Civilian Defense

Civilian Defense

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was also an assault on America’s sense of security. Roosevelt had created the Office of Civilian Defense (OCD) in May 1941, ordering each state to set up its own system with cities and towns providing their own defense councils. The OCD expanded quickly after the December 7 attack and by the end of January 1942 there were 8,478 local civilian defense councils. OCD provided a variety of services, mostly focusing on emergency preparedness and response to attacks. Volunteers worked as air raid wardens, firefighters, messengers, and on rescue and road repair crews. Winnetka’s Civilian Defense office was based in the Village Hall and coordinated the work of both the Defense Corps and Community Services. A handbook for the Community Services shows how thoroughly the organization permeated the town, with the Chief of Service Aides at the head of a pyramid that included district leaders, zone leaders, and an aide for each block. Service Aides answered questions on topics like rationing, and encouraged and monitored participation in scrap drives. The handbook also details many opportunities for service, from providing cookies, books, and entertainment for servicemen stationed nearby, to participating in a Courtesy Ride program. Although the mainland of the US did not suffer any enemy attacks, the volunteers of the OCD provided vital emergency services and helped coordinate community participation in the war effort.

The Home Front
Civilian Defense