Posted by: patwogan | December 14, 2008

My Memories of World War II

My granddaughter went to the movie, The Boy in Striped Pajamas recently and became interested in World War II.  I told her I would write about what I remembered on my blog.  I was almost ten years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor so my memories are from a child perspective.

We were getting ready to go to Sunday School when we heard the news on the radio.  President Roosevelt had such a commanding speaking voice and by the evening everyone knew what a horrible thing it had been.  There had been an atmosphere of fear of going to war in the European sector because Hitler was moving across Europe and our ally Great Britain was in real jeopardy.  They needed our help to keep from being  taken over by the Nazis.  For that reason, the attack on Pearl Harbor added a new dimension to the War. 

Immediately, The United States declared War on Japan and four days later on December ll, Germany declared War on The United States. 

My father tried to enlist, but his eyes were too bad and he was not accepted.  He was classified as 4-F.  I think later when things got worse and the physical standards were less stringent, he tried to enlist again.  He was classified as 3A because he had a family and was also too old by then.  The fact that he tried to enlist tells you how patriotic every one was at the time. 

The spirit of patriotism is one thing I do remember quite well.  There was total support for the war effort and the propaganda machine was cranked up full force.  The newsreels at every movie showed what was going on with the war.  It was somewhat “cleaned up” as we at first saw no violence.    Movies made in that time did show violence and the Japanese in particular were characterized as being very mean.  I remember there was one Japanese actor who was often seen shooting down defenseless pilots who were parachuting from their disabled planes.  It may not always have been the same actor, but the mind picture I have is of his “evil” face as he pulled the trigger on his nose gun to kill the defenseless American as he floated down.  Japanese were also pictured as wearing glasses and sometimes having buck teeth.  I have never seen a Japanese person lately who fit the stereotype that was created during World War II.  I have also learned later in life that in order to create an enemy, it is first necessary to de-humanize them.   Perhaps they did this to themselves as I have no doubt that the Allied troops were inhumanely treated.  The Bataan Death March is a good example of this.  And we did hear about those happenings.

The Carey Salt News came on at noon every day and as our major information source was the radio, my parents made sure to listen to it.  I was told not to talk during the news as it was so important.  One reason it was important to hear what was going on was that my cousin George who had enlisted as soon as he could was stationed in Germany.  He fought in The Battle of the Bulge, a major allied offensive.  And in fact, he was wounded quite severely during that battle. 

On a lighter note, I remember that I had a new bicycle and we kept it in a storage building.   We had rabbits which we also kept in cages in that building and one day they rabbits got out and chewed the rubber off  of my bicycle tires.  This was a major catastrophe as rubber tires were rationed.

There were a lot of things rationed.  Gasoline, sugar, tires, meat, and other things.  You got so many ration stamps depending on how big your family was, etc.  Dad had to drive to work and we lived in the country so I think he got more ration stamps for gasoline than some other people.  He also worked for an oil company which was a necessary business for the war effort so that made his job important. 

One of the ways the country raised money for the war effort was by issuing War Bonds.  They cost $l8.75 and would mature for $25.00 in ten years.  Of course, there were more expensive ones, but these are the ones I remember.  People had money deducted from their pay to buy bonds and “Saving Stamps” were sold at school every week for twenty-five cents each.  When you got your book full of stamps, you had enough to buy a bond.  It was a good way to save money and might not be too bad an idea to do today.  I won a dollar in a talent contest one time for singing the song, “Any Bonds Today”.  I still remember the first couple of lines and the tune. 

There were lots of little banners with stars on them that people put in their windows if they had someone in the service.  I remember the stars were white on an red and white background.  If the service person were killed in the war, a gold star was hung in the window.  There were a lot of gold stars hung in the windows of every neighborhood. 

War is a terrible thing, but this war was necessary because a madman had gained power in Germany and had an insane idea that he could make Germany into a superpower by creating a Master Race.  Oddly enough, his idea of a blond blue-eyed Master Race was the opposite of his own characteristics. 

He convinced the German people that their economic woes were caused by the Jews and thus the Jews needed to be eliminated.  It was to this end that he established the concentration camps and murdered millions of people.  After the War, the full extent of his evil plan was revealed to the rest of the world. 

In our own country, the Japanese-Americans who lived in The United States were put into camps, too, and although the conditiions at these camps were terrible, I don’t believe they were anything like the death camps the Nazis had.  It is too bad that this blemish is on our national history, but the times were times of fear and hate.  It is sad but true; one of the sorrows of war.



  1. Yes, war is nothing but sorrow. Having grown up during the Viet Nam war I thought by the time it ended, there would be no more. I was married when the war was over. Our country has since been in a couple more. Will it never end.

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