Plant a Victory Garden

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Plant a Victory Garden


By: Anonymous

Date: 1943

Source: Corbis

About the Photographer: This photograph is part of the collection of the Corbis Corporation, headquartered in Seattle, with a worldwide archive of over seventy million images.


In 1940, war spread across Europe. Although the United States provided arms to its allies, it continued the isolationist foreign policies adopted after World War I. As the United States continued to emerge from the Great Depression, there were still approximately eight million unemployed, and the economy was run by New Deal programs. On December 7, 1941, however, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on American forces in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack, which lasted almost two hours, damaged or sank eighteen warships, destroyed 180 aircraft, and killed more than 2,300. On December 8, President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan. Following the declaration, Japan's allies, Germany and Italy, declared war on the United States, thus leading to a two-front war—the Pacific and Europe.

The American economy shifted into overdrive and a majority of resources were channeled into the war effort. Existing industries changed production to arm and outfit the U.S. military and the government began campaigns to address the shortages caused by the war. In 1942, the food rationing program began to avoid public anger over shortages. Coupons were distributed based on family size. Red stamps rationed meats, butter, fats, and oils. Blue stamps rationed canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, bottled juices, and dried beans.

When it became apparent that the rationed amount would not feed an entire family, the "Food for Victory" campaign was launched to maximize food production around the nation. The campaign encouraged families to eat leftovers, grow their own fruits and vegetables, and preserve those foods not used immediately. The government encouraged farms to increase production, and backyards and baseball fields were tilled and planted as part of the war effort. Urban areas established community gardens, and schools cultivated their own plots as well. This freed food production for distribution to service members, allies, and workers on the front lines.

By 1943, state and local committees were created to encourage the creation of victory gardens, and the Department of Agriculture published pamphlets with information on garden care and insect control as well as canning and preserving food. Gardeners were provided with special victory garden fertilizer through the Department of Agriculture and War Production Board. Newspapers printed pictures of successful gardens and magazines published recipes that used preserved food.



See primary source image.


The Office of War Information printed a poster that encouraged the American people to "Do more with less, so they'll have more." Victory gardens and food rationing made more canned goods available for troops on the front lines. The victory garden symbolized the war effort on the homefront, an idea echoed in a 1943 Department of Agriculture publication, which asserted that each successful garden was a blow to the enemy.

Gardeners were admonished to avoid abandoning an "army" of vegetables to the "enemy" of weeds, because every bit of food was needed to win the war. Even squandering or misusing seeds was considered unpatriotic, and insects that could destroy crops were described as "Japanazis." People were also encouraged to share tools and not purchase items that would take steel away from war production.

By 1945, there were approximately twenty million victory gardens around the United States. The gardens produced around one billion tons of fruits and vegetables, or about forty percent of American consumption.


Web sites

D-Day: The National World War II Museum. "History of World War II." 〈〉 (accessed June 15, 2006).

Southern Methodist University Digital Library. "Victory Garden Insect Guide." 〈〉 (accessed June 15, 2006).

―――――. "Victory Garden Leader's Handbook." 〈〉 (accessed June 15, 2006).