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Support For The Troops And Their Families

From the left to right: Mickey Gibbs' #24 Air Force Pontiac, Greg Sacks' #18 Navy Chevrolet, Alan Kulwicki's #7 Army Ford, Buddy Baker's #88 Marines Pontiac, and Dave Marcis' #71 Coast Guard Chevrolet
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Drivers showed their true colors in support of American troops in the Gulf War. For The Daytona 500 in 1991, five NASCAR Winston Cup drivers donned a different paint scheme for each of the five arms of the military. From the left to right: Greg Biffle, National Guard; Bobby Hamilton Jr., Marines; Casey Atwood, Navy; Joe Nemechek, Army; Justin Labonte, Coast Guard; and Ricky Rudd, Air Force.
click image to enlarge
For the first time in its history, NASCAR features team sponsors from every branch of the military. The six drivers posed with their cars and representatives of their respective sponsors on the frontstretch at Daytona during Speedweeks 2004.

The "home front" is a phrase used first during World War I to describe the foundation of food, arms, and other munitions produced behind the lines, necessary for military units to exist and continue to fight. Such fundamental support was also required during mercenary expeditions in earlier periods, though it was less widespread. In the twentieth century, the home front was the democratic form of organizing military manpower and supplies.

The importance of civilian manufacturing and support for the troops and their families in a nation's capacity to fight a war first became apparent during the twenty five years of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars when the United Kingdom was able to finance, and to a lesser extent arm and supply the various coalitions which opposed France. Although Britain had a much smaller population than France, its global maritime trade and its early industrialisation meant that its economy was much larger than that of France, which allowed Britain to offset the French manpower advantage.

An informal term commonly used to describe the civilian populace of the nation at war. In a modern industrial nation, the fighting "teeth" of combat soldiers, depends to a considerable degree on the "tail" of civilian support services - extending all the way to the factories that build the materiel. Civilian populations were traditionally uninvolved in combat, except when the fighting happened to reach their dwelling places.

During the American Civil War, the capacity of Northern factories proved as decisive in winning the war as the skills of the generals of either side. Starting in the American Civil War, military leaders recognized the advantages of denying combatants supplies from home and of directly attacking and destroying civilian centers of production. This led to a second meaning of the term home front. It came to mean not only the material base of warfare, but also the locus of enemies who did not wear uniforms yet had to be smashed nonetheless. On September 8, 1870, the American Civil War general Philip Sheridan told the future German chancellor Otto von Bismarck that the "proper strategy" in wartime consists in the first place in inflicting as telling blows as possible upon the enemy's army, and then causing the inhabitants so much suffering that they must long for peace, and force their Government to demand it. The people must be left nothing but their eyes to weep with over the war.

Blackwell, Oklahoma

At precisely 12 noon, the shrill fire siren sent a piercing blast. Every car in town slowed to a halt. Hairdressers put down their combs, and silence replaced laughter. Waitresses at the local cafe stopped taking orders. Tellers at the bank closed their cash drawers. Housewives turned off their vacuum cleaners and bowed their heads. The din in the school lunchroom quited. Gas station arrendants stopped pumping gas.

Each day precisely at noon, every resident of Blackwell stopped for one minute to pray. They had done it every day since the first of their young men had shipped out to fight in the Korean War, and they would do it daily until every last one of them returned home.

Folks in Blackwell took care of their own.

During World War I the British Shell Crisis of 1915 and the appointment of Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions was a recognition that the whole economy would have to be geared for war if the Allies were to prevail on the Western Front. From the beginning of World War I to the end of World War II, the home front came to define the entire population of combatant nations. There were four reasons for this change in the rules of military engagement, expanding exponentially the list of potential targets in wartime. The first is the scale of military activities, which dwarfed previous conflicts in terms of their magnitude and geographic spread. Roughly seventy million men served in uniform in the 1914-1918 conflict. Second, this was the first major war between industrialized powers, whose capacity to inject vast stores of arms and matériel into the conflict helped sustain it for fifteen hundred days. Third, from the invasion of Serbia, Belgium, and Prussia in 1914 by Austrian, German, and Russian troops, the war was characterized as a conflict of cultures and their values; each was deemed civilized by one side and barbaric by the other. The war was therefore not only a collision of national interests and aspirations, but also a clash of ways of life and beliefs.

These precedents of total war against the home front were evident in the form of military conflict in the interwar years and in World War II. The conflict of 1939-1945 followed World War I in each of the four elements listed above: It was the biggest, most heavily industrial war in history. It was perceived as the confrontation of incompatible "civilizations," and its ideological commitments were extended as far as the Nazi death camps, where six million Jews were killed. The fact that many of them could have aided the Nazi war effort is beside the point; the home front was newly defined as those social formations dedicated to the support of the army, which was now seen as merely the cutting edge of the nation at war. Front and home front became blurred in an irreversible way.

