READ FIRST TWO CHAPTERS OF FEATURED BOOK
CHILD OF THE GREATEST GENERATION
A World War II Home Front Memoir
By Gene Herst
Copyright © 2014 By Howard Herst. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written permission of the author/publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews. This is a true story with the names of the characters and places changed to protect privacy. ISBN: 1495314588
My generation is passing into history. Despite a myriad of WWII books and movies about our parents at war, the story of the children who lived through that time has yet to be told. The real life struggles and triumphs of the American home front between 1939 and 1945 need to be preserved for those who will follow. Never again will our nation unite so seamlessly and selflessly to give so much for so long.
It was a time when Americans stood tall, and were ready to contribute at all levels of our society. When faced with the destruction of our Republic we came together to defend our homeland: school kids, mothers, grandparents, teachers - people from all walks of American life. Here is our story. The story of those who never saw the front - but stood behind and held fast. For our soldiers - we had their backs. Without the strong roots and steady resolve of these sons and daughters - the nation would never have made it through those tear-stained years. We made their ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield count. Not one life was given in vain. This book salutes the children of the Greatest Generation. Sylvia Smart. Writer, publisher, and the daughter of a Pearl Harbor veteran.
WE’RE GONNA GET INTO A WAR
I would have recurring nightmares of heavily armed paratroopers dropping on our rooftop and then come crashing down through the ceiling into my house. They wore black helmets and black clothing. Frightened, I called out to my parents, who just sat there in the kitchen and were indifferent to my pleas for help. I’d run outside and try to reach the barn because there were lots of hiding places there. I see my little cousin, Judy by the barn doors, waving me on and yelling, “Don’t let them catch you! Run, Gene! Run!”
The paratroopers came after me as I screamed for help. If I could reach the barn, I would be safe. As I ran, my legs moved slower and slower, and the black helmeted men were getting closer. My feet suddenly began tingling. Just before one of the helmeted men caught me, I awakened with pins and needle sensation in my toes, sweat on my forehead, and my heart pounding. As I became more coherent, I would realize I was no longer at grandfather’s farm, but at home in our Florida apartment. I’d pull the covers over my head, telling myself if I stayed awake until the morning light, I wouldn’t return to the dream world and face its horrors, least ways not until the next night.
My parents were unaware of how perceptive their eight-year old son was with regard to the war in Europe. I saw pictures in magazines and newspapers of Nazi soldiers and tanks on the streets of Paris, and bombed out buildings in London. I remember a newsreel in the movies that showed a torpedoed freighter sinking with smoke billowing skyward from her hull.
I heard people talk on the street and in stores about the war in Europe. They spoke of children orphaned, people starving, and losing their homes. Our neighbors, the Baranskies, told my parents they had lost contact with their family ever since the Nazis invaded Poland. I’m sure Sigmund Freud would have traced my childhood nightmares back to all those visuals, yet those pictures of weaponry and soldiers fascinated me. I would thumb through periodicals and newspapers searching for images of them.
In 1941, we lived in Palm Beach Florida. Our house was a rental, one of nine single-story duplexes that were within walking distance to a public beach. It was a Sunday morning. My dad sat at the kitchen table. He wore a white sleeveless undershirt that exposed a Merchant Marine tattoo on his upper left arm. He puffed on a cigar as he read the news. I sat next to him engrossed in the comic section of the paper. My Mother, who was an attractive, 27-year-old brunette was mixing pancake batter at the kitchen counter.
As my father read, he mumbled, “We’re gonn’a be in a war soon.”
Mom turned to look at him. “Did you say something, Bob?”
“Yeah. Looks like Roosevelt’s dead set on continuing to send war equipment and supplies to England and Russia.”
“So, why should we care?” She asked.
“Because the next thing you know, America will be at war with Germany again.”
As Mom poured pancake batter into a hot pan, she said, “I don’t believe it. My friend, Mona told me that some news guy on the radio said Americans want no part of the war in Europe, and the government will never send our soldiers to fight over there.”
Dad shook his head, and snorted. “So, Mona, the ‘pom-pom’ tells you what some gullible idiot said over the radio, and you believe it?”
“Mona is up on all the latest political stuff.”
Dad blew smoke across the table, “I’m glad you have a reliable source that keeps you up with world affairs.”
“Mona said that Lindbergh is supporting something called the pacifism movement which will keep us out of the war. He’s quite influential with the people, you know.”
