Friday, September 25, 2015

A Brief Opinion Of An Observed War


For considerable time I have promised myself to do this, being held back and intimidated by a strong concern that I could not express it with the solemnity it deserves.

I was almost half a year from being six years old when our country entered the last real war. Ten years later, when that war was behind us, I was living in Hawaii during the "police action" to which my veteran father had been recalled.  A classmate mentioned, "I remember Pearl Harbor"...and I know that he really did.

But I digress after a fashion. I really meant to say a few words about the last war in which we were the winners.

When the time after December 7, 1941 could still be measured in days and weeks, Uncle Charlie and family stopped by our duplex apartment in Bay City on the way home from spending Christmas in Mexico.  For a couple of days, young Charlie and I played on our front porch while a USO building was already being built directly across the street.  Wouldn't you guess it, we played WAR, with some brand new really neat toys that Charlie had gotten for Christmas.  He had a bomber that represented a machine larger than any real airplane at the time, and it carried a military tank beneath each wing, a technology that has not been done even yet.  We were encouraged to use our imaginations at play.

That building was deeded to the city after the war, and still, after nearly three quarters of a century, serves Bay City under the name Service Center, although many of my generation still call it "The USO".

We had a German war prisoner internment camp in our little town, and we could drive past any time and see the prisoners playing sports games in the yard.  I did not know any of the prisoners personally, but I heard from the old folks that many of them had expressed a desire to come back to the US after the war as immigrants.  They liked our country and the treatment they received in their "prison".  (For any who are obsessed with those well known negative aspects of this war, discussion is welcomed, but the primary function of this observation is to show a difference between the last real war and the later "wars" of opportunity.)

We had weekly air raid drills, and sometimes blackouts, in which a warden from the neighborhood would come around and inspect for any lights which anyone may have left on.  I remember once the warden instructing my dad to turn off the pilot on the gas stove.  They wanted to be able to see NO LIGHT WHATSOEVER! Imagine that in todays world of indicator lights and lighted numbers on virtually all electronic devices.  

Pilot training planes and observation blimps could be seen flying over our heads on a regular basis.  In a week in Galveston at Cousin Charlie's Aunt Mickie's house after the war, we spent a little time each day at the beach, where the deserted concrete structures built to defend the coast were still in place.

My roommate's father did not actively serve in the military, but moved his family to Galveston, where he was employed by the military in the repair of damaged aircraft.

We had rationing, and rationing stamps had to be presented in order to purchase virtually anything that might be useful to anyone.  I have a humorous memory of Mr. Naizer, the service station owner who spoke with a heavy accent, trying to get my mother some "EmmaGency" rationing stamps for our trip to San Francisco (at 35 mph to conserve gas and tires) to spend the summer and see my dad off to the Pacific.

Some very elderly people may have faint memories of slogans like "The slip of a lip may sink a ship" and patriotic songs like "The Yanks Are Coming" (Over There).

Many Hollywood personalities served overseas in the military, and we all know of some who did not serve overseas, but whose skills were used for propaganda films and radio programs to promote the public's contact with the war effort.

My mother knitted sweaters, and we school kids took coathangers to school for contributions to the Red Cross.

Everyone, not only kids, but adult citizens of modest means,  bought savings stamps to be pasted into books to eventually be redeemed for US Savings Bonds...our contribution toward "financing the war".

We youngsters would work into our busy schedules games of "war" as well as the usual "cowboys", with the traditional requirement of eventually being killed and continuing to play as "another guy".

Although not directly tied to the war effort, but contemporary with the war, the citizens were enlisted to contribute dimes to the common cause of research for the elimination of infantile paralysis, now most often called poliomyelitis, or "polio", "off the face of the earth".

I won't bother to mention the temporary engagement of automobile and aircraft manufacturers to switch their production to implements of warfare.  That is well documented without the added benefit of my observation. I am merely describing personal experiences. Capitalism seemed to have its shining hour in cooperation with, rather than enmity for, our tax and spend gu'ment.

AfterMath...

After the real war was ended, and military had been returned to our country (transportation of personnel was mostly by ship in those primitive times), Mom drove us to Camp Wallace, over near Galveston to pick up my dad after his discharge was completed.  As a family again, we frequently would visit friends that Dad had served with in New Guinea and The Philippines, and they would come to visit us. They would always converse with a sense of pride and adventure. I am sure there may have been s little survivor's relief involved, but I really believe they felt that what they had done for our survival was worthwhile.

Later, even after we had returned to "war" and gone to Hawaii, returning in 1952, we got visits from guys my dad had known during his traveling days before 1940, and they would still be telling "war stories" about WWII.

There are many reasons why President Johnson's "Guns and Butter" war which finally became President Nixon's war was a failure, but I think that the foremost reason, and the difference between WWII and all subsequent wars is that since the successful war, The Gu'ment has not brought the people together for a common cause, but left them to bicker among their separate widely diverse selves.  In the real war, we were all involved in the war effort.

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