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Pinball and World War 2

by Terry Cumming

Bally ad


World War 2 took it's toll on a lot of people. Truly a global conflict, the USA was not exempt, being indoctrinated on December 7, 1941 with the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The coin-op industry in the United States was also affected by the war, as manufacturers ceased the production of amusement machines in order to produce materials and objects relevant to the war effort. Instead of pinballs there were parachute harnesses and gun sights instead of gun games.

Just because no new pinball machines were being manufactured, it didn't mean that the folks back home stopped playing pinball. Instead it meant a strong demand for existing games. Of course people always want something new and in time earnings from these pre-war holdovers began to sag. Necessity being the mother of invention, a new kind of enterprise rapidly appeared: the war time conversions industry.

Existing pin games were given makeovers by changing the backglass and giving the playfield a new paint job. Bumper caps featuring the enemy of the Far East were in vogue also. The game could then go out with a new name and theme. In many cases, the theme was related to the war effort, with patriotic titles such as Victory or Smack the Japs being used.

Smack the Japs

On the following pages I attempt to give you some random insights into WW2 from the perspective of the pinball/coin-op industry. There is not set order to view the pages in - start with any topic you like.

A good place to start might be with the image gallery.

Pictures and ads for some of the war time conversion games are provided, as documentation and details of these games is still a bit sketchy in the existing pinball history literature. Until Dick Beuschel gets around to writing Pinball, volume x on World War 2 pins, the information presented here can be used as a starting point.

I make no claims of being an expert on war time pinball. I wasn't born until after the war was over (1959), and the source of most of the information shown here is from war time Billboard magazines. So please keep an open mind should you find horrible errors or omissions. Additional information and corrections are invited via email. Send me photos of your WW2 game and I'll attempt to include it here. And if you have any old Billboards for sale...

For information about accessing these pages with various web browsers, see the Information page.

Updates Updates to the presentation.

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Last update: July 17, 2006

© Terry Cumming, 1996-2006