The spring and summer of 1944 brought a much-appreciated bumper crop of winter wheat to the Midwest and Great Plains states. Farmers were able to set food production records each year of the war, despite acute shortages of labor, fuel and machinery. In 1944, food production was 38 percent above the 1935-1939 average.
No industry was more essential to the war effort than farming, which fed not only our troops and citizenry, but also millions of people in war-ravaged Europe where farming had been disrupted.
Many farmers were exempted from the military draft because of the necessity of their work, but many others were drafted or enlisted, creating an acute labor shortage. Farm women and children helped out as never before, but ultimately the severe shortage of farm labor could only be met by making individual farmers more efficient and productive.
So, even in the midst of the war, when car and truck production was ceased in favor of arms, manufacturers continued to produce tractors and other farm implements, although never in a quantity to meet demand. The war caused a revolution in productivity on the farm and brought an end to the horse-drawn era. The tractor became the only way to get things done as millions of people who grew up on farms left for city jobs or the military and never returned to live and work.
My dad was a Kansas farmer all of his life, including during the war years. He grew wheat, corn, soybeans, beef and pork. Whether he ever wished or felt he could have, or would have, or should have gone off to war as so many of his generation did, I do not know. He never said and I never asked. He died in 1984. I do hope he was proud of his unsung hero’s role in the war effort. I am.