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Waging War on the Home Front: An Illustrated Memoir of World War IIby Chauncey Del French
Synopses & Reviews
The United States' entry into World War II necessitated rapid mobilization of the country's shipbuilding industry. A massive national effort was needed to build ships faster than they were being sunk by the enemy. This book recounts in intelligent and delightful detail how that need was met by the home-front workforce.
Chauncey French and his wife, Jessie, were among the hundreds of thousands of workers recruited by Henry Kaiser under the U.S. Maritime Commission for the nation's wartime emergency shipbuilding program. The memoir that French began while working as a pipe fitter in the Kaiser shipyard in Vancouver, Washington, is a compelling account of how the war changed the lives of those at home. His first-hand stories relate the sometimes tense and often humorous intermingling of people — including women and African Americans in unprecedented numbers — from different backgrounds who learned to work together for a common cause.
The editors have selected and annotated more than 150 illustrations that capture the human drama, teamwork, and camaraderie that made the incredible level of production at the shipyards possible. Introductory essays, an appendix, notes, additional reading, and an index augment the author's lively narrative.
"Chauncey Del French was a keen observer of the wartime shipyard experience. His vivid descriptions brought back to me the smell of paint and noise of the chippers after sixty years. I am glad these unheralded workers have now been heard from...and grateful that this gifted writer has chronicled a unique time in Northwest history." Pat Koehler, author and Vancouver-Kaiser shipyard electrician
World War II interrupted Chauncey Del French's writing career when in 1942 he and his wife, Jessie, answered America's urgent need for workers in the shipyards. The Frenches were among the tens of thousands of workers recruited by Henry Kaiser under the U.S. Maritime Commission for the nation's wartime shipbuilding program. The memoir that Chauncey Del French began while working as a pipe fitter in the Kaiser shipyard in Vancouver, Washington, is a compelling firsthand account of how the war changed the lives of those at home.
In addition to providing a world of detail about the process of building warships, French and his wife recount the many aspects of shipyard life — from shortages of valuable clothing such as overalls to the limits of privacy in company housing. Waging War on the Home Front provides a rare portrait of working-class life in a country just coming out of the Depression, and chronicles the profound cultural and social changes that took place during the war years — particularly the new opportunities for women in the workforce and the influx of African-American workers to the Northwest.
More than fifty years after it was written, French's memoir is now being published for the first time. To accompany the text, Lois Mack and Ted Van Arsdol have chosen and annotated more than 140 photographs, drawings, and paintings — many never before published — by many of the period's most gifted artists, including some who also worked in the shipyards. Together with introductory essays by Rick Harmon, Northwest author and historian, and Margaret Bullock, associate curator of American art at the Portland Art Museum, the illustrations provide a rich historical and artistic context for thememoir.
Engagingly written and abundantly illustrated, Waging War on the Home Front is certain to delight any reader with an interest in Northwest history, labor, home life, or art during the war years.
About the Author
Chauncey Del French (18901967) lived most of his life in Salem, Oregon. Over the years he worked a number of jobs, but writing was his passion. He published magazine fiction in the 1930s under several pseudonyms, winning three True Story prizes. The biography of his father, Railroadman, received national attention when it was published in 1938.
Lois Mack, former curator of exhibits at the Oregon Historical Society, is the author of One Place across Time, an illustrated history of the Vancouver National Historic Reserve. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
Ted Van Arsdol is retired from the Columbian newspaper and is the author and editor of several books on Northwest history, including Northwest Bastion: The U.S. Army Barracks at Vancouver, 18491916. He lives in Vancouver, Washington.
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