Our ancestors simply were better equipped for survival than the people of our generation. Just look at it this way: Could you imagine your neighbors heading out cross-country in a covered wagon to settle “out west” somewhere?
For most of us, the answer to that question would be a resounding “No,” probably with a few laughs thrown in. Yet there was a time in our country’s history where that was happening all over. People would pack up what they could and take out across country; sometimes with hardly any notice at all.
How is it that they could do that and we can’t? Basically, it’s because their lifestyle caused them to do many things on a regular basis, which we would call “survival skills” today. Their lives were very different, and those differences helped them face a crisis and come out on top.
When we talk about survival lessons that our ancestors learned from World War II, we really have two different groups of people to consider. There were the soldiers fighting overseas, but there were also the families left back home. Both groups had different lessons they had to learn, specific to their situations.
1. Learn to do without
To a large part, World War II was a war of industrial might. Many things were rationed during World War II, in order to ensure that there were enough raw materials to fuel the war machine.
So, civilians learned to do without all sorts of things, like silk stockings and rubber tires. As a consumer society, we are not used to doing without anything, especially things that a generation ago would have been called luxuries. In a survival situation, many of those things will no longer be available.
2. Plant a garden
By the start of World War II, American society had moved away from being an agricultural society and into being an industrialized one. The Industrial Revolution had been going on a good long time, along with the migration from rural areas to urban ones. But as the war got going, the government encouraged people to plant victory gardens at their homes, so that more of the produce from the farms could be sent overseas; either for our troops or as aid to our allies.
Many people went beyond planting victory gardens and also built chicken coops, raising chickens either for eggs or to eat. These were mostly women, many of whom also worked a job during the day and took care of their families as well. Yet, they still found time to garden and raise chickens.
3. Go back to walking
Amongst the things that were the most tightly rationed was gasoline. Vehicles which were considered “non-essential” could only get three to five gallons per week; and those weren’t fuel-efficient cars either. So, if people wanted to go someplace, they either had to walk or use public transportation.
Walking is an important survival skill. Not only is it a great mode of transportation, but does a lot to increase our stamina. If you can’t walk all day, carrying a pack, how are you going to bug out? For that matter, how are you going to tend your garden or chop firewood? Most of us aren’t in good enough shape, physically speaking, to do what we have to do to survive.
4. Women can do physical labor, too
One of the unexpected outcomes of World War II was the Women’s Liberation Movement. Before the war, the general consensus of society was that the woman’s place was in the home. With so many men overseas fighting, there was a need for women to enter the workplace, especially working in the factories that were turning out war material. Rosy the Riveter carried a lot of the load of the war on her shoulders.
Once women left the home to enter the workplace, it affected how they thought of themselves. Yet, even today, women look at themselves and society looks at women as weak. Ha, tell that to the two women who just graduated from the Army’s elite Ranger School. Those two aren’t weak. Women can do most physical tasks, if they decide to. Oh, they might need to train their bodies to have the strength, but they ca.
5. It’s better to expend things, than people
The United States has a unique war strategy, which is largely based upon our nation’s wealth. We spend more on weapons than any other country in the world, producing some of the finest military weapons there are. A lot of that has to do with our Judeo-Christian roots, and the value we put on life.
In any survival situation, we must operate under the same concept, that it is better to expend things, than expend people. Things are always replaceable, no matter what they are. But once we lose a member of our team, they are gone forever. The whole idea of how we operate must be built around the concept of keeping every team member alive; whether we are talking about food or defense.
6. When fighting, make sure someone is defending you
The Army Air Corps were the first part of our military to attack NAZI Germany. They sent wave after wave of bombers from England, seeking military and industrial targets in Germany and the occupied countries. But those bomber planes didn’t go alone; they had fighter planes with them. The bombers attacked the enemy, while the fighters protected the bombers.
This is an expansion on the idea of having a “wingman.” The lead plane attacks the enemy, while the wingman covers his back. Actually, the idea is even older than that, going all the way back to fighting with swords. During that time, the armor bearer of an important captain or prince would stand back to back with his master, protecting his back.
Never take on a fight, without having someone there to cover your back. The enemy will be looking for your weakness and that could be it. While you are fighting somebody who wants your food, who is sneaking around to outflank you or to get in the back door? Make sure you have that covered.
7. Recycle and repurpose everything
Recycling became a big thing, for the first time, in World War II. Many an American airplane was built out of cookie sheets and muffin tins. Today, we live in a disposable society, where we throw things away and replace them. That can’t be done in a survival situation. You either fix it, repurpose it or use it as raw material to build something else; but you don’t just throw it away.
Even something as disposable as plastic could be reused. Most plastics are thermosetting, which means that they are formed by heating them. So, broken plastic items can be ground down into plastic chips, melted and then molded into something useful.
Resources could become very limited, so things that we would normally call garbage could actually become quite valuable as raw materials. All we’ll have to do is figure out how to make something useful out of them.
8. Attitude is paramount
In combat, like in a survival situation, your attitude greatly affects your ability to survive. The United States Armed Forces recognized this and created the USO during World War II. The whole purpose of the USO was to raise the troops morale, so that they would be able to fight more effectively.
Every military manual, as well as every serious book on survival, talks about the importance of maintaining a positive mental attitude. You must make sure that your survival plans include some means of keeping yourself “UP” emotionally. Otherwise, the you’ll lose the motivation to keep trying. That could be fatal.