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Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Six photos of ‘World War II: On the home front’

September 10, 2020 Phil Kaufman
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My father, Irving Kaufman (1910 – 1982), was a professional photographer who started in Brooklyn in the mid 1930s working for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He captured thousands of images of Brooklyn through the 1950s. I have recently digitized a great many of them. My father’s profile can be found here.


This week’s theme:

The photos for this week will show home front activities that supported World War II. Needless to say, the war was the dominant reality of life for Americans from before we entered WWII until well past its conclusion. That was nowhere more true than in Brooklyn. According to Thomas J. Campanella, author of last year’s masterpiece of research, writing and originality, “Brooklyn: Once and Future City,”

DAILY TOP BROOKLYN NEWS
News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

The war … was arguably Brooklyn’s finest hour. No place in America contributed more blood, sweat, and toil to defeating the Axis powers – nor more lives. Some 325,000 Brooklyn men and women served in the armed forces during the war, 11,500 of whom died; tens of thousands more labored in the borough’s booming defense industry, churning out everything from helmets, searchlights, and bombsights to battleships and ingredients for the atomic bomb.

From the Navy Yard at the north end of the borough down to the Army Terminal and its Port of Embarkation in the southwest, to Floyd Bennett Field at its southeastern tip, Brooklyn was enclosed by ceaseless wartime activity. Here are some highlights:

  • The Navy Yard employed 70,000 people in 27 trades and professions. Within five years, they produced 17 of the most powerful warships ever built, including five aircraft carriers and three immense battleships.
  • From the N.Y. Port of Embarkation at the Army Terminal, three million soldiers sailed overseas, fully half the American troops who fought in the war. A third of all the material and equipment used in the war was sent from there as well.
  • Floyd Bennett Field was the site of Naval Air Station New York. As such, it was home to continuous training and coastal air patrols guarding against German submarines and protecting merchant ships. But its even greater role was the acceptance, testing, and ferrying of aircraft for delivery to combat theaters – totaling about 46,000 war planes in under four years.

Today’s photos:

Today’s scenes show another way the general public was recruited to help the war effort. Back on June 11 I posted a picture of a war bond rally on Kings Highway (as part of that week’s theme of ‘Not an ordinary day on Brooklyn’s streets’) near Coney Island Avenue. I’ll show that same scene today, among others, so I might as well use the same background information:

The Second World War was a national effort for the U.S. like no other experience in the 20th century. Gas rationing was just one of the hundreds of ways everyday Americans made sacrifices during those years. In this case, the sacrifice was a very basic item: money. In fairness, it was an investment, not a donation. But war bonds took 10 years to mature, and many families didn’t have money to spare. Nevertheless, over the course of the war, 85 million bond purchases were made (from a 1940 U.S. population of 132 million) totaling approximately $185 billion.


Outdoor rally: Intersection of Quentin Road and Kings Highway, summer 1943

A busy intersection, with shops all around, is a great place to hold a rally. Have a look from both sides (get your bearings by looking at the bond sales booth: left-center in the first picture, right in the middle of the second picture). Note the attractions: the stage for speakers and miscellaneous entertainment, the accordion (and tubas? Now there’s an ensemble!), and from the other side, army vehicles that are apparently fair game for kids.

 

Indoor rally: An unspecified Century Circuit theater, April 1, 1943

It must have been harder to attract a good crowd to an indoor event. But the weather wasn’t a factor, and co-sponsorship by the Red Cross, as in this case, probably helped. The music looks more organized and interesting as well. Put it all together and it turned out a pretty full auditorium.

 

A little star power: Cab Calloway and friends, Strand Theater, Fulton Street, June 8, 1944

An actual celebrity, with his professional jazz band and a team of young women handing out what I assume are bond order forms in a theater lobby – now that seems like a winning combination. Many other celebrities contributed their time and resources in similar ways all over the country.

 

Small customer, small product, small price: War stamps for sale, undated

She’s not attracting Uncle Sam’s attention either right now, but if you look closely you’ll see that the little girl is waving a dollar bill, trying to buy “$1.00 Worth of War Stamps.” These war savings stamps earned no interest; their sole purpose was to facilitate saving toward the purchase of war bonds. The minimum bond investment was $18.75, which would mature at $25.00 in ten years.

An index of Kaufman’s Brooklyn posts may be found here.

Irving Kaufman’s profile may be found here.

I invite you to submit comments, memories, images of Brooklyn, and especially any additional background information you can supply about the photos posted here to [email protected] I’d also be glad to supply information about buying prints of any of the images seen here. Many of my father’s images are also available for viewing and purchase at http://yourartgallery.com/irvingkaufmanstudios. All prints purchased will be the product of professional scanning and editing.


Weekly collection 19: Photos of ‘World War II: On the home front’


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