are doing these things because we know we must to Win This War.

The Civilian Services: What They Are

Every man and woman who has spare time to give to community work can enlist in either of the two civilian services. These services are:

1. The Citizens Defense Corps which is in charge of the work of civilian protection against enemy air raids. This is a volunteer organization, open to all (except enemy aliens) who are fitted physically and by experience, and ready to undergo the necessary training and carry out the duties faithfully.

After finishing the required courses of training, and taking an oath to defend the Constitution, you will be enrolled and receive a certificate of membership and the right to wear the official insignia. You can be suspended or dropped from membership by the local Defense Council, if you have been improperly appointed or trained, or if you do not do your job satisfactorily.

You may do a useful Defense Corps job either in the district where you live, or in the place where you work. Not all protection jobs are needed in every community.

2. The Citizens Service Corps. — The members of the Citizens Service Corps are the qualified volunteers who do all the other community war jobs such as conservation, salvage, sale of war bonds and stamps, operation of home-registration bureaus, transportation surveys, and welfare work in the communities.

To become a member of the Citizens Service Corps you must qualify in one of three ways: you must have satisfactorily completed certain prescribed training courses, approved by the Defense Council; or served an apprenticeship approved by the Civilian Defense Volunteer Office; or completed 50 hours of work, for which no specific apprenticeship or training is required, in activities approved by your Local Defense Council, through its volunteer office. You can be working for any agency in your community, so long as that work is recognized by your Defense Council as meeting the required standards.

After you have satisfied the qualifications, you must take an oath to defend the Constitution and perform all the required du ties:

When you are enrolled you will receive a certificate of membership and the right to wear a special insigne. Your membership may be ended or suspended by the Defense Council, if you do not perform your duties efficiently.

Membership in the Citizens Service Corps is a recognition that you are doing satisfactory and worth-while war work. The jobs described in the following chapters may enable you to qualify for membership, if they are approved by your Defense Council.

Persons who desire to serve in either the Citizens Defense Corps or the Citizens Service Corps should apply to the Civilian Defense Volunteer Office of their local Defense Council. If your community does not have a central volunteer office for the recruitment of civilian war volunteers, you can help to see that one is established.


Factory Workers

You can do an important war job by saving rubber in going to and from your work, by pooling cars with your coworker, so that your car is not used every day. You can give a hand to the new workers coming into your community by:

1. Helping them to find places to live. Ask the housing committee of your Defense Council or local housing authority about this. Take in roomers if you have a spare room in a war-crowded community.

2. Seeing that the recreation facilities of your factory and union are known and used as fully as possible. (Factory bulletin boards, information desks are useful).

You can buy stamps or war bonds regularly by joining the voluntary pay-roll savings plan in your factory. New workers should be told how they can join this plan in the factory.

If you have a talent for public speaking, you can volunteer to speak at union meetings, forums, discussions, war rallies, etc. See to it that war workers are represented at community gatherings. What speaking you do on subjects connected with the war should be tied in with the programs and speaker’s activities of your local Defense Council.

It is important for 1 factory worker out of 20 to know first aid.

Gardeners, Nurserymen.

Like painters you may be needed for specialized camouflage work. Ask your local Defense Council also about training courses for “victory gardens” where you can teach or demonstrate in your spare time and thus prevent wasteful gardening.

Carpenters, Plumbers, Electricians

Ask your local Defense Council about training courses in simple home repairs where you could; teach and demonstrate in your spare time. In many communities women and young people are eager to learn the home repair jobs, as more and more skilled workers are drawn into war factories. Your skills may be of use in the Citizens Defense Corps. Enroll if you are needed.


Your knowledge of construction and first aid will be helpful in the demolition and rescue work of civilian protection.


You may be called on to help camouflage war factories, oil tanks, and other enemy targets. This is highly technical work, and should not be engaged in without direction.

Machinists, Mechanics

Skilled workers are so important in this war that when they try to enlist, the Army and Navy often say, “Go back to your machine. You’re a soldier already—in the battle of production. At the moment we need you there more than in the field.” Civilian defense needs you too — in your spare time. Find out from your local Defense Council if there are any training classes in your community where you can either teach or demonstrate your skill in your spare time. In some communities Government agencies, schools, factories and unions are organizing such classes to offset the shortage of skilled workers.

What Men and Women in Business Can Do

If you own a business or are employed by a business firm, your spare time can be valuable to the war effort in many ways. This chapter is designed to help business people find volunteer jobs for which their experience fits them.

Employers have a three-fold responsibility in time of war:

1. To protect their premises, in accordance with the local-civilian defense regulations. (Consult your Defense Council about these regulations, and be sure that you are linked up with the local control center if this is necessary.)

2. To organize their employees for calm and efficient action in case of air raids.

3. To plan for the best possible protection of customers so as to avoid confusion, panic and possible stampede when an air-raid siren sounds.

Instead of waiting for instructions, find out from your local Defense Council what protection measures are necessary and put them into effect with the minimum expenditure of money and materials.


You can carry messages for air raid wardens, control and message centers, hospitals and first-aid posts, fire stations, police precincts.

What Boys and Girls Can Do

Boys and girls like everybody else, will have to sort them selves out and find the places where they can be most useful on the home front. You will find work at home, at school, in your Scout troop, 4-H Club, through your church or some other community organization. Your parents and teachers ought to be consulted about ideas which you think up by yourself.

Here are some things you and your friends can do right away: If your home is in a target area, you should learn what to do in case of an air raid.

You should keep yourself strong by eating the right kind of food, getting enough sleep, and exercising in the open air.

You should save money regularly and buy war stamps.

You should be careful not to waste anything, take care of your clothes, toys, books, bicycle, all the things you use at home or in school, so that they will last as long as possible. You won’t be getting many new things in wartime.

Being Useful at Home

Let’s think what it means to be helpful at home.

You can volunteer as your mother’s special delivery boy or girl between home and the neighborhood grocery, drug store, cleaning establishment, or shoe repair shop. This will save rubber needed for planes and tanks.

You can take care of younger brothers and sisters and do the home jobs that will free your parents for war jobs.

You can learn to use tools, to repair and make things which are needed in your home. There won't be many repairmen available in wartime. You can learn to sew and mend, to cook and plan meals. Your parents will be busier with community tasks from now on.

You can be sure that all waste paper, scrap metal, old rags, old rubber, and greases in your home are being collected and hauled away to the proper agency or junk dealer.

Being Useful in School

The shop work and domestic science you learn in school will make you more useful at home.

Many of the things you study in school will help you to understand the war — history, geography, and the other social studies, current eveents, and science. You can form discussion clubs or forums in your high school. You can make posters on war subjects. Perhaps you can speak in assemblies on subjects of wartime importance.

When you serve as school traffic policemen, you are releasing adults for war work.

If you are 12 or older, or have finished the sixth grade, you can take the Junior Red Cross course in first-aid. Agencies like the Junior Red Cross give high-school boys and girls a chance to make splints, dressings, stretchers, and other first aid supplies for emergency centers and hospitals. Some are making and repairing furniture, games, and puzzles for camps and recreation centers. Some are making clothing for welfare centers and arm bands for civilian-defense councils.

The Government has asked school boys to make 500,000 model airplanes for use in teaching airplane spotters and aviation cadets. Perhaps you can help in this program.

If you are in high school, you can learn skills like mechanical drawing, machine-work, wood work, electrical work. We shall need more skilled workmen in war plants.

If you are sixteen or over, you can register with the Volunteer Office of your local Defense Council. If you are under sixteen, your community war work will have to be supervised by your school or club (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Camp fire Girls, Boys’ Clubs, 4-H Clubs, Future Farmers, etc.). First of all talk to your teacher or club leaders and find out what they think needs to be done and how you can best do it. Your teachers or leaders can recommend you for membership in the Citizens Service Corps when you have had the right training and done the required work.

One of the most useful things you can do for your community is to help salvage the war materials we have been talking about in previous chapters. You can also collect books, magazines and phonograph records for camps and recreation centers.

Your local Defense Council may need you to distribute government literature or war posters.

In connection with your school or club, you may be able to work in a victory garden, helping to supply food for your town. If you are over fourteen, ask your teacher about the possibility of working on a farm in the summer time.

If you have taken a course in typewriting, you may be able to help your local Defense Council in clerical work.

Some boys and girls have helped to make maps of their neighborhoods, showing water mains, fire plugs, etc. Other jobs in the protective services are open to you if you are old enough.

If you are in high school, you may be able to help as a club leader for younger children or as a junior supervisor on playgrounds. Many adult leaders and supervisors are in the Army or in war industries now. Your help may be needed in a day nursery for small children whose mothers work in war factories.

If there are new families moving into your town to work in your local factories, you can do an important job by looking out for the new boys and girls. Just imagine yourself a stranger in a new town and a new school, without any good friends. Give these boys and girls the same kind of a chance to join the fun that you would like to have if you were in their place. Take them into your club, your crowd, show the around, make them feel that they belong. Make them your friends. Their mothers and fathers are helping to win the war, too.