Junk to Win the War
During both World Wars, scrap drives and conservation were touted as ways in which the common citizen could help the war effort. The people responded with impressive hauls. In 1942, a scrap drive targeting farms in Pennsylvania yielded 10,000 tons of metal and 550 tons of rubber.
During one scrap drive in 1943, a flyer circulated explaining what could be done with ordinary trash.
Some of the figures are of interest.
60 toothpaste tubes could yield enough tin to solder all the electrical connections in a B-17, and 200 million were turned in.
- 10 steel buckets contained enough metal to make one mortar tube
- 10 old stoves contained enough metal to make one scout car
- 225 lawn mowers contained enough metal to make an anti-aircraft gun
Although the flyer did not give specific details, the figures do seem rather reasonable. For example, assuming the lawn mowers to be about 25 pounds apiece, and deducting for wooden portions (common in those days), the yield in metal would have been perhaps 4,000 pounds, not far off the weight of a quad 40-mm.
The Hessian Straggler
In October of 1776, George Washington’s bedraggled American Army, having been driven from New York City, was ensconced in the relative safety of Westchester County. On October 27th, as the two armies were preparing for battle near White Plains, an American patrol captured a Hessian soldier who had straggled from camp.
The man was taken to Washington. Washington explained – presumably through a translator – that the Americans bore the Hessians no ill-will, and, indeed, would offer “great encouragement” to Hessians who deserted to the Revolutionary cause. The man refused. Despite this, Washington gave the man a guinea in gold and Washington arranged for him to be sent back to the British lines.
When the Hessian returned to the British lines, he was brought to Gen. William Howe, commander of the British Army. The man explained what had happened to him, and expressed a desire to return to his regiment. Howe rewarded him for his loyalty with another guinea, and sent him back to his regiment.
Then the Hessian returned to his own people. Brought before a Hessian general, the man explained what had happened. Hearing the soldier’s story, the general promptly had him flogged, for straying from camp.
As one historian mused, “one wonders who kept the golden guineas.”
About that Monty Fellow
Bernard Law Montgomery (1887-1976) was undoubtedly the most famous British general of World War II. He was also a pompous, contentious, egotist who didn’t work and play well with others, and his battlefield skills are hotly debated.
Opinions about Monty are varied, as can be seen from this selection of choice observations about him by several other commanders and a few historians.
- “ . . . a son of a bitch.” – Gen. Walter Bedell "Beetle" Smith
- “Small, alert, tense, . . . rather like an intelligent Terrier who might bite at any moment” – Lt. Gen. Sir Brian Gwynne Horrocks
- “ . . . he seems to think that all he has to do is say what is to be done and everyone will dance to the tune that he is piping.” – Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham
- “His love of publicity is a disease, like alcoholism or taking drugs, and it sends him equally mad.” – General Sir Hastings Lionel Ismay
- “ . . . seemed to mislay his genius when he met a mountain.” – Ronald Lewin, historian, author of Slim: The Standard Bearer, about the finest British commander in the war.
- “At times [he had] a real spark of genius . . . but was never on an even plane.” -- Alan Moorehead, historian, author of Montgomery: A Biography
- “ . . . a mediocre manager of armies in battle” – Geoffrey Perret, historian, author of There’s a War to be Won
- “ . . . the little fart.” – George S. Patton.