“All that hoopla don’t amount to a hill of beans. Just because he was the first to fly across the Atlantic doesn’t mean he will be able to influence Roosevelt to keep us out of the conflict. From what I’ve read, we’re already involved.”
Mom raised her eyebrows. “How?”
“I told you! Roosevelt is shipping tanks, planes, and cannons over to Russia and Britain.”
Mom looked at Dad dubiously. “How do you know?”
“I’m reading it right here. There’s even a picture of the stuff being loaded onto freighters over in Savannah.”
Mom flipped the pancakes over in the pan. “Since when?”
“Since April. Haven’t you been reading about it in the papers?”
“I mostly read Hedda Hopper and the ads. Don’t pay much attention to politics. If I want to know what’s going on in the government, I ask Mona.”
“You can’t learn about world events from Hedda Hopper’s column. She reports on celebrity stuff.”
I stood up and leaned over to look at the pictures my father mentioned. “Doesn’t that make Hitler mad?”
“Does that mean America will go to war, Dad?”
“It might. Don’t know for sure.” He blew a smoke ring across the table.
Mom flared up. “For Christ sake, Bob, don’t speak to the child that way. He’s too young to know anything about it.”
“That’s what you think. Kids his age know something is going on. You wait and see. One of these days a Nazi U-Boat will torpedo a freighter off our coast and Roosevelt will have to declare war.”
“Germany is too far away. It’ll never happen.” Mom mused.
“You and Mona, including that jerk on the radio are living in a dream world, and so is half the country. Washington’s been getting ready for war. Why do you think they started registration for the draft last year?”
Mom frowned with concern. “What happens if you don’t register?”
“Not sure. Maybe a fine or jail.”
I had never heard of the draft. “What’s registering for the draft mean, Dad?”
“Gene, don’t interrupt when I’m talking to your father!” Then she asked Dad, “Did you register?”
My father blew smoke toward the ceiling, “What for?”
She threw her arms up in disgust, “So you don’t get in trouble. That’s why!”
“Just never got around to it. Anyway, they probably won’t call up family men.”
She transferred the pancakes to a platter and poured more batter into the pan. “Are you sure about that?”
“No, just supposing.”
Mom shifted her hips defiantly and pointed the spatula at him. “For heaven’s sake, Bob! Don’t you think you should look into it? What if you get arrested? What would happen to me and Gene if you end up sitting in jail?”
Dad took another puff from his cigar and reached for his coffee cup. “You’ll do what any faithful wife who cares about her husband would do! Bake me a cake with a hacksaw inside.”
Mom’s cheeks reddened. “Darn it, you’re not funny! You sit there and smoke like you don’t have a care in the world while I worry about you getting in trouble with the law.”
Dad scratched his chest. “You worry too much. I’ll deal with it when the time comes. You tend to worry even when things are going well. You’ve got to quit looking at the morbid side of everything.”
Mom placed both hands on her hips. “Well, things usually don’t turn out good for me.”
“You wish it on yourself. Right after we got married you became riled up when I couldn’t find work.”
“You bet I did! I agreed to marry you because Brogan promised to make you a partner in his business, but he never did.”
“No fault of mine or his. Too many people lost their jobs and stopped eating out. He had no choice, but to close the restaurant.”
Mom transferred the last batch of pancakes onto the platter. “We ended up with you working on your parents’ farm for room and board and fifteen dollars a month for spending money. It was like getting an allowance for being a good boy and keeping your room clean.”
Dad’s face flushed. He removed the cigar from his mouth and jammed it into an ashtray, folded his paper, and angrily tossed it onto an empty kitchen chair. “Remember? We married and had a kid during this depression. The farm provided a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. You didn’t have to eat at soup kitchens or sleep on the street like so many poor souls had too. Did you?”
He drank his coffee, and under his breath, I heard him mumble, “She’d complain about being hungry with two loaves of bread under her arms.”
“I hated living with your parents.” Mom said.
“It wasn’t so bad. Gene loved the farm and being around all the animals. He played outdoors all summer long.”
“Sure. He’d get dirty and tracked cow manure into the house. I was the one that had to clean it up.”
Dad chuckled, and winked at me. “It was good, clean dirt. Wasn’t it, Gene?”
“Yeah, Pop.” I knew he was having fun with my mother.
He continued, “You just tracked it into the house to see if it looked good blended with the rugs.”
“No, Dad. I didn’t mean to. It got stuck on my shoes. Didn’t want to make Mom mad at me. Isn’t that why we moved out here?”
Dad looked at me questionably. “What do you mean, son?”
