Archives: Rationed, Banned & Urban Legends

The Effects of World War II on Alcoholics Anonymous

Depression Era Shopping

A wide variety of commodities were rationed during World War II in the United States.
Rationing ended when supplies were sufficient to meet demand.

During this period of time, World War II was in the early stages for the United States and there was a very high demand to catch up to the rest of the world in equipping our soldiers.

Many items were put on a rationed or banned in usage to be able to equip the armed services. Below is a partial listing of some of these items which would also have an effect on Alcoholics Anonymous.

Rationed/Banned Items Rationing Duration
Tires January 1942 to December 1945
Cars February 1942 to October 1945
Bicycles July 1942 to September 1945
Gasoline May 1942 to August 1945
Fuel Oil & Kerosene October 1942 to August 1945
Solid Fuels September 1943 to August 1945
Stoves December 1942 to August 1945
Rubber Footwear October 1942 to September 1945
Shoes February 1943 to October 1945
Sugar May 1942 to 1947
Coffee November 1942 to July 1943
Processed Foods March 1943 to August 1945
Meats, canned fish March 1943 to November 1945
Cheese, canned milk, fats March 1943 to November 1945
Typewriters March 1942 to April 1944
Conventions July 1942 to March 1944


By the end of 1942, half of U.S automobiles were issued an ‘A’ sticker which allowed 4 gallons of fuel per week. That sticker was issued to owners whose use of their cars was nonessential. Hand the pump jockey your Mileage Ration Book coupons and cash, and she (yes, female service station attendants because the guys were over there) could sell you three or four gallons a week, no more. For nearly a year, A-stickered cars were not to be driven for pleasure at all.

Since gas was so scarce that a new group, the Dearborn Group had to cancel one of their two meetings because of the lack of participation from the “Detroit” crowd.

The green ‘B’ sticker was for driving deemed essential to the war effort; industrial war workers, for example, could purchase eight gallons a week.  Red ‘C’ stickers indicated physicians, ministers, mail carriers and railroad workers.  ‘T’ was for truckers, and the rare ‘X’ sticker went to members of Congress and other VIPs.  Truckers supplying the population with supplies had a T sticker for unlimited amounts of fuel.

The Metropolitan Groups Inter-group was able to acquire the green “B’ sticker, because it was agreed by the government that it was essential for AAs to be able to do 12th Step calls to keep the work force flowing smoothly.


One of the major service position groups would have back then were members who would be responsible to make sure that black-out curtains were up and that the curtains would be drawn tightly. This was required because of the fear that Detroit would be bombed because it was looked on by the world as the “Arsenal of Democracy.”


An urban legend that floats around South-East Michigan that “Table Meetings” were found in this area only was because Archie T. was such a meek and mild man and that he could not share in front of a group of people.

We do not subscribe to this theory because there were many people who got sober after Archie who were of strong character and outgoing personalities. One of these people was Mike E. who built a huge industrial conglomerate and was going into Jackson State Prison to carry the message of hope and even hiring these inmates at his company when they were released, as long as they were sober and going to AA meetings.

We believe the reason “Table Meetings” were so prevalent in this area because of the war. Detroit was the “Arsenal of Democracy,” therefore factories were operating 24/7. We believe members were coming into meetings from work, sharing, and returning to work before the group was finished.


During this period of time, from July, 1942 to March 1944, there was a ban on conventions being held because of the shortage of gasoline and tires, so people could not travel; it also might interfere with their work schedule. Because of these issues no big gathering of Alcoholics Anonymous members in Detroit had happened in 1943.


Finally there was a great paper shortage, May 1942 to 1947 and all book publishing was banned. This at first made no since to us why there was a paper shortage, were people writing to many letters to the soldiers?

Then we took the time to figure it out. Paper comes from trees, trees also produce wood, wood was used to produce crates, that were used to ship war material to Europe on the Freedom ships; there were 3000 of these ships that were sailing 24/7.

The book Alcoholics Anonymous was allowed to be published because it kept soldiers as well as civilians working in the factories sober. There was a stipulation though; the book had to be down-sized to keep to government regulations. Bill W. was hesitant to do this, but started to downsize with the 1st Edition, 6th Printing (June, 1944). The 7th Printing (Jan., 1945 was made smaller; this printing is considered the rarest of all printings because most of these went overseas with the soldiers. The 8th Printing (Feb., 1945) is the smallest of all the 1st Editions.


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  • © 2013 by Bill T, Archivist, General Service of Southeastern Michigan, Area 33
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