Wartime is a crisis not only because men and women are being sent into a warzone where untold numbers may be killed, but also because resources diverted to the war effort mean privation and shortages for the folks back home.
Those who were left had to make sacrifices too, in ways they might never have imagined. So with that in mind, here are some of the conservation measures made during wartime that really hurt. While the United States did not have to resort to food rationing during WWI, Americans were encouraged to conserve food as best they could. Americans were told to “Eat more Fish, they feed themselves” and leave nothing on their plates after a meal, waste nothing was the mantra. In the countries of Europe however, the shortages were much more severe and were done for some of the oddest reasons you could imagine.
Alcohol Production and Consumption
I know, right?!
When the US entered the chaotic scene of World War I, Yale economist Irving Fisher pointed out that the barley used in brewing beer could instead be used in baking bread for the American soldiers. He was seconded by others who said that alcohol was not a necessity but rather was a luxury that also hindered the wartime factory workers from performing at their best (You know, no one returns to work on a Monday morning with full-on energy when they partied hard the night before.) The proposition succeeded, so in 1917 until 1918, everything related to alcohol was limited— sale of alcohol, especially around military bases and munitions plants, and the allocation of grain to the beer brewers. And it wasn’t just the US. Russia might have had the most drastic move in prohibiting alcohol by banning the sale of vodka, as well as its production. The order lasted way long after the war until 1925.
Britain also tried to sober up their people too by limiting pub hours and prohibiting purchasing drinks for other patrons, even King George V decided to set a personal example, giving up liquor consumption for the entirety of the war, and so the order went:
“by the King’s command, no wines, spirits, or beer will be consumed in any of His Majesty’s houses after today.”
Prime Minister Asquith, who was known to be a heavy drinker, refused to refrain from alcohol, but other than him, other political figures followed the example.
White House Sheep
“Who needs lawnmowers when you can have sheep?”
That was probably President Woodrow Wilson’s thought when he decided to purchase a flock of several dozen sheep in 1918 as part of the effort to cut down on maintenance costs during WWI. So instead of lawnmowers and grasscutters that would require fuel, he replaced them with fully automatic, reliable, robust, grass-chomping sheep that would also give out fertilizers. That would also mean that the maintenance guys could enlist in the armed forces instead. Not only that, but the wool of this livestock was also auctioned. Called “White House Wool,” the proceeds benefited the Red Cross. In the letter written by the chairman of American Red Cross Cary T. Grayson to William Woodward, he said:
“You may not be aware, directly, just how much you have contributed to the Red Cross. The wool from the shelep amounted to ninty-seven pounds and the President presented two pounds to each State, to be auctioned by their respective Governors and the proceeds to go to the Red Cross. As yet I do not know the total income from the forty-eight States, but I will let you know when I get the total figurews. From what I heard was bid the cheapest was $100 per pound and the highest was $5,000 per pound. At any rate, I think it is safe to predict that Belair Farm sheep lead the world in the production of the most pricely wool.”
According to the document, the total auction was a whopping amount of $51,903.57. As for the flock of sheep, they were sold in 1920.
German Sausage Ban
You can tell things are getting really serious when a country like Germany starts banning even sausages. And for good reasons.
While the giant airship used by the Germans in reconnaissance and bombing campaigns called Zeppelin didn’t look like it was in any way connected to the cow guts used in making bratwurst, it turned out it was. The intestines were used to make hydrogen gasbags to make it float, and it took a lot of guts (literally and figuratively) to make these Zeppelins as each of them would require 250,000 cow intestines to make it fly. The demand was so huge and acute that the Central Powers ordered a cut back on sausage-making, not only in Germany itself but in the territories under their control, too. Butchers were also required to hand over whatever cow guts they possessed. For the Germans, the sausage abstinence paid off as according to University of Cambridge engineer Dr. Hugh Hunt:
“For the best part of two years, these things (Zeppelins) were able to fly over Britain, dropping bombs and causing havoc.”
In a very real sense, Zeppelins really were “Flying Sausages.”
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