World War II Sustainability

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World War II

Alumimium and Other Metal Recycling

During the summer of 1941, the Boy Scouts received the following request from Fiorelle Guardia, Director of the Civilian Defense:

Dear Mr.  West:

As on so many occasions in the past the United States Government again calls upon the Boy Scouts of America in an emergency.  As you know so well from our conversations, at the request of the Office of Production Management, the Office of Civilian Defense is undertaking the collection of scrap aluminum in a national campaign.  Naturally, we are counting upon the cooperation of the Boy Scouts of America in this collection.  I am addressing you now with the specific request to announce through your splendid organization the purposes of this campaign and to give us the cooperation we so confidently expect.

With kindest personal regards, I remain
Cordially Yours,
(signed) F. H. LaGuardia
U.S.  Director of Civilian Defense.

As requested, the Boy Scouts took part in house to house canvasses requesting home owners to contribute all used aluminum-ware, which could be spared without replacement.

This scrap aluminum, along with other scrap metals, collected throughout the war was used for defense purposes, and freed up new metals for military uses.  From 1941-45 Scouts collected over 210,000 tons of scrap aluminum, and other metals.

Waste Paper Collecting

During World War II, the need for paper was tremendous.  The military used paper for over 2,800 items, including: draft cards, shell and cartridge boxes, and containers for blood plasma, daily work plans, and boxes for first aid supplies.

Many times throughout the war, the Boy Scouts were called upon to help collect waste paper.  Such effort was exhibited from the start that in April of 1942, the market had been completely overstocked.

However, the huge supply of waste paper acquired in the beginning of 1942 was soon exhausted, and on November 24th, 1943, Donald Nelson, Chairman of the Salvage Division of the War Production Board, once again asked the Boy Scouts to go into the nationwide drive as wholeheartedly as they did in previous years.  During the month of December alone, Scouts collected almost 150,000 tons of waste paper.

A major drive was again launched in 1944, and again, the Boy Scouts came through with flying colors, as shown in the letter below:

Office of the Chairman

Dear Dr. Fretwell:

The Salvage Division of the War Production Board advises me that the two-month Boy Scout Nation-wide Waste Paper Program, recently concluded, was an outstanding success.  With the final returns not yet available, the goal of collecting 100,000 tons of waste paper during the campaign has been exceeded.

The Boy Scouts of America have participated wholeheartedly in previous Scrap Salvage Campaigns and have given noble and patriotic response on every occasion.  Donald M. Nelson, former Chairman of the War Production Board, in his letter to you of June 30, urging this special campaign for waste paper wrote, "The Boy Scouts of America can strike a real blow for victory."

The Boy Scouts of America certainly did – nearly 3,000,000 of them.  And what was accomplished stands as a glowing record of achievement.  About 85,000 Scouts and Cubs will qualify for the individual W.P.B.  award; a truly astounding fact when we consider that it required a certified thousand pounds of waste paper collected and move to the waste paper dealers in order to earn this individual award.

That's real fighting on the home front – the kind of able support that will keep our supply lines moving with needed food, medicines, clothing, ammunition and all kinds of equipment and machinery necessary for a complete and rapid prosecution of our war against Germany and Japan.

Such activity by the Boy Scouts of America must hearten our military and naval leaders and their fighting forces, just as it heartens us in the knowledge that there is an army on the home front, an army of growing youngsters who will some day be guiding the destines of the nation.

(signed) J. A. Krug

Facing another paper shortage in 1945, General Eisenhower himself sponsored a nationwide drive.

During this drive, which ran in March and April, the Boy Scouts collected over 300,000 tons of waste paper, making their total for the war over 720,000 tons.

During the 1944 and 1945 drives, special awards were given to the Scouts who collected over 1,000 pounds of paper.

Scrap Rubber Collecting

Another important salvage item which the Boy Scouts collected was scrap rubber.  Because of the war, much of the crude rubber that the USA imported was no longer available.

This problem, along with the increased demand, made rubber the number one salvage priority of the Scouts during much of 1942.

The following telegram was released to Scout Executives, throughout the country, by the Chief Scout Executive on June 1, 1942.

"Conference this morning with representatives of paper industry and Bureau of Industrial Conservation of War Production Board reveals that such a magnificent job has been done in collection of waste paper that the excess supply now available makes it desirable to shift our emphasis to a greater need in the salvaging of every conceivable type of rubber.  The paper industry assures us that all existing accumulated waste paper now in course of collection or transit to junk dealers must be and will be absorbed.

