Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

December 13, 2013

My Family and World War II

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

World War II impacted our family.  Although I was not old enough to fully comprehend the gravity of it, I did understand that it changed our community, our way of life, and my family.

My father was at the upper age limit of the draft and thus remained at home.  He served as an Air Raid Warden, and also served in the Georgia State Guard. The men were known as the “Home Guard.”  They were men too old for military service.  They were volunteers who received no pay.  They received training from the regular military.  Their responsibility was to serve as auxiliary police to maintain law, protect property, and meet domestic emergencies.  They were expected to combat any invasion from the enemy that might occur before regular military could respond.  They also provided patrols during blackouts.

Blackouts occurred often, as I remember.  The huge sirens would sound.  We never knew if it was only a practice or that we were being attacked.  Many people were never aware that it was possible for America to be attacked.  German submarines were often spotted off the Georgia coast.  When the siren sounded, all lights in the home and in the city were extinguished.  The Air Raid Warden would walk the streets of his assigned area to make sure that all was dark.  We would  crawl under the dining room table until the all clear was sounded by the siren.  I was told that in the practices, bags of flour were dropped from planes to illustrate where a bomb could have hit.  I never saw any of the flour in the streets or on the roofs, but I imagine if it was done, it was in the more populated areas.

 Most families participated in the war effort through the use of ration books.  Items such as gas and sugar required ration stamps in order to be purchased.  As a boy, I thought I was helping.  I had a chart of all the planes of the Germans and would watch when planes would fly over believing that I might spot the enemy.  With my school friends, we worked hard after school collecting newspapers and scrap iron.  The school grades competed in these drives and they were very effective.
As the war intensified, the draft age continued to rise.  My father, just shy of his 38th birthday, was drafted.  This truly changed our family.  I had never known home without father being there.  We began to see fewer men in our village.  The talk among the women was always about news from their husbands and sons.  Our family joined the host of others with a service flag in our window.
Service flags were seen in the windows of the majority of homes.  The service flag, with a blue star, indicated that a member of the family was in service.  A blue star was replaced with a gold one indicating the family member was killed in the war.
For a period, our family followed my dad to Ft. Knox, Kentucky.  Here I was introduced to a new world.  There were German prisoners housed at this military station.  I saw my first soccer game as I watched them play.  I remember how they would watch me, and speak to me, and although I did not understand what they were saying, I knew they were missing their children.  I had freedom on the base, but as a boy I was required to be able to respond with my father’s serial number if asked.  To this very day, I can still repeat that number.
Shortly after we returned home, my father’s trunk arrived.  My mother understood, and we were then told.  Our father was being shipped overseas to the war front.  Soon after his arrival at Ft. Ord, California, there was a need for a special clerk, and because of my father’s experience and age, he was given that assignment.  As he attended the records to supply names of men to be shipped overseas as replacements, my father was a “cheater.”  It was his compassion that led him to read each record of the man who was to be the next  to be shipped.  If he saw they had children at home, he simply placed it in the back.  He was relieved of that assignment before he ever got caught!
The awareness that the war was coming to an end came with VE Day on May of 1945, followed soon with the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, August 6, 1945, and on Nagasaki, Japan, August 9, 1945.  On August 14, the Japanese surrendered, and on August 15, VJ Day was declared, officially ending the war.

I remember well that August day.  Perhaps more than understanding the war was over, I knew my father was coming home!  People gathered in the streets to celebrate.  As young boys, we had water balloons and would throw them high into the air to return and bust in the streets.

My memories are so small compared to what I know other families endured.  And those who fought have memories that break our hearts as they recount them.  War is a terrible thing, of course.  It does change lives.  Blessed am I that my memories are not filled with heartbreak. Let us pray constantly for peace.

“Then the land had rest from war.”  (Joshua 11:23)  “He will judge between nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.  They will beat their swords into plowshares.”  (Isaiah 2:4)  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble . . . He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.”  (Psalm 46:1, 9) 



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