It was not until World War II that the term "home front" actually entered the English language. It derives from a speech by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in which he stated that the efforts of civilians at home to support the war through personal sacrifice were as critical to winning the war as the efforts of the soldiers themselves, and that the civilian populace constituted an additional front at home.

One of the main reasons for the ultimate success of the Allied nations in World War II was that they successfully mobilized the civilian industries and the population, especially the women, in order to turn out weapons and goods necessary for waging war. The Germans did not fully mobilize their home front until 1943. The British, however, had already accomplished this by 1939, thereby increasing the output of weapons-especially heavy bombers-vastly. During the Nazi invasion of Russia, Russian soldiers and civilians moved their industries out of reach of the advancing Germans (sometimes disassembling and reassembling entire factories) and began turning out vast numbers of weapons.

The United States also multiplied its production of munitions after it entered World War II, heavily utilizing mass production techniques that were at the time prevalent within the automobile industry. The Ford plant at Willow Run would turn out a B-24 Liberator bomber every hour, making it the most produced American aircraft of the war.

The major change in warfare since 1945 has been the progressive eclipse of wars between nations by wars between insurgent groups and constituted authorities, or between armed factions within a state unable or unwilling to stop the conflict. Insurgency was not invented in 1945; But since 1945, and partly in response to the existence of nuclear weapons, most armed conflicts have not been conducted between states who have declared war against each other and signed a peace treaty when the will to fight of one side was broken; rather, in the second half of the twentieth century, warfare has remained ill defined. In colonial war, it was frequently described as police activity against criminals or terrorists (terms used interchangeably), to deny opponents the dignity of combatant status or the protection of the Geneva Conventions about the treatment of prisoners of war. The concept of a home front realized the terrible promise implicit in Philip Sheridan's charge to Bismarck: since 1950, the people around whom wars of insurgency and counterinsurgency swirl are almost always left with nothing but their eyes to weep with. In dozens of cases, their eyes, and their lives, are forfeit as well.

Mailing letters to the men and women serving in the armed forces has been an American tradition for years. Such correspondence provided a link between what was taking place on the front lines and events happening back at the homefront. For family members, this form of communication helped combat feelings of loneliness and provided some much-needed reassurance. For soldiers, letters from home were critical in boosting morale.

During the Civil War, the Civilian Postal Service delivered mail. A postmaster was assigned to each regiment and there was a post office on the battlefield for troops. When the Spanish American War began, with soldiers fighting outside the U.S., the Civilian Postal Service followed them. It wasn't until WWI that the Army Post Offices were developed. These were still operated by the Civilian Postal Service, but with assistance from the troops themselves. By the end of WWI there were 169 Army Post Offices located in France.

In 1940, during WWII, Congress established the Army Postal Service. This helped organize the different responsibilities between the military and the postal service. The amount of mail going back and forth between soldiers and family during WWII was overwhelming. These letters took up a lot of space. The military and postal service needed a way to reduce the bulk of mail without reducing the amount of letters. The answer was V-mail.

V-mail, with its "V" standing for victory, were pre-printed sheets that were photographed and transferred to microfilm. These films were then flown across the world and reproduced at the mail center closest to where the soldier was stationed. It was first used in England when British troops were in the Middle East. The U.S. Post Office Department adopted this and began using it in 1942. The main advantage of V-mail was how compact it was. By reducing the space needed for letters, more space was made available for war materials. With V-mail, a single mail sack could now hold 150,000 one-page letters instead of the 37 mail bags needed for the same amount of traditional letters.

The special V-mail letter sheets were actually a combination of letter and envelope. The sender would write out his/her message in the space provided and then fold it into the shape of an envelope. It even contained a "gummed area" for sealing. These forms were always free of charge for servicemen, but while free at first for those in the U.S., they later had to be purchased. Letters were mailed out, reduced and placed on microfilm. These films would then be sent to receiving stations where individual letters were printed out and delivered to the awaiting addressee. It was e-mail in its infancy!

During the Korean War, mail delivery became very difficult. Factors that hampered distribution included inadequate ground transportation, rugged terrain and bad weather. Letters making it in and out of Korea took on an even greater meaning. Communication was hard for both soldiers and family.

Men and women fighting in the Vietnam War relied on the mail to help build up morale. Care packages became a high priority for soldiers during this war. Familiar and often humorous items sent from home helped lift spirits and pass the time.

During the height of Desert Storm, an estimated 81 tons of mail were delivered per day to deployed troops. The Any Service Member Mail Program was established at this time. This program was developed for civilians to send unspecified members of the U.S. armed forces letters and care packages. This program was significant in building morale to the soldiers over in the Gulf region. "A Solider's best friend, next to his rifle, is the postman." - Lt. Gen. Walt Boomer

Cyn LoPinto Editor-in-chief, gerontologist. Letters from home - the true ammunition. Home Front Magazine.


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