Buy Bonds!

September 9, 2011

Wars cost money--lots of it. During World War II, the U.S. government raised money by selling war bonds to the public.

The third bond sale was launched here on September 9, 1943. The country had already been at war nearly two years. To renew spirits and remind people what the war was all about, Chicago staged an all-day extravaganza.

The proceedings began at noon, with a fly-over of planes from Glenview Naval Air Station. As the planes thundered over the Loop, the city responded.

Anything that could make noise was sounded. Air raid sirens shrieked, facory whistles blew, church bells rang. Drivers leaned on their horns. Pedestrians yelled their lungs out.

After two minutes the cacophony died away. Then it was down to business.

An outdoor rally was staged at LaSalle and Jackson. Movie stars Albert Dekker and Helen Walker were joined on the podium by four decorated war heroes. They took turns addressing the crowd of office workers on lunch break, urging them to help beat the Axis by buying bonds.

Over on State Street, Goldblatt's department store unveiled a reproduction of the Liberty Bell. Bond purchasers were given the privilege of ringing the bell. Store employees also presented officials with a check for $100,000 for their own bonds.

The action was not confined to downtown. Many large factories--such as Western Electric, Dodge, and Stewart-Warner--held their own rallies. War savings booths were opended in neighborhood theaters and office buildings and bowling alleys. Officials announced that 15,000 volunteer bond wardens would soon begin door-to-door sales to every house in the country.

The day ended with another rally, this one at Medinah Temple. The main speaker was Monsignor Edward Flanagan, famed founder of Boys Town. "Our country is the most indulgent mother of all the nations of the world," he told the audience. "She asks us not to give, but to invest in ships, planes, and ammunition for those fighting for us."

Flanagan's plea was echoed by naval hero (and Boys Town grad) Wesley Haggard. He said America was fighting "the rottenest, yellowest foe in history." Buying more bonds would help bring all the troops home all the sooner.

Bond drives went on throughout the war. Sales eventually totaled over $185 billion. The program was so successful that the federal government has continued selling bonds to this day--only now they're called U.S. Savings Bonds.