World War II Scrap Metal Drives

In 1942, there was a big demand for scrap metal materials for the fighting of World War II. On Oct. 9, 1942, there was big scrap metal drive in Daviess County.

In 1942, there was a big demand for scrap metal materials for the fighting of World War II. On Oct. 9, 1942, there was big scrap metal drive in Daviess County.

It was estimated that 1.5 million tons of scrap lay useless on U.S. farms. Enough to build 139 modern battleships for the navy! If the average farm generated 125 pounds to be mixed with other materials, each farm could possibly make a 500 pound aerial bomb. If the farmers banned their collection and accumulated 36,000 pounds there would be enough scrap iron to build one 27-ton tank.

All the scarp was important: One old shovel would make four hand grenades; one old disc would provide scrap steel for 210 semi-automatic light carbines; one old broken plow would help make 100 75mm armor piercing projectiles; one useless old tire would provide enough rubber for 12 gas masks; old lawn mowers, flat irons, broken tools would all count; 125 pounds of rusty metal, mixed with other materials, was enough to make a 500 pound aerial bomb; an old hand corn sheller would make three one-inch shells.

The Daviess County USDA war board took the responsibility to encourage the collection of scrap metal from all the local farms. The metal would be taken to the smelters and blast furnaces to be remade. The need for it was vital because many steel plants throughout the country had been slowed down or had to suspend operations because of the lack of material.

On Oct. 9, plans were made for every school and every business in the county to close and to work out their plans such as arranging for trucks, how to collect the scrap, where to sell it, what to do with the money, etc.

The schools and town salvage committees took the lead in the collection. Some people donated their trucks for the project. However, the scrap had to be brought to them as they didn’t have time to go from farm to farm and pick up the metal.

This enabled every man, woman and child to have an opportunity to help. Four Gallatin girls helped in a big way when they removed an entire iron pump from a well in south Gallatin which had been donated. People were willing to help as there were approximately 500 Daviess County boys fighting in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.

Nearly 300 tons of scrap metal was collected. In Gallatin the scrap was hauled to the Whitfield salvage dump and the Hacker junk yard. Approximately 270 tons of scrap was purchased in the county on scrap day. Including what had been purchased prior to “scrap day” brought the county 457 tons.

Another important campaign was the collection of two million victory keys. The goal was to raise 12,000,000 pounds of metal. The average key contained about 80% nickel silver which was desperately needed by the Navy, particularly the Yale and Corbin type keys. These keys could be deposited in Gallatin stores, namely the Merrigan Grocery, Davis Drug Co., King’s Drug Store, the high school and the Gallatin Publishing Co.

Every penny over the actual cost of the campaign was given to the boys in the service through their United States Organization (USO).

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Throughtout the war years after the war started, a temporary freeze was put on farm machinery because of the scrap iron shortage. There were exceptions to the rule, but a farmer had to present a valid reason why he needed new equipment; why he was unable to repair his present equipment; why he could not purchase or rent used machinery; or why he could not use custom or exchange work. The purchaser also had to present a satisfactory reason for changing from horse power to motor power. If refused, he could appeal to the state USDA board.

There was a shortage of car manufacturing and new cars were hard to come by which caused a safety hazzard. Motorists were driving older cars which were harder to keep safe because of the shortage of spare parts and skilled mechanics. Car tires were used beyond their safely point. Many cars which had been discarded as unfit for service were back on the road.

On Oct. 9, 1942, a big scrap drive took place in Daviess County. All the county schools and stores closed in order for every man, woman and child to be able to participate. Each county town and each school district worked out a plan for such things as how to collect the scrap, where to sell it, what to do with the money, etc.

The courthouse was chosen as the central point and committees went out in four directions. Each section was appointed a captain and each section was to pile their scraps where it could be seen.
Another important nationwide campaign was the collection of keys. Two million victory key kans and two million placards were distributed throughout every U.S. city. The goal was to raise 12,000,000 pounds of metal. The average key contained 80% nickel silver which was vital to the navy.

There were five places to deposit the keys in Gallatin: Merrigan Grocery, Davis Drug Co., Kings Drug Store, Gallatin Publishing Company, and the high school.

On scrap day, Gallatin and the community collected 100 tons of scrap and the county gathered 275 tons.

The scrap had to be sorted, graded, prepared, packed and placed in railroad lots for loading onto freight cars. If there wasn’t enough material of one grade in a county to make a carload, it became necessary to combine grades from several neighboring counties.

In early October, it was announced that any county that made a per capita collection of 100 pounds or more of scrap from any or all sources during the period of Sept. 1 to Oct. 31, would receive a Victory Salvage Pennant to fly from the flagpole in the courthouse yard.

By early December Gallatin reached its 900 ton goal. More scrap iron was still to be found. The government dedicated the remaining years of 1942 to an extended scrap hunt. Salvage committees were instructed to continue to make available to farmers all the transportation facilities and manpower needed.

In April, 1943, an all out effort was made to gather tin cans. They were piled separately from the other trash and city trucks picked them up.

Copper was the most important and the most needed of all metals for war production. One hundred pounds of tin cans was equal in worth to one pound of copper.

— researched by Wilbur Bush, Gallatin