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World War II: The American Home Front in Color

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In 1942, soon after the United States entered World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order creating the Office of War Information (OWI). The new agency was tasked with releasing war news, promoting patriotic activities, and providing news outlets with audio, film, and photos of the government's war efforts. Between 1939 and 1944, the OWI and the Farm Security Administration made thousands of photographs, approximately 1,600 of them in color. In the early war years, OWI photographers Alfred Palmer and Howard Hollem produced some exceptional Kodachrome transparencies depicting military preparedness, factory operations, and women in the work force. While most of the scenes were posed, the subjects were the real thing -- soldiers and workers preparing for a long fight. Gathered here are some of these color images from Palmer and Hollem, complete with original captions from 1942. Also be sure to see these archival movies in our new Video Channel. All of the FSA/OWI photos are available from the Library of Congress. (This entry is Part 8 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II) [45 photos]

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This girl in a glass house is putting finishing touches on the bombardier nose section of a B-17F navy bomber in Long Beach, California, She's one of many capable women workers in the Douglas Aircraft Company plant. Better known as the "Flying Fortress," the B-17F is a later model of the B-17 which distinguished itself in action in the South Pacific, over Germany and elsewhere. It is a long range, high altitude heavy bomber, with a crew of seven to nine men, and with armament sufficient to defend itself on daylight missions. Photo taken in October, 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)
This girl in a glass house is putting finishing touches on the bombardier nose section of a B-17F navy bomber in Long Beach, California, She's one of many capable women workers in the Douglas Aircraft Company plant. Better known as the "Flying Fortress," the B-17F is a later model of the B-17 which distinguished itself in action in the South Pacific, over Germany and elsewhere. It is a long range, high altitude heavy bomber, with a crew of seven to nine men, and with armament sufficient to defend itself on daylight missions. Photo taken in October, 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)
# P-51 "Mustang" fighter in flight, Inglewood, California, The Mustang, built by North American Aviation, Incorporated, is the only American-built fighter used by the Royal Air Force of Great Britain. Photo taken in October, 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Marine lieutenant, glider pilot in training, ready for take-off, at Page Field, Parris Island, South Carolina, in May, 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Women are trained as engine mechanics in thorough Douglas training methods, at the Douglas Aircraft Company in Long Beach, California, in October of 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
An American pineapple, of the kind the Axis finds hard to digest, is ready to leave the hand of an infantryman in training at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Large pipe elbows for the Army are formed at Tube Turns, Inc., by heating lengths of pipe with gas flames and forcing them around a die, in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1941. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
A sailor at the Naval Air Base wears the new type protective clothing and gas mask designed for use in chemical warfare, in Corpus Christi, Texas, in August of 1942. (Howard Hollem/OWI/LOC) #
Answering the nation's need for womanpower, Mrs. Virginia Davis made arrangement for the care of her two children during the day and joined her husband at work in the Naval Air Base in Corpus Christi, Texas. Both are employed under Civil Service in the Assembly and repair department. Mrs. Davis' training will enable her to take the place of her husband should he be called by the armed service. Photo taken in August, 1942. (Howard Hollem/OWI/LOC) #
Formerly an aircraft dock, this huge building -- thought to be the largest in the world with no interior supports -- is now the scene of many busy shops turning out aircraft sub-assembly parts, at the Goodyear Aircraft Corp., in Akron, Ohio. Either new housing close to the plant or vastly improved public transportation will eventually have to be supplied, for the tires on the cars of the workers, and perhaps even the cars themselves, will in many instances give in before the end of the present emergency. Photo taken in December, 1941. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Marine Corps glider in flight out of Parris Island, South Carolina, in May of 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
A Marine parachuting at Parris Island, South Carolina, in May of 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
A parade of M-4 (General Sherman) and M-3 (General Grant) tanks in training maneuvers, at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. Note the lower design of the M-4, the larger gun in the turret and the two hatches in front of the turret. Photographed in June of 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Tank commander, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, June 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Tank driver, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, June 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
M-3 tanks, at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, photographed in June of 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Tank crew standing in front of M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, June, 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
With a woman's determination, Lorena Craig takes over a man-size job in Corpus Christi, Texas. Before she came to work at the Naval air base she was a department store girl. Now she is a cowler under civil service. Photographed in August of 1942. (Howard Hollem/OWI/LOC) #
