It was the very end of 1940 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt summed up for the American people the role he saw them taking in a world at war. Though the U.S. had not yet entered World War II — Pearl Harbor was almost a year away — the war had swept much of the globe, and citizens already had an important task in front of them: “We must be the great arsenal of democracy,” he said. The U.S. was to be the supplier for its allies, of both materiel and will.
Roosevelt didn’t come up with the phrase “arsenal of democracy” himself. When Roosevelt heard French economist Jean Monnet use the phrase, he had gone so far as to put out a request, through an intermediary, for Monnet not to use it again. Roosevelt wanted to deploy it with more force, according to Josh Zeitz at Politico. It was so evocative that it became an image of the role of the American home front that endured after the U.S. joined the war, and after that.
The phrase now gives its name to The Arsenal of Democracy: The Herman and George Brown Salute to the Home Front, which opens to the public at the National WWII Museum on Saturday. There are nine separate galleries that focus on the story of World War II as it unfolded in the United States — including one gallery that takes visitors inside a reconstructed American home from the 1940s featuring artifacts from the era, which were used as reference material for LIFE VR’s Remembering Pearl Harbor virtual-reality experience.
One example of just deeply the war affected those at home in the U.S. can be found in cookbooks like these, which are featured in the exhibition. Written with wartime rationing and scarcity in mind, they advised the American homemaker on ideas about how to feed their families properly without using up too many of their supplies.
Sugar, meat and eggs may be more plentiful than they were back then — but you can still try these World War II-era recipes at home.
ONE-EGG VICTORY CAKE, from the Royal Baking Powder cookbook:
ECONOMY LOAF, from the Modern Hostess Cookbook: