Steel of victory, scrap of defeat: Mobilizing the French home front, 1939-40

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Abstract

This article traces the implementation, execution, and results of the French Ministry of Armaments' scrap iron collection drive from September 1939 to June 1940. This collection drive was a belated effort to mobilize patriotic sentiment and raw materials for France's war effort. By the late 1930s, the French government realized that it did not have - and, more importantly, would not be able to acquire - enough metal to meet ambitious armament plans. In September 1939, Raoul Dautry, the Minister of Armaments, began moving toward a controlled economy by setting up central distribution organizations, preventing the movement of stocks, and organizing the national scrap drive, modelled, in part, on Germany. Despite a rural distrust of the state and cases of individuals hoarding metal, most people responde d to the call. Yet logistical difficulties in finances, manpower, and transportation hampered efforts. By May 1940, half of the 85,000 tons collected remained piled on the platforms of railway stations. With the invasion, the Germans immediately confiscated this metal. With the defeat of France, this failed drive came to symbolize France's defeat and humiliation, as well as the impotence of the Third Republic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-130
Number of pages33
JournalWar and Society
Volume33
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014 May

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History

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