By Richard L. Pifer
World War II united Americans as never before or since. Workers and their unions made daily sacrifices on behalf of the war effort and sought victory like everyone else on the home front. They bought bonds, donated scrap, and served on numerous boards and committees. Nevertheless, strikes and less visible forms of industrial conflict continued throughout the war. The Greatest Generation, regardless of whether or not they were workers or managers, sought to protect their interests for the future. Milwaukeeans greeted the advent of World War II with the same determination as other Americans.
Everyone felt the effects of the war, whether through concern for loved ones in danger, longer work hours, consumer shortages, or participation in war service organizations and drives. Men and women workers produced the essential goods necessary for victory: the vehicles, weapons, munitions, and components for all the machinery of war. But even in wartime there were labor conflicts, fueled by the sacrifices and tensions of wartime life.
A City at War focuses on the experiences of working men and women in a community that was not a wartime boomtown. Because Milwaukee was a community of established factories and neighborhoods and its workers were aware of the city's labor past, the sacrifices of wartime did not blind them to a vision of a future security. As wartime wages failed to keep pace with inflation, workers and unions worried about maintaining jobs and earning power in a postwar world. As managers and companies profited from the war, they worried about controlling production costs and meeting the challenges of postwar competitors. At a time when the United States is at war, A City at War provides readers with a complex view of the home front and the way Americans responded to the most significant war of the twentieth century.