I’m pleased that most of you are still enjoying the hopes and dreams of youth. But, on the other hand, I regret that you will never experience the unity, the sense of purpose, and the total devotion to ONE great cause that World War Two gave Americans.
I was eten years old when the Japanese sneak-attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor killing hundreds of American sailors.. Immediately we were at war. There was no debate about it. This entire nation proudly went to war. Whole high school graduating classes enlisted in the military. Housewives ditched their aprons, put on coveralls and a bandana, and went to work in war plants. My o sister, who was a schoolteacher, left the classroom and took a job in a plant producing bombs. In my 5th grade class we formed a drum &bugle corps. (I played the bugle). We marched up and down roads behind a flag-carrying honor guard, playing marching songs to cheer on the civilians who lined the r roadside.. At my home each day at sunset I played Taps on my bugle. When my older bother joined the Army Air Corps I joined the Civil Air Patrol, where we youngsters trained mochiko the Military Reserves today.
People bought War Bonds which coast $18.75 and paid back $25.00 whenever the war ended. Kids brought their quarters to school. Each quarter bought a “War Stamp” which we pasted in a booklet. When the booklet was full it was turned in for a War Bond. Hollywood stars made whistle stop tours promoting War Bonds. Clark Gable (Rhett Butler of Gone with the Wind) became an Army Air Corps gunnery instructor. Jimmy Stewart flew nearly 20 bombing missions over Germany piloting a B-17 before the military forced the famous movie star to quit. It would be too great a tragedy if Jimmy Stewart died in the war. Hall of Fame Pitcher Warren Spahn and a dozen other sports stars gave up their mitts and glove s and joined the military.
Anyone could get in the movies by bringing an aluminum pot, of any size, and/or Mom’s container of bacon grease. Everything was rationed. We had little sugar, or meat and NO coffee. America learned to drink Postum, which was made of some g roasted grain. It looked like coffee. It tasted like shit. Cigarettes were rationed. Smokers learned to “roll their own.” No tires for Dad’s car, and very few gallons of gas. No new cars. Henry Ford converted his auto plants to making bombers. Using his assembly y methods the Willow Run plant would turn out a completed B-24 bomber every 20 minutes. Thos plants ran nonstop 24/7.
Few people voiced a complaint about all the shortages. If they did, there was a universal and loud retort, “Don’t you know there’s a war on?” Every movie was a war movie where America won. . John Wayne fought the Japs on every studio back lot in Hollywood. The National Anthem was played at the beginning and end of every movie and the audience stood and cheered. Kids quit playing cowboys and Indians and began playing fight the Japs and Nazis. Santa brought toy guns made of wood because all the metal was devoted to the war effort. People planted “Victory Gardens.”
For the only time in my long life this whole nation was totally devoted to only one effort. To defeat the Japanese and Germans. 400,000 American boys died in that effort. But they literally saved the world. My own brother died in that conflict. Blue star pennants hung in evry window indicating that family had someone in the military. Gold stares indicated that some loved one had died in service.
When I see America today so divided on such trivial issues, it makes me sad. Sad because you will never know what our country can do when everyone in it is devote to a single effort. When everyone of all races and colors and creeds are focused on one job – the job of saving the world from dictators.. You will never know that kind of unity. And that is what makes me sad.