The War Council was organized to coordinate war-related efforts necessary to ensure State and national defense during World War II. In keeping with that mandate, the council undertook a variety of activities, including conducting research on defense issues, especially those relating to supplying material for the war effort; providing the civilian population with civil defense training; administering federal rationing and price control; ensuring an adequate labor supply in war-production industries; and coordinating war efforts among State agencies and local war councils.
Governor Herbert H. Lehman appointed a State Council of Defense in 1940 consisting of representatives of industry, agriculture, labor, commerce, and public utilities. It became a statutory body the following year (Laws of 1941, Chapter 22). Following the passage of the New York State War Emergency Act (Laws of 1942, Chapter 445), the Council of Defense was replaced by the New York State War Council, a temporary state agency. It was composed of the governor, certain legislative leaders, and ten gubernatorial appointees.
The War Council actively coordinated war-related efforts in State government and cooperated with the federal government and local governments as well. The War Emergency Act had authorized the formation of local war councils; the councils were not mandatory but if formed were responsible to the State council. Over 100 local war councils were formed in counties and cities throughout the State, and their activities were assisted and monitored by field representatives who worked for the various agencies within the War Council. Eventually over thirty War Council agencies and programs were developed, many relating to either civilian protection or war-related production, and most falling under one of three main divisions:the Division of Civilian Protection; the Division of Civilian Mobilization; and the Division of Industry, Labor, and Agriculture. By war's end, agricultural programs were separated from this last division and congregated under the Emergency Food Commission. The Salvage Division acted as a cooperating agency under the War Council's aegis. The council was terminated in 1947.
For more information on the New York State War Council, see Karl Drew Hartzell, The Empire State at War, published by the State of New York, 1949 (423 pages).