While World War II officially began for the United States on Dec. 7, 1941, it had been raging throughout Europe for more than two years. We, in America, tend to think of Pearl Harbor Day as the start of the war, but ask any European of a certain age and they’re likely to point to Sept. 1, 1939.
That two-year lag led to a lot of dissent in the United States. Some hawks thought the U.S. should have jumped right into the war the moment it began in Europe. Others, such as famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, strongly led the “America First” movement in this country. It was a effort to keep the United States out of the conflict – it wasn’t our war, they proclaimed.
But once those bombs started dropping on U.S. Navy ships in Hawaii, all bets were off. American resolve was something the Axis Powers didn’t fully comprehend when we were drawn into the war. Even Lindbergh took to the streets in support of the U.S. entry into the war at that point.
Across the country, factories geared up for war overnight. Vehicle factories switched from producing cars to jeeps, tanks and other war machines. Passenger plane factories produced bombers. Even Hershey’s chocolate got into the act, producing 24 million chocolate bars a year for troops overseas, including one that didn’t melt in high-temperature war zones.
To spread the news of their support of the war effort, and cultivate pride among its workers, many businesses and factories began issuing buttons to employees and customers showing that they, too, were behind the war effort. A common denominator among many of these items was the letter “V” for victory – victory over Japan, victory over Germany and victory over the Axis powers in general.
Today, these buttons, issued by the tens of thousands, are a popular item for political collectors. There is a huge variety since everything from war-effort factories to savings and loans produced them. Everyone wanted in on the effort.
If you don’t collect political items, it’s easy to think it’s just a bunch of guys in the hobby collecting “presidential stuff.” But it’s really oh-so-much more. These “V for Victory” pins bring that home to those collectors who this week will remember the anniversary of VJ (Victory over Japan) Day.