“Didn’t we move out here so I wouldn’t track manure into the house, and make Mom mad?”
They both laughed. “For heaven’s sake,” Dad remarked. “What gave you that idea? We moved out here because I got a swell job at the marina. I liked the farm but the winters are too cold. Made my joints hurt, I feel better living here.”
Mom added, “And Gene always caught bad colds. Don’t you remember all the times he missed school?”
She placed the platter of pancakes on the table, sat down, and said, “Put the funny papers away, Gene. Eat your food before it gets cold!” Then in a softer voice, she asked my father, “You think the Germans would come here? Europe is so far away.”
“It won’t surprise me. A yachtsman told me he spotted a periscope in the water off Ponte Verda Beach. There’s been some talk that the government might commandeer privately owned boats for submarine patrols.”
Mom shook her head, pushed a strand of long black hair away from her face, and rolled her eyes with skepticism. “Baloney! They’re just flapping their lips!”
“Maybe, but the Coast Guard started a mounted beach patrol to watch for Nazi spies that might try sneaking ashore from submarines.”
When he mentioned, ‘mounted patrol’, it spiked my interest. I leaped up from the chair. “Dad, do you mean they’re riding horses just like cowboys in the movies? Are they wearing guns?”
“Yep. Just like the cowboys in the movies, except they’re sailors and they also have dogs with them. I’ve seen them on the beach.”
“Wow! Can you take me to see them?”
Before he had to chance to answer, my mother reached out and forced me back in the chair, “Let’s stop this crazy stuff, Bob! You’re scaring the boy.”
“No he’s not, Mom. I want him to tell me about the sailors and their dogs.”
“Stop pestering Daddy! When you’re finished eating, put your dishes and silverware in the sink, and go to the bathroom and brush your teeth. We’re going to the beach with Phyllis and Margaret.”
“Oh boy! Is Dad coming with us?”
“No. He’s working today.”
She stood up from the table and as she collected the plates and utensils, I heard her sigh and whisper under her breath, “Wars, Shmors. My God, what’s the world coming to?”
DAY OF INFAMY
CBS radio announcer reported that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor with the opening words, “This is no Joke...” at 2:31 p.m. EST on December 7, 1941.
I brushed my teeth and then went into the living room where I found my father dressed for work and shoving cigars into the breast pocket of his shirt. My mother remarked, “It’s such a nice day for a stroll along the beach. Not too sunny or warm outside, too bad you have to work and can’t go with us.”
Dad placed a Panama fedora on his head, and ran his fingers across the brim. “I’d rather be fishing than working.”
Mom handed dad his billfold. “You left this on the table. Will you be home early?”
“Can’t. They’re having a big shindig at the marina.”
“So, you’ll be rubbing elbows with the fat cats, heh?”
“Mingling with the guests and making sure everything runs smoothly is part of a manager’s job.”
The three of us walked out of the apartment. My father gave a departing wave, “Have a good time. I should be home sometime after midnight.” As he walked toward the bus stop, I heard him singing to himself. Something he did whenever he was in a pleasant mood.
We met our neighbor, Phyllis Melton and her seven-year-old daughter, Margaret at the corner near our apartment complex. Mrs. Melton was of medium height with bleached blonde hair, big blue eyes, and slightly overweight. I particularly liked her light-heartiness and humorous mannerisms.
We all wore shorts over bathing suits and sandals. The women carried bags stuffed with towels, brushes, and suntan lotion. Margaret toted a toy pail and shovel.
We casually walked the three blocks to the public beach. Being Sunday, with schools and most businesses closed, the beach was crowded with people enjoying a mild Florida December. Among the humanity lolling about on the sand and under the trees near the street were the everyday regulars. These were mostly unemployed due to the economic conditions of the times or seasonal residents not affected by the Depression and able to afford wintering on Florida’s east coast.
Although the morning started out cool and overcast, by the time we arrived the sky had cleared but the air was cool enough to discourage most from swimming. Margaret and I kicked off our sandals, stripped down to bathing suits, and ran into the water with Margaret screaming happily all the way. She entered the surf just before me, and then suddenly spun around, and ran back screaming. “Oowie, oowie, It’s too cold, too cold!”
The water was rather cool, but I didn’t let that stop me. I wanted to show off to Margaret and plunged into the breakers. Got properly soaked, and came back ashore feeling chilled. My mother wiped me down with a beach towel as she scolded me. “My God, how can you be so stupid by diving into cold water like that?”