A view of the B-25 final assembly line at North American Aviation's Inglewood, California, plant. Photo published in 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Part of the cowling for one of the motors for a B-25 bomber is assembled in the engine department of North American Aviation's Inglewood, California, plant, in October of 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Cowling and control rods are added to motors for North American B-25 bombers as they move down the assembly line at North American Aviation, in Inglewood, California, in October of 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
An experimental scale model of the B-25 plane is prepared for wind tunnel tests in the plant of the North American Aviation, Inc., Inglewood, California. The model maker holds an exact miniature reproduction of the type of bomb the plane will carry. Photo from October, 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
P-51 "Mustang" fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California. Photo likely taken sometime in 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
An employee in the drill-press section of North American's huge machine shop runs mounting holes in a large dural casting, in Inglewood, California, in October of 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
B-25 bomber planes at the North American Aviation, Inc., being hauled along an outdoor assembly line with an "International" tractor, in Kansas City, Kansas, in October, 1942. (LOC) #
Annette del Sur publicizes a salvage campaign in yard of Douglas Aircraft Company, in Long Beach, California, in October of 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Casting a billet from an electric furnace, at Chase Brass and Copper Co., Euclid, Ohio. Modern electric furnaces have helped considerably in speeding the production of brass and other copper alloys for national defense. Here the molten metal is poured or cast from the tilted furnace into a mold to form a billet. The billet later is worked into rods, tubes, wires or special shapes for a variety of uses. Photographed in February, 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
U.S. Marine Corps, bedding down a big barrage balloon, in Parris Island, South Carolina, in May, 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
A welder making boilers for a ship, at Combustion Engineering Co., Chattanooga, Tennessee, in June of 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
A young soldier of the armored forces holds and sights his Garand rifle like an old timer, at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He likes the piece for its fine firing qualities and its rugged, dependable mechanism. Photographed in June of 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Workers on the Liberator Bombers, at Consolidated Aircraft Corp., in Fort Worth, Texas, in October of 1942. (Howard Hollem/OWI/LOC) #
Lathe operator machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, Texas, October, 1942. (Howard Hollem/OWI/LOC) #
Hitler would like this man to go home and forget about the war. A good American non-com at the side machine gun of a huge YB-17 bomber is a man who knows his business and works hard at it. Photographed in May, 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Sunset silhouette of a flying fortress, at Langley Field, Virginia, in July, 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
As an NYA (National Youth Administration) trainee working inside the nose of a PBY, Elmer J. Pace is learning the construction of Navy planes, at Corpus Christi Naval Air Base, in Texas, in August of 1942. (Howard Hollem/OWI/LOC) #
The water stretching machine of an eastern parachute manufacturer stretches shroud lines so as to make them more adaptable to the finished product, in Manchester, Connecticut, in July of 1942. (William Rittase/OWI/LOC) #
After seven years in the Navy, J.D. Estes is considered an old sea salt by his mates at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas, in August of 1942. (Howard Hollem/OWI/LOC) #
Pearl Harbor widows have gone into war work to carry on the fight with a personal vengeance, in Corpus Christi, Texas. Mrs. Virginia Young (right) whose husband was one of the first casualties of World War II, is a supervisor in the Assembly and Repairs Department of the Naval Air Base. Her job is to find convenient and comfortable living quarters for women workers from out of state, like Ethel Mann, who operates an electric drill. Photographed in August of 1942. (Howard Hollem/OWI/LOC) #
Colored mechanic, motor maintenance section, Ft. Knox, Kentucky. Photographed in June, 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
A riveter at work at the Douglas Aircraft Corporation plant in Long Beach, California, in October, 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Men and women make efficient operating teams on riveting and other jobs at the Douglas Aircraft plant in Long Beach, California. Most important of the many types of aircraft made at this plant are the B-17F ("Flying Fortress") heavy bomber, the A-20 ("Havoc") assault bomber and the C-47 heavy transport plane for the carrying of troops and cargo. Photographed in October of 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Women workers install fixtures and assemblies to a tail fuselage section of a B-17F bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California. Photographed in October, 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
American mothers and sisters, like these women at the Douglas Aircraft Company, give important help in producing dependable planes for their men at the front, in Long Beach, California. Photo taken in October of 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Carefully trained women inspectors check and inspect cargo transport innerwings before they are assembled on the fuselage, at Douglas Aircraft Company in Long Beach, California, in October of 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Halftrack infantryman with Garand rifle, at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, in June of 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #
Here's our mission. A combat crew receives final instructions just before taking off in a mighty YB-17 bomber from a bombardment squadron base at the field, in Langley Field, Virginia, in May of 1942. (Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC) #

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