Chapter XVII - 1940's, A Decade of Despair

               The first million young men , called to ARMS in 1941 soon discovered that the ARMS did not exist. They were forced to improvise (make believe) with wood replicas of an Army Rifle. The frantic effort to mobilize the nation was overwhelmed with the urgent need for every imaginable item that had, for so long, been deprived during the so called great depression.

            We found ourselves to be a nation with nothing, in dire need of everything. Arms Manufacturers across the nation were working night and day to supply weapons to the "Armed" forces that were expanding at an incredible rate. Munitions manufacturers were in the same chaotic rat race. This is just a single element on a very long laundry list that encompassed the needs of a nation at War. If you can extrapolate this urgency over the vast spectrum of the materials required to equip our Forces, You can readily understand every soldiers lament-"My Uniform don't fit" We, who had grown to adulthood in the 1930s, Were perhaps hardened and tested by providence, to endure what lay before us. Doing without, was our way of life. We tried not to complain too loudly. However, the constant flood of casualty reports from Europe- North Africa and the South Pacific were taking a heavy toll on the enthusiasm of living.

           Our Troops were as green as grass as they engaged the seasoned , battle hardened enemies on both sides of the world. They were paying a very high price for our previous lack of interest in Europe's fight for life.

           Yet the propaganda, spoon fed by our government, provided the only glimmer of hope that the tide would soon turn in our favor. The casualty reports of combat engagements, were at times almost ludicrous. The government tried desperately to convince the nation that things were not all bad. We destroyed three or four times more planes and ships than the enemy ever had. But we pretended to believe that we could somehow prevail. Our enemies thought the same thing.

           One of the most believable radio commentators that I can remember was H.V.Kaltenborn . He opened his news broadcasts each night with the same introduction . "There's Bad News Tonight" On some occasions he would intone "There's Good News Tonight" Then he would explain the plight of our fighting men around the globe. All news broadcasts were (censored) edited in advance by government agents, to put a favorable spin the story.

           Movie makers and Historians have more or less, glossed over the trials and tribulations of the people we left behind during those horrific times. Four years of total darkness weighed heavily on the Home Front. Four years of giving ,and very little getting in return, was a high price to pay. The elderly "Air Raid Wardens" in outdated uniforms, patrolled the neighborhood informing people that a light was shining out the edge of a window shade' please cover it.

           The Civil Air Patrol consisting of pilots too young or too old for combat, flew their own planes on emergency missions of mercy all over the country.

            I suppose I could be considered one of the lucky ones. Although I spent the entire winter of 1942-43 engaged in Infantry Basic Training at Fort Hancock, New Jersey. Located essentially in the New York Harbor. My shelter was a Tent occupied by 4 other soldiers that I had never met. The tent was "heated" with a small Pot-Belly stove. It may be an exaggeration but that was the coldest winter I have ever lived through.

           My Honorable (Medical) Discharge from the Army in march of 1944 was fraught with mixed emotions. Many of my friends were called upon to pay the ultimate sacrifice. I was happy to be relieved of duty but at the same time I felt as though I was abandoning my guard post. Two very close friends that I had served with, Pvt. John Hand from Aniston Alabama and Pvt. Henry Percival of Fort Mitchell Kentucky, elected to transfer to another infantry company scheduled for embarkation to the ETO. (European Theater of Operations) I could have prevented their impulsive transfer. both men are buried somewhere in France.

           The Closest friend of my childhood, Lieutenant Erwin (Toy) Hazenfield was cut in half from the blast of a heavy Machine Gun during the infamous "Battle Of The Bulge" He always had to be the leader. The news of his death sent his father into a deep depression. He stopped eating and brooded for 6 weeks until he also passed away. His Doctor said he died of a Broken Heart.

            A CCC buddy, Milos (Superman) Mike Rackov enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was killed in the assault on a tiny worthless Island in the South Pacific. Mike's mother called me the day she received the Black Edged Telegram. The last line read 'Remains not recovered" Mike was their only son. Her only daughter, just 18 years old had an appointment the following day to have a tonsillectomy, in a Doctor's Office. The operation resulted in a pro fused hemorrhage. She bled to death in the chair in the doctors office. The Rackov's emigrated to the United States in 1937 and were naturalized citizens.

            The Nation has been inundated with documentaries of that war for 55 years. and the Final outcome on the Deck of the Big Mo. But the weeks and months following the end of the war have been largely over looked. When the last hurrah was shouted. Nine million veterans headed home to pickup where they left off. Before the ink dried on the Unconditional Surrender of Japan the wheels of industry came to a screeching halt.

            Every Manufacture in the United States had a Rubber Stamp That simply stated. TERMINATION OF GOVERNMENT CONTRACT There was a Deluge of Pink Slips terminating the employment of millions of workers who had endured 4 years of mind bending - back breaking work, to support the WAR effort. It would take some time for the industrial forces to redesign -regroup - retool - as well as retrain this post war army. It took almost 3 more years before the peace time engine started to provide work . The average wage during this period was Seventy Five cents per hour.

Email The Author, Ed T. Braun, unkled@iquest.net

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