“It’s n..n..not c..cold, Mom. It’s just c..c..cooler than I th...thought.” I replied, shivering.
“Yeah, sure. My son, little boy blue lips.”
Margaret stood by, watched, and giggled. I remember thinking, Gee whiz, Mom, do you have to embarrass me in front of everybody when I’m trying to play the “he-man”.
Later, Margaret and I collected seashells left by the receding tide. I looked seaward and observed a two-mastered sailboat. She was sailing just beyond the yellow buoys that marked the swim area. I marveled at how gracefully the craft cut through the swells as she followed the shoreline southward. In the far distance, I spotted a grayish freighter and could just barely make out the black smoke that arose from its stack. I fantasized about the possibility of a submarine stalking the ship and sinking it somewhere beyond the horizon. Margaret distracted my thoughts by pulling on my hand. “What’cha looking at, Gene?”
“That sailboat out there.” I pointed out the craft to her.
“It’s nice.” She held up her pail. “Come help me build a sand castle.”
“Oh, alright.” I indicated a spot not far from the water’s edge where the sand was moist. “Let’s build it over there.” As we proceeded to form the ramparts, three other kids about our age came over and joined us in the construction project.
At noon, our mothers collected us and we all went over to Stan’s Fish N’ Shrimp on the wharf. We sat and ate at one of the outdoor umbrella tables in front of the eatery. Later, Margaret and I tossed small pieces of food scraps to the pelicans and gulls that gathered around us while our mothers chatted. Their favorite subject was movie celebs. Mom had a crush on Clark Gable, and she liked to talk about him and his actress wife, Carole Lombard.
Mrs. Melton inquired, “My goodness, Lily, how come you known so much about Gable and Lombard?”
“From magazines and listening to Hedda Hoppa on the radio?”
Phyllis waved her hand to signify disinterest. “She’s on at the same time another show that I prefer to listen to is broadcasting.”
“Too bad. You miss a lot of good stuff about Hollywood people.”
I asked Margaret, “Did you ever see a Gene Autry movie?”
She shook her head and giggled. “Don’t like cowboys. Did you see Pinocchio?”
“Uh huh, but Gene Autry’s my favorite.”
My attention focused on a sailor in navy blues walking hand in hand with a young woman. As he passed our table, I noticed his jersey had a white shield icon above the cuff of his right sleeve and wondered what it meant. I asked, “Mom, do you know why that sailor has a small shield on the sleeve of his uniform?”
She looked around. “What sailor, Gene?”
I pointed him out. “He’s over there walking with a lady wearing a yellow dress.
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s just for decoration.”
Mrs. Milton interjected. “I think it means that he’s in the Coast Guard.”
“Gosh!” My dad told me about them this morning. Then I asked Margaret, “Did you see that sailor? Hasn’t he got a neat looking uniform?”
“Uh huh, I like sailors.”
Mom chuckled. “Phyllis, did you hear what Margaret just said? You better keep an eye on your daughter; she fancies sailor boys.”
Mrs. Melton brushed a strand of blonde hair from her eyes. “It’s the uniform. Girls go for men in uniform. When I first met Harry, he wore a uniform.”
“Was he in the Navy?”
Mrs. Milton threw her head back, and laughed. “Heavens, no. He was a doorman at the Edison Hotel in New York.”
Both women laughed.
“I’m going to be a sailor when I grow up.” I proudly declared.
“No you’re not! Sailors are bums.” Mom decleared.
In defense of my father, I spoke up. “But Daddy was a sailor, and he’s not a bum. Is he, Mom?”
Mrs. Melton cocked an eyebrow and slyly grinned. “Yes, Lil, tell us why Gene’s daddy is not a bum. I’m anxiously waiting for your explanation.”
Mom feigned annoyance. “Shut up, Phyllis. I’ll think of something.” She removed a package of Chesterfields from her beach bag, pulled one out and offered one to Mrs. Melton. They lit their smokes with matches placed on the tables for the eatery’s patrons.
Then Mom looked down at me and said, “Your daddy is no bum. He wasn’t in the Navy and wore no uniform. He was in the Merchant Marines, and they’re different.”
“Bob was in the Merchant Marines?” Mrs. Melton appeared surprised. “That’s a darn good paying job. Why in the world did he quit?”
Mom flipped the ashes off her cigarette in a deliberate gesture. “Because I wouldn’t marry him unless he quit. I wasn’t going to sit home alone while he’s away at sea for who knows how long.”
