History Book: A historic flight and the War on Poverty

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, January 6th. This is The World and Everything in It. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next: the WORLD Radio History Book. 

Today, a declaration of war—on poverty, that is. 

Plus, the start of food rationing in Britain during World War II.

EICHER: But first, an American pilot sets two world records with one adventurous flight. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin today on January 11th, 1935.

NEWSREEL: Roaring into the Oakland Airport, she brings to a triumphant finish the 2,400 mile hop from Hawaii after 18 hours in the air. 10,000 cheer the end of the epical flight as the Lady Lindy slides into a perfect landing. 

Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly over the Pacific Ocean, and the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California. As she climbs out of the cockpit a well-wisher hands her a large bouquet of roses. A reporter asks her how it feels to successfully fly across both oceans:

NEWSREEL: Well, it was very interesting to me to fly in southern waters instead of the north. On the Atlantic flight, I had ice conditions, and general storm. On this flight, really no bad weather at all except a few little rain squalls. 

Four months later, National Geographic publishes Earhart’s first-hand account of the flight. She writes that one of the most memorable moments occurred after dark. She says: “The night was a night of stars. They seemed to rise from the sea and hang outside my cockpit window, near enough to touch, until hours later they slipped away into the dawn.” 

She closes her article predicting that regular air transport across both oceans was “inevitable, and will probably come sooner than most people suspect.” She was right. Pan American Airways began flying the Hawaii Clipper just one year later, and the world’s first transatlantic passenger service began in 1939.


Next, January 8th, 1940. Four months into the war with Germany, Great Britain introduces food rationing: 

RATIONING FILM: Mr. W.S. Morrison is here to explain. Now that you’re receiving your ration books, he tells you what you should do now, and what you might have to do if the need should come. These little books may seem a little complicated at first…

Every British citizen is issued a ration booklet for use with a registered shopkeeper. Some items are rationed by weight:

RATIONING FILM:  Two pounds of sugar…Half a pound of tea. Half a pound of butter. Three ounces of cheese for each person, a box of dried eggs, and finally, a full pound of bacon. 

Other foods are rationed on a point system. Price controls guarantee universal access to limited food stores and help prevent price gouging. 

RATIONING FILM: I do have to give a lot more thought to house keeping problems than I did before the war. The rations have to be evened out over the week. That’s no easy job…

Fruits and vegetables are never rationed, but are often in short supply. The government encourages Brits to grow their own produce in “Victory Gardens.” Food rationing continues for more than 14 years. Meat is the last item to be de-rationed in 1954.

And finally, January 8th, 1964. Just two months into his presidency, Lyndon B. Johnson delivers his State of the Union Address:

JOHNSON: This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. 

Johnson says “poverty is a national problem” that requires federal legislation and government programs—but adds the fight must be organized on the state and local level if it’s to succeed. 

JOHNSON: For the war against poverty will not be won here in Washington. It must be won in the field, in every private home, in every public office, from the courthouse to the White House.

Johnson wants to do more than just relieve what he calls the “symptom of poverty.” He says he wants to cure and prevent it. 

JOHNSON: A world of peace and justice, and freedom, and abundance. For our time and for all time to come. (APPLAUSE)

Johnson’s speech successfully launches a slew of new federal programs and government departments. But 56 years later, the desired paradise has yet to arrive. The war against poverty rages on. Estimates of its cumulative price tag well exceed $15 trillion—and despite decades of campaign promises to the contrary, there’s no end in sight. Perhaps it’s time to try something else. 

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book. I’m Paul Butler.

(Photo/Biography) Amelia Earhart

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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