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U.S. At War: The Call to Scrap

3 minute read

All the people who had been fretting about having no part in the war effort last week had something to do: collect steel scrap.

With steel mills (which in their own operations produce about half of the scrap they use) using up purchased scrap at the record rate of two and a quarter million tons a month, the Government is trying desperately to collect 17,000,000 tons to keep them going through the winter (when scrap collection lags because of the weather).

Figuring, as surveys indicate, that about 700 Ib. of scrap can be got from the average farm and 100 Ib. of scrap from the average home, the nation’s 6,000,000 farms can turn up 1,880,000 tons, the nation’s 22,000,000 non-farm homes can turn up 1,000,000 more. Together they could keep the mills going at the present rate for about a year—if all were salvaged, which is hardly likely.

Once this scrap is collected the source will be exhausted, but if even haL of it can be gathered now the collection will tide the steel mills over until other scrap sources can be tapped. * To get it people were doing strange things:

In New York last week truant officers were rushing all over town picking up moppets who, instead of attending schools, were out hauling scrap. A minimum of ten pounds equaled a ball-game ticket. In Brooklyn last week 60,000 young scholars bought their way into Ebbets Field with 600 tons of scrap.

All over the U.S. movie theaters had their lobbies piled high with more free-admission junk. Churches and women’s clubs competed for city prizes. The Hobo News scrapped a two-ton press.

All this fruitful pandemonium had been set in motion by the nation’s newspaper publishers, who organized the drive (TIME, Sept. 14). Every town provided its scrap-news oddity. In Newton, Mass., Siamese Cat Champion Chinky died and left 25 lb. of metal cups and badges to the local campaign. A woman in Cohoes, N.Y. donated an iron bench she used to sit on beside her Spanish-American War veteran husband’s grave. The old cruiser Olympia, flagship to Admiral Dewey at Manila and bearer in 1921 of the body of the Unknown Soldier, started to have her 5,865 tons reduced to scrap.

* Other chief sources of purchased scrap: 1) scrap collected from industry (3,250,000 tons in the first half of 1942); 2) automobile graveyards (now largely exhausted but capable of yielding 500,000 tons a year indefinitely if 1,000,000 autos a year are scrapped); 3) “special-projects salvage” from buildings, bridges, etc., wrecked under contract for War Materials, Inc. (the white-hope source of future scrap).

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