Felt it necessary to get this advance notice to you in this form to be followed by detail bulletin making suggestions as to how to organize for a comprehensive rubber salvage program in response to a direct request from Government.  Please immediately take necessary action in your Local Council Territory."

The following is a list furnished by the Bureau of Industrial Conservation as to types of miscellaneous rubber articles most likely to be found in homes that are needed by the government.

  1. Tires and Inner Tubes
  2. Hard Rubber Tires
  3. Crepe Rubber Soles
  4. Boots and Overshoes
  5. Hot Water Bottles
  6. Tennis Shoes
  7. Rubber Tubing
  8. Bicycle Handle Grips
  9. Bicycle Pedal Grips
  10. Rubber Belting
  11. Rubber Sheeting
  12. Bathroom and Door Mats
  13. Raincoats
  14. Rubber Heels
  15. Bathing Caps
  16. Jar Rings
  17. Plumbers' Suction Caps
  18. Old Garden Hose

There were also hundreds of other items containing rubber, that were collected.

Milkweed Collecting

One of the most dramatic collections was that of milkweed floss which was needed to replace the unobtainable kapok for life jackets.

Scouts were so diligent that they collected more floss than was known to exist, enough to make nearly 2 million life jackets.


As in World War I, food production was one of the Boy Scouts major projects throughout World War II.  Cubs, Scouts, and Scouters were encouraged to start home Victory Gardens under the slogan, "Food for Freedom".  Many troops and councils set up their own gardens which were maintained by whole groups of Scouts.  In many instances, Scouts moved to farms for weeks a time to help out.  Day hauls were also established where the Scout would be transported to the farm in the morning, and work all day, then be transported back home at night.

In New England, a train ran daily transporting Scouts from New Jersery, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire to Aroostock County, Maine, so Scouts could help harvest over a million bushel crop.  Many Scouts, especially those from the city, were not used to doing hard outdoor labor, but their Scout spirit carried them through.

In 1943, the Food Administration ran a nationwide recruiting drive for summer farm help, known as the US Crop Corp.  A youth division, known as Victory Farm Volunteers included thousands of Scouts throughout the country.  Special insignia was even issued for all members.

By the end of the war thousands of Scouts worked hundreds of thousands of hours raising and harvesting food.

Grub Scout Button

The Grub Scout Button was furnished by the Boy Scouts at 5 cents each (3 cents each if ordered in lots of 50), to be worn by all Scouts who engaged in gardening activity, and by their adult assistants, designating them as "GRUB SCOUTS".  These buttons could only be ordered by Scoutmasters.


Because the war required huge supplies of paper, and other wood products, protecting and refurbishing our forests became the major conservation project for the Boy Scouts.  During the war years Scouts planted almost 2 million trees to replace those taken by the government.

In many areas Scouts served as fire watchers and helped out the United States Forest Service with its fire prevention campaigns.  Care while building fires was stressed to all Scouts, and Scouters.  Scouts were also asked to share their training manuals and loan ones no longer needed to other Scouts in order to reduce demand for printed items.  Boys Life, and Scouting magazines even cut back the number of issues and the number of pages in order to save paper.

At the request of the Office of Emergency Management, the Boy Scouts also participated in a house to house campaign to get people to sign the following pledge:



At the request of Nellie Tayloe Ross, Director of the United States Mint, an announcement appeared in the December 1943 issue of Scouting Magazine, asking Scouts and Scouters to get idle coins back into circulation.

Waste Paper Award

In 1944, any Scout or Cub who collected 1,000 pounds of waste paper, during the nation-wide Boy Scout paper drive, received a beautiful emblem from the War Production Board in recognition of his personal contribution.  This award was made to Scouts or Cubs upon the recommendation of their unit leaders to the local councils.  During this drive 85,000 Scouts and Cubs earned this award.

Every troop or pack which collected waste paper averaging 1000 pounds per registered member, also received an appropriate scroll as an official reminder that they "Backed the Attack".

Eisenhower Award

The General Eisenhower Waste Paper medal was awarded by the War Production Board to Scouts who collected at least 1000 pounds of waste paper during the General Eisenhower Waste Paper campaign.  During this campaign, which ran in March and April of 1945, 299,936 Scouts earned this award.

The War Production Board originally only produced 150,000 medals.  Additional medals were later produced to be awarded to all Scouts who qualified.  This explains the slight variations in the ribbon bars and medals.  A temporary certificate was given to all Scouts who did not receive their medals the first time around.

This award was worn pinned above the left breast pocket and to the right of any Scout insignia.

A World War II shell container with a citation from General Eisenhower was presented to each unit which collected an amount of paper equal to or great than 1,000 pounds for each boy in the unit.  This shell container was a genuine ‘veteran’ of the European Theatre of Operations.  5,746 units were given this recognition.

MacArthur Medal

The General MacArthur Gardening award was offered by the National Gardening Institute in 1945.  Local councils selected and recommended for awarding those gardens which in their judgment met the following guiding specifications:

  1. At least 400 square feet in size.
  2. Well planned with good layout and a reasonable variety of products.
  3. Diligently cared for.
  4. A good producer, based on local conditions.
  5. Properly harvested with products put to good use.
  6. Inspected and recommended by the Local Council.

Approximately 20,000 of these awards were issued during the war.

In some areas Scouts were awarded the "multi-organization" MacArthur medal with the words "Boy Scouts of America" stamped on the back.

Green Thumb Certificates

National Gardening Institution ‘Green-Thumb’ certificates were awarded to Scouts for gardening.  12,369 Scouts received these certificates.

To: Scout Executives

  1. Although we did not receive your reply card estimating the number of MacArthur Medals you would need, we are sending you a half dozen here – with.  These are sent you free of charge as part of a lot supplied by the National Victory Garden Institute.  If you do not plan to use them, please return.  If you need additional medals they will be available, though at a cost to you of not to exceed 25 cents each when the free supply is exhausted.
  2. The important thing now is to be sure that you recognize every Scout and Cub who has met the requirements for the medals.  If he has done his job let us not fail to do ours.  You will probably want to write each unit leader promptly and get a list with his certification of all boys who have qualified for the MacArthur Medals and also for the Green Thumb Certificates.  Checking with each unit leader now will avoid kickbacks later.
  3. The requirements for the medal are outlined in Bulletin No.  5, May 14, 1945.  Briefly they are that the individual garden be at least 400 square feet, well planned, cared for and harvested, and that it has been inspected.
  4. The Green Thumb Certificate is for presentation to every Scout and Cub who has contributed to food production in any of several ways; growing or helping with any garden, crop work, work on a farm, fruit picking or harvesting.  If you need more of these certificates, let us know.  They’re free.
  5. Use the "Record and Report Blank" in the Green Thumb Brochure, or a form of your own design, or simply a list of boys certified by the unit leader under your basis.  Don’t send us these forms or the names, unless you believe them to be outstanding and important for the record.  Exact interpretation of the requirements for both the medal and certificate, and the method of awarding are up to you.
  6. The turn of events makes the MacArthur Medal especially appealing and newsworthy at this time.  No boy who deserves recognition should be passed by.  Make use of the publicity values which are possible in the presentation of your medals.
  7. You will be asked later for a complete report of your 1945 Food for Freedom Service.  Indications are that you have run up a great production record this year.  Congratulations and thanks.

E. H. Bakken
National Director
Rural Scouting

Form Letter Provided by the National Council to be Sent Out by Local Council Executives

National Council, BSA


Boy Scouts and Cub Packs of (enter City or Country) will begin a two-month concentrated effort to collect waste paper on Tuesday, August 1st, it was announced today by Scout Executive (your name.  The program was for its goal the collection of at least one thousand pounds of waste paper by every Scout or Cub.  Those reaching the goal will be rewarded with a specially designed emblem and every Scout Troop whose members collect at least a thousand pounds of each will receive a certificate of merit signed by Donald M.  Nelson, chairman of the War Production Board.

The program was undertaken on a national basis in response to an appeal by Mr.  Nelson, in which he pointed out that 667,000 tons of waste paper are needed every month to meet military and essential civilian requirements for products in which waste paper is a raw material.  Sponsor of the program is the Folding Paper Box Association of America.

Scouts and Cubs will call on households in their neighborhoods, asking their neighbors to save paper and arranging collection dates.  After the paper is collected, it will be turned over to waste paper dealers and the weight of it certified so the boys will be eligible for awards.  Proceeds from the sale of the paper will go toward the purchase of camping equipment or into Troop funds.

Scout Executive, (your name) pointed out today that the Scouts have been engaged in salvage work since Pearl Harbor, and the collection of waste paper is only one phase of this work.

"Mr. Nelson has informed us, however," he said, "that waste paper is the No. 1 war material shortage and for that reason we are redoubling our efforts during August and September to get waste paper to the mills."