Civilian defense on the home front, 1942

A primary source by The Office of Civilian Defense

“Official Civilian Defense Insignia, United States Citizens Defense Corps,” US Office of Civilian Defense, 1942 (GLC09520.36)In the early days of World War II, air raids and other attacks on populated areas in Europe generated fears that similar attacks could happen in the United States. On May 20, 1941, more than six months before the United States entered the war, President Franklin Roosevelt set up the Office of Civilian Defense (OCD) to coordinate state and federal measures to protect civilians in a war-related emergency. The OCD organized the United States Citizens Defense Corps to recruit and train volunteers to perform essential tasks.

The insignia in the poster featured here, published in 1942, illustrate the numerous jobs assigned to civilian volunteers. Enrolled and trained volunteers displayed their insignia on arm bands and on uniforms or civilian dress. The OCD also published a handbook, The United States Citizens Defense Corps, to explain the duties and responsibilities of various positions:

Who Should Join.—All able-bodied, responsible persons in the community—men and women, housewives, laborers, business and professional people—for the mutual protection of all. Boys and girls, and elderly people too, have work to do. The program is broad; the tasks are many; the time is now! . . .

Qualifications for membership require enrollment, physical and mental aptitude, recognition of obligation to study duties, take required training courses, and subsequently attend periodical group practice.

For selected pages from the United States Citizens Defense Corps handbook, click here.

Questions for Discussion

Full content is available to our community and Affiliate School members only. To view it, please apply for your school to be an Affiliate School, sign up to be a community member, or log in.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Already have an account?

Please click here to login and access this page.

How to subscribe

Click here to get a free subscription if you are a K-12 educator or student, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program, which provides even more benefits.

Otherwise, click here for information on a paid subscription for those who are not K-12 educators or students.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Become an Affiliate School to have free access to the Gilder Lehrman site and all its features.

Click here to start your Affiliate School application today! You will have free access while your application is being processed.

Individual K-12 educators and students can also get a free subscription to the site by making a site account with a school-affiliated email address. Click here to do so now!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Why Gilder Lehrman?

Your subscription grants you access to archives of rare historical documents, lectures by top historians, and a wealth of original historical material, while also helping to support history education in schools nationwide. Click here to see the kinds of historical resources to which you'll have access and here to read more about the Institute's educational programs.

Individual subscription: $25

Click here to sign up for an individual subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Upgrade your Account

We're sorry, but it looks as though you do not have access to the full Gilder Lehrman site.

All K-12 educators receive free subscriptions to the Gilder Lehrman site, and our Affiliate School members gain even more benefits!

How to Subscribe

K-12 educator or student? Click here to edit your profile and indicate this, giving you free access, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program.

Not a educator or student? Click here for more information on purchasing a subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Add comment

Login or register to post comments