United States Boy Scout Activities: World War II (1941-45)

Scout activities World War II
Figure 1.--These Georgia Cub Scouts are participating in a old tire campaign in 1942. Rubber was one of the mos scarce commodities during the War as the Japanese cut off supplies from southeast Asia. Most of these Cubs are wearing the knickers uniform.

Separated by the Atllantic Ocean from the Germans, World War II never touched America in the same way as the Europeans. Boy Scouts in America were never involved in the combatent activities like the Hitler Youth in Germany. American boys did actively participate in a variety of useful activities. Pamphlets and posters, radio broadcasts, newspapers, and cinematic productions were all used to help the U.S. government get across its message to American civilians during World War II that every person could and should contribute to the war effort. One important message was to conserve materials that were needed by the military. Scrap drives, buying war stamps and bonds, knitting afghans and sox for the soldiers, and planting victory gardens, were some of the activities for adults and children alike that were encouraged by the government. Schools and children's groups, like Boy and Girl Scouts and Camp Fire Girls, were some of the most effective venues for these home front activities. American Cubs and Scouts participated iun several of these orograms to support the homefront war effort. The primary activity was collecting newspaper and materials needed for the war effort like scrap material and old tires to support America's vast industrial production effort which played such a major role in winning World War II. We have just begun to collect information on Scouting activities to support the War effort. I believe the Scouts were all involved in War Bond drives and in planting Victory Gardens.

Civilian Defense

Scouts participated in various Civilian Defense programs.

Model Airplanes

One popular activity was to build model airplanes for aircraft recognition. These early model airplane kits were made from balsa wood. It was several years after the War ended before the first model airplane kits were available. The models were used by both Civul Defense and the military.

Farm Labor

A major problem which developed in America after Pearl Harbor was a labor shortage. This was in sharp contrast to the Depression era unemployment program. Drafting large number of young men combined with increasing industrial production all combined to very quickly create a labor shortage. The problem was especially scute in rural areas beczuse the expanding industrial activity offered well paying jobs. The problem was especially severe at the critical harvest times. This both schools and youth organizations were mobikized to help with the harvests. There were various programs developed to recruit farm labor. Many provided longer term commitments. The Boy Scouts were often, like school children, used for shorter periods, especially harvest time. This involved both Scouts living in small towns as well as city boys. This often involved bussing Scouts from the cities into the countryside to help with harvests. This was especially important for fruit and vegetable crops which required manual labor. We are not sure if abyone has ever quantified the farm labor effort by the Scouts, but it was important.


Scouts also distributed posters and war information.

Merit Badges

The Boy Scouts promoted merit badges and acrivities that had some applicability to the war effort, like First Aid.

National War Service Victory Certificate

There was a National War Service "Victory" Certificate. We do not yet know much about it, but it seems to be a certificate awarded to Scout groups that had made an important contribution to the War effort. We haven't been able to find much information about this award. We note Scouts at Fort Benning receiving one of these certificates in 1942.

Packages for Servicemen

Scouts collected books, musical instruments, and razors to send to the the troops overseas.

Relief Efforts

Scouts also collected clothing for Europeans once countries were liberated. Many civilians were destitute because of the exploitive German occupation polocies and the damage resulting from the Allied bombing and fighting once landings took plave in Italy and France.

Scrap Drives

The Federal Government soon after the Japanese at Pearl Harbor brought America into World War II began calling upon Americans to salvage a variety of raw materials for the war effort. There were several of these drives. Often they were brief, highly publicized "drives." Quite a few different matrials were targeted. The most important was rubber because the Japanese seizure of Malaya and the Dutch East Indies cut off the great bulk of the world's supply of natural rubber to the Allies. And there were olsd tires all over the country thast could be recycled to prodiuce tires abd other rubber products. There was also a trenendous need for aluminum as America rapidly expanded aitcraft contruction. There were other scrap drives, including newspaper and fat that the Scouts also participated with. Newspaper dreives in particular necesitated a lot of willing hands which the Scouts could provide. These drives of course were not only counducted by the Scouts, but the Scouts were an important part of the overall effort.

Supporting Fellow Scouts

There wasn't much Americam Scouts could do to help fellow Scouts in the occupied countries during the War. After the Warm however, the Scouts organized drived to help Scouts in the occupied countries reestablish their programs.

Victory Gardens

Volunteer Efforts

The War effort drew large number of people into the work force. This included large numbers of people that had not previously worked outside the home. This created labor shortages in many public institutions that had previously hired workers at low wage rates depended on the local needs. Scouts helped fll the labor shortages. Scouts were involved in a wide range of volunteer efforts. This was commonly done at the local rther than nationl level. We notice, for example, Boys working in hospitals.

War Bonds

Scouts began campaign selling Defense Bonds and Stamps in 1941.

War Service Stripe

Scouts who made a particularly notable effort during the War wee awarded the War Service Stripe.


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Created: 1:10 AM 8/3/2006
Last updated: 9:57 PM 5/29/2011