“Well, if my Harry had a decent paying job, I wouldn’t care how long he stayed away. These days, driving a taxi doesn’t pay much, and he has to work long hours to make ends meet, so he’s hardly home as it is. My eighteen-year-old brother was lucky. He found work with the WPA.*
“What does he do?” Mom asked.
“He works with a road construction crew. The government put lots of young men to work through that program. After my father lost his job when they closed the shop he worked at he went on welfare.”
Mom nodded. “Lots of people did, and are still on it.”
Mrs. Milton agreed. “But my folks feel its degrading. Still, it keeps them in their house. So many people these days are living in hobo camps across the country.
Mom responded. “I’m lucky Bob has a regular job, so does my kid sister who works at Gimbals. My mother on the other hand, can’t work because of poor health, but she’s too proud to take relief. I told her she should take it, but she never listens to me.”
We left the wharf, and strolled homeward, taking the long route that led by a marina where we could watch the watercraft moving about among the mooring slits, and see the wealthy tending to the needs of their berthed boats.
Mom remarked, “Look at all those ritzies and their beautiful yachts. Even now, with these hard times, there are still people with lots of dough. Too bad we weren’t smart enough to snag one of them instead of going after guys because they were good-looking, eh, Phyllis?”
“We didn’t make out so badly, Lil. We’re not rich, but we both have a roof over our heads and food on the table, and husbands who have jobs. Some of those gold diggers, like my friend, Gladys Flushing who married a rich, older guy just for his money ended up with nothing. Her husband, like some others of his kind, committed suicide when the stock market crashed and the banks failed.”
“No family to help her out?” Mom asked.
Phyllis shook her head. “Nope. Her in-laws wanted nothing to do with her. She and her baby moved in with her parents who could barely feed themselves since her father lost his job.”
My mother sighed. “I guess we aren’t that bad off after all.”
Margaret and I were walking a few steps ahead of our mothers. As we neared our apartment complex, I observed the people on the street acting unusual. Some were conversing excitedly in small groups, while others stood around as though they were horror-struck. Even Margaret realized something was wrong.
I looked back at my mom and Mrs. Melton. They were busy talking and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. Wide-eyed, Margaret tugged at her mother’s arm, “Mommy, mommy, look! Everybody on the street acts like something happened!”
Our mothers stopped conversing, and looked around. Mrs. Melton spoke up, “It’s true. Look at the people, Lily. They seem in a state of shock and look troubled. Something bad must have happened.”
Mom stepped back. “My Gosh! Do you suppose it’s one of those deadly hurricane warnings?” She looked up, “The sky’s clear; I don’t see any storm clouds.”
“I think it’s past the season for hurricanes.” Mrs. Milton said. “I bet there’s been a terrible accident or an important person died. I’m going to ask somebody what’s going on.”
As we moved along, I noticed a middle-aged, portly man rushing toward a bungalow across the street and yelling at a woman in a doorway, “I don’t believe it. Are you sure it ain’t just a story on the radio or somebody’s idea of a hoax?”
No, it’s not! The woman in the doorway emphatically yelled back. The newscaster said, ‘This is no joke...,” and I never heard the rest of her response.
As we neared the manager’s office, a wide-eyed elderly man wearing a bathrobe and sandals came rushing down the walkway toward our direction. When he noticed us, he stopped short, and in a shaky voice, muttered, “Isn’t it terrible? I just can’t believe it!”
“What happened?” Both mothers asked in unison.
“You don’t know? You didn’t hear?” My God, the Japanese bombed Hawaii this morning.”
Mrs. Melton and my mother paled. Margaret asked, “Mommy, what are Japanese?”
I was intrigued by the word, Japanese, and began to vocalize it just to hear myself pronounce it, “Jap-a-neeze, Jap-a-neeze”
My mother snapped out of her daze and grabbed my hand. “I’m going home to listen to the radio, Phyllis. I’ve got to find out what’s going on. Talk to you later.”
The man in the bathrobe mumbled as he shuffled away, “It’s shocking! That’s what it is, shocking.”
As we hurried to our apartment, I heard Margaret behind us screeching in panic. “What’s wrong, Mommy? Did something bad happen? Why won’t you tell me?”
Once inside the house, Mom removed the pack of Chesterfields and a lighter from her beach bag and hurried over to our radio that was atop of an end table by a chair. (I still remember that small Westinghouse radio with its oak stained wood cabinet.)
