We are at war. Stirring words at any time in history, these four sylables today are fraught with terrible meaning.
Let us Americans take heed. this is a war in which we all must fight – with arms, with labor, with any help we can give. No one can escape this present and fateful responsibility. Until we realize this, deeply and fully, we shall be in grave peril.
Americans, fortunate inhabitants of the richest country on earth, have been as a nation well-housed, well-clothed, and well-fed – and in this prosperous "land of plenty" (enviously so known abroad) Americans have been wasteful. In countries now numbered among America's enemies, the people have been frugal, self-sacrificing, and by dictator-law deprived of all but are essentials so that their governments might prepare for world conquest.
Sound familiar? These are the opening words to a book I picked up recently at an auction, a Handbook of Civilian Defense: what every loyal American can do to help the United States win the War. It was published by te Whitman Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin, in 1942. At that time, the public seemed to know what a threat was, and genuinely wanted to do something to deflect it.
The book goes on:
The United States of America is a democracy. That is why we are volunteering our services behind the firing lines – you and I and our neighbors – in the country-wide program of Civilian Defense.
For the first time in our national existence there is a need for Civilian Defense – for definite and active cooperative participation on the part of the civilian population in time of war. In modern warfare, no one – man, woman or child – is safe from attack. Civilian non-combatants must be organized so that efficient and intelligent action may be taken without delay.
It is not easy to understand just what this means. We are now called upon to abandon the easy ways of peace. We must now submit our lives and fortunes to unified authority and command. The enemies trying to destroy us are far stronger than any we have ever fought before. Every one of us must be ready and willling to sacrifice personal comforts and ambitions, even lives and property, to the end that we may be organized in effective defense against enemy raids and so that we may deal intelligently with threatened sabotage.
A job is waiting for each of us to do and we have to do it. The time for talking has passed. Right now is the time for Civilian Defense. Our patriotism must be translated into action. We have already paid a terrible price for our laxity and complacency in the face of threats to our national security. It must not happen again. If we fully prepare ourselves we need fear no enemy, however strong that enemy may be.
Food for thought, today.