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Scrap Metal Shortage


During World War II, metal was in short supply and in high demand. The line between military and civilian resources was erased. The military was the first priority for the allocation of resources, and civilians were urged to “make do or do without.” Community groups, schools, and the Boy Scouts hosted scrap metal drives. From the bumper of an old car to old tractors, chicken wire, and garden tools, people were urged to donate all their scrap metal. Unfortunately, some historically significant artifacts were lost to the patriotic enthusiasm, like a cannon from Fort Omaha that had been used in the Spanish American War. But a single tank required 18 tons of metal, and some ships required 900 tons, and people were more concerned about the current war than a historical event.

The War Production Board was the federal agency that supervised war production, and on this date in 1944 it was announced that the WPB and a deputy U.S. marshal served a warrant for the seizure of scrap metal from a North Dakota farm. They seized 20 tons of scrap metal from farmer Roy Dries in Kidder County. It was the first seizure of its kind in the state, but officials said it wouldn’t be the last.

WPB official H.B. Gallagher explained that the office had made numerous requests for Dries to haul his scrap to a local collection depot or to allow local or state groups to collect it. The seized scrap would be sold, and the money would be returned to Dries. There was no immediate estimate of the value. Hauling the scrap began as soon as the warrant was served. Some larger pieces, like an old tractor, would have to be broken down. It was expected that the process of collecting the scrap would take several days.

Gallagher explained that the country’s metal reserves were low, with only a five weeks’ supply on hand. All the scrap that could be turned in as salvage was needed immediately. He noted that a 30 ton scrap pile had been seized in Minnesota the previous October, and anyone hoarding metal could expect a visit from the United States Government.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Direct Metals Recycling. "" Accessed 13 November, 2015.

Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. “U.S. Seizes 20 Tons of Scrap in Kidder.” 30 November, 1944.

In Their Words: World War II Oral History Project. "" Accessed 13 November, 2015.