From Hyde Park Historical Society newsletter -- Spring 2004
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One summer day during World War II ,a huge load of one-page salmon colored leaflets came fluttering down over Hyde Park. The sky was filled with them. At the time, my mother and I were walking south along Kenwood Avenue at 54th Street near the playground of what is now Murray School. The sight of all that paper falling from the sky was, to my young eyes, absolutely breathtaking. When I would later learn the term manna from heaven, I would immediately know what it was because I had personally experienced it!
The Civilian D-Day: Selling War Bonds from the Air
by Stephen A. Treffman
Of course I made strides to gather up as many as I could of these marvelous gifts floating down upon us only to be abruptly captured by my mother's hand. Somehow, I was given to understand that I should leave the papers on the ground and that we should go home right away. As we scurried off, I looked back longingly at the sight of all those wonderful pieces of paper far from my grasp but forever fixed in my memory. Their mysterious purpose and message, however, would remain unknown to me for another 60 years.
At a recent paper collectibles trade show I was going through a seller's wares when I suddenly came upon a tablet sized sheet, salmon in color. As soon as I read it, I knew what it was! There before me was a copy of one of those leaflets that had been floating down on Hyde Park that memorable summer day so long ago.
Finally, I learned what it was that had so captured my attention. The mystery was solved! The sheet, printed on one side in English and on the other side in German, turned out to be a promotion to sell War Bonds.
"Citizens of Chicago!" it proclaimed, "This harmless piece of paper was dropped from an airplane. It COULD have been an enemy's bomb bringing death and destruction, or a propaganda leaflet spreading disunity and bewilderment among us. That it is neither, is due to the skill, courage and sacrifice of our fighting men now invading Europe. When the War Bond Warden in your Block calls, during the Fifth War Loan Drive, welcome him in. Then dig into your savings and buy EXTRA war bonds! Put it over the 100% mark! If you have bought war bonds since June 1st where you work or anywhere else, fill out the Red, White and Blue Credit Slip which the War Bond Warden will have. Then your block will receive full credit for all bonds you buy, wherever you buy them!"
The name of its sponsor was affixed: "Chicago and Cook County War Finance Committee, 5th War Loan, Philip R. Clarke, Chairman."
I wouldn t have been able to understand the leaflet's message even if I had snagged one because, unfortunately, at the time, I had no reading skills and wouldn't have had a clue as to what a bond was even if I could read. While I was entranced by the sight of these things, older members of the community may well have viewed them as so much waste paper they would have to be picking up from their lawns, backyards and roofs in the succeeding days and weeks ahead.
Although the leaflet was undated, the text suggested that it must have been produced sometime after the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, and I used that as the major clue as I set off to learn more of its story. I soon discovered that the leaflet was one of a million that were dropped over Chicago by a single air transport plane on June 12, 1944 as part of the kick-off for a nationwide Fifth War Bond Drive to raise $16 Billion dollars. President Franklin D. Roosevelt would describe it as the Civilian D-Day. There were eight such drives during the war. The fifth ran from June 12 to July 31, 1944. Chicago and Cook County's goal was set at $894,014,000, the greatest financial undertaking ever launched in the city. One hundred thousand local volunteers would take part in the drive, 16,500 of them working as Block Bond Wardens who, in turn, supervised the house to house canvassing work of tens of thousands of Block Captains.
In Hyde Park, leadership for the drive fell to Commander George X. Rosenthal, head of the Hyde Park branch for the city's Office of Civil Defense. Its goals for the community were 14,440 subscriptions and bond sales of $4,860,075. Each of his zone wardens was given a specific quota and, in turn, they apportioned them out to their local block captains in the Hyde Park, Kenwood and Oakland neighborhoods. The latter were charged with canvassing every resident in their block. A red, white, and blue poster thermometer was placed on every corner to illustrate the progress of the drive for that block and kept up to date so that residents could see the progress of his or her block and compare it to the success other blocks were achieving.
Henry Morgenthau, Jr., FDR's Secretary of the Treasury, had initially proposed and organized the sale of government bonds to the public early in 1941 to help finance the enormous procurement costs involved in gearing up our military to a defensive war footing. Aware that many Americans were reluctant to see the country embrace war, Morgenthau argued that the government ought to use bonds to sell the war. He said, Promoting and selling the bonds would make the country war-minded and give (the public) the opportunity to do something to support their country and the men and women entering military service after Pearl Harbor.
A remarkable marketing barrage in support of the bond campaigns was launched throughout the media financed largely through donations of advertising by companies and public-spirited individuals. The public was urged to buy bonds in defense of American liberty and democracy, as safe havens of investment for themselves, to support our troops and keep the planes flying, to tamp inflationary pressures, or as one bank s ad suggested, to put bullets in the bellies of Hitler's (or Hirohito's) hordes. High-minded and rational appeals, then, were mixed with references to more basic, even base, motives of hatred, vengeance and racism, particularly toward the Japanese.
As the war progressed, the American economy expanded dramatically. From 1939 to 1944, the Gross Domestic Product and disposable personal income both more than doubled as seventeen million new jobs were added to the economy. When the Fifth War Bond drive began, then, Americans not only had money in their pockets to buy the bonds but also had reason to believe that, vigorously pursued, victory would soon be won. The result was that by the time the drive ended it had raised a record $20.6 billion dollars nationwide.
Chicago and Cook County's 1944 Fifth War Bond drive surpassed its goals with bond sales and subscriptions totaling $1.16 billion, 76.1% coming from corporations and 23.9% from individuals. Hyde Park s residents purchased bonds totaling $4,722,961. In addition to house to house canvassing efforts, bonds were also sold at booths located in the community s major hotels. The Windemere Hotels sold a total of $107,000, the Flamingo, $87,627, the Shoreland, $65,206, the Mayfair, $42,542, and the Sherry, $21,000. Local clubs also were very active in selling bonds during the drive. Members of the Hyde Park Kiwanis Club alone raised an amazing $575,000 in war bond sales that summer. The Jewish Men s Club of Hyde Park sold $64,050 in bonds.
With that old leaflet in hand, I was reminded of those quietly elegant blue star flags (family members in military service) and those, less often seen, with gold stars (family members who had given their lives) that had hung so prominently in neighbors windows back then. The American Gold Star Mothers organization still exists, its potential membership, sadly, growing now on a daily basis. We celebrate their day the last Sunday of every September. After the war, cement posts with plaques memorializing the community's dead soldiers, sailors, and airmen could be found on some of the same Hyde Park corners where those bond drive thermometers had stood. In time, those flags came down from their window frames while the cement posts and plaques on the streets deteriorated and most of them simply disappeared. One bronze plaque still stands on the northwest corner of 55th and South Shore Drive in memory of Navy Lt. Arthur W. Klein. He was born in 1905 and died in service in 1944, the same year I had been so enthralled by those pieces of paper floating down from the sky. June 6, 2004 is the 60th anniversary of D-Day.
Selected Sources: Chicago Tribune, June 12, August 8, 1944, Hyde Park Herald, June 8, August 10, 1944. John Morton Blum, V was for Victory: Politics and American Culture During World War II (New York, 1976); Access On-Line Project Brief History of World War Two Advertising Campaigns: War Loans and Bonds, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, Duke University Rome Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library @