Mom lit up a cigarette, sat down and rotated the radio so that the control knobs faced her while giving me the view of the tubes through the open back. As she switched the apparatus on, I watched the tubes glow orange; a phenomenon that always fascinated me.
After a static humming sound began to issue from the speaker, she began to manipulate the tuning knob for a news broadcast. When Mom noticed me watching, she said, “Go find something to do, and leave me alone for awhile!”
I got my magic slate, sat on the couch, and began drawing. A moment later, my father walked through the door, surprising both of us. Mom jerked her head up. “Bob! What are you doing home? I thought you had to work late.”
“Party’s called off. Isn’t it a fine thing? Japan made war on us! Who’d of known?”
Mom shook her head, “It’s hard to believe such a thing could happen. And the day started out so nice.”
“I know!” Dad agreed. It was a sneak attack. They bombed us without a declaration of war. Everybody at the marina was in a state of shock.”
Mom related our experience earlier on the street. “While we were walking back from the beach, me and Phyllis noticed everybody on our block acted like something real bad happened. An airplane crashed, maybe. We never expected an attack.”
Dad took a seat near Mom. “From Germany, maybe, not Japan. It’s ironic; we sold them our scrap metal to build planes. Then they used those planes to bomb Pearl Harbor. They’re nothing but sneaky, treacherous rats!”
My spine tingled from fear. “Dad, where’s Pearl Harbor?”
“It’s an island far out in the Pacific Ocean.”
“Is it very far away?”
“Yes. It’s a long, long way from here.”
I wanted to know more, but my parents were so intent on listening to the news broadcast, I thought it best to remain quiet for a while.
I remember my father making this prediction. “We’re going to see a lot of changes take place in this country.”
“You mean they’ll be calling up all the men that registered with the draft board. Isn’t that right, Bob?”
“That’s for sure, but this war will put a lot of people back to work in the factories and get this country back on its feet, which is a good thing. The bad part of course is that a lot of young guys will be going off to fight and getting killed or injured just like in the last war.”
“They won’t draft you; you’re married and have a child. Can they?”
“How the hell should I know?”
“But you never registered, so they don’t have your name in their books. Isn’t that right?”
“Could be. But I think I’ll register in the morning. It’s the right thing to do.”
Mom clenched her lips. “No you’re not! I don’t need to have a husband go off to fight and leave me here alone. There’s plenty of single men to do that. We’ll do just fine by staying where you are and working at the marina.”
Dad raised his voice in anger. “I don’t want to discuss it now! I’ll work things out for myself. Right now, I’m hungry. Go scramble up some eggs for dinner, while I sit and think about what to do.”
Later that day, the President made an announcement over the radio. “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”
Of course, at the time, I was quite young, and did not fully comprehend what had taken place, but I was aware that American soldiers and sailors suffered casualties at a place called Pearl Harbor. I overheard people expressing anger, and hatred against Japanese, which included Americans of Japanese heritage.
The day following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the school I attended began the first of a series of steps to promote patriotism that influenced my generation’s attitude toward America throughout our adult lives.
* WPA was a government program that employed millions of men to construct public buildings and roads during the Great Depression era.
A PEARL HARBOR BADGE
Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Germany, Japan, and Italy formed a pact of mutual interest. Soon after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hitler and Mussolini, the dictator of Italy declared war on the United States. America was at war with three nations collectively known as the Axis Alliance.
“Those Americans who believed that we could live under the illusion of isolationism wanted the American eagle to imitate the tactics of the ostrich. Now, many of those same people, afraid that we may be sticking our necks out, want our national bird to be turned into a turtle. But we prefer to retain the eagle as it is – flying high and striking hard.” __FDR, 1942
My father predicted there would be significant changes taking place in America after Pearl Harbor, and he was correct. World War II got America out of the Depression. Factories began hiring thousands of men and women to build the equipment needed to wage war. After February of 1942, automakers manufactured vehicles exclusively for the military while the public had to be content with pre-1942 models.
To prevent the possibilities of shortages on the home front, the government initiated a rationing program and urged people to grow their own food in what was termed, victory gardens. To conserve gasoline, the Administration urged citizens to limit driving motorized vehicles. A poster read, “SAVE A GALLON FOR VICTORY”.
I primarily noticed the changes at school. The first ones occurred on the Monday following the Pearl Harbor attack. My fellow pupils and I were in our classroom waiting for the 8:30 bell to announce the start of the school day. We all expected the morning to begin as usual. First, the Pledge of Allegiance, then we’d sing a few songs, one of which would be patriotic. However, that morning began differently....
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