“Eleanor hates war, I hate war and even our dog Fala hates war” is the quote attributed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt following the brutal attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.
The United States was now at war. A majority of the US Naval fleet was located in the harbor in Hawaii on that fateful day. The enemy planes bombed the fleet. The Arizona went down with its full crew, and other ships were seriously damaged.
My father-in-law was stationed (with his family) in the Panama Canal Zone on that fateful day. He said later that the military stationed there fully expected that site to be the next target. All civilians were sent back to the US as quickly as possible. There were three boys in the family, the older two enlisted into the military, the youngest, my husband, and his mother were transported on a troop ship back to the States.
Not only were we at war with Japan, but we were also helping our allies in Europe fight Hitler and his regime.
Back home, people did what they could to help the war effort. Rationing of sugar, coffee, rubber and other commodities was instituted. Each individual received a ration book, allowing the purchase of certain items. Victory gardens were planted. Even folks in the city who had never raised a garden used a portion of their yards to plant a few vegetables in order to help the war effort.
Gasoline was rationed and so were tires – so car pools were organized and public transportation became the norm. Women who had not been in the workforce took jobs in assembly plants which had formerly been held by men.
Tin cans and aluminum were collected; newspapers recycled and automobile tires were maintained by patching so they would last just a little longer. Everything possible was being done by the folks on the home front to provide necessary supplies for the troops. Automobiles were no longer manufactured. Those plants had been turned into war plants, making tanks or ammunition for the military.
Small banners with service stars were displayed in windows. There was a star for every person from that household who was serving in the military.
War Bonds continued to be issued. The Cedarville Herald announced that War Bonds were being purchased by banks and savings and loan institutions as well as individuals. A goal had been set for the banks of $731,000. Judge Frank L. Johnson was pleased to report that $1,000,000 had been subscribed by the banking institutions.
The goal for the citizens was $1,197,000 but only $887,827 had been realized when he made the report. Even though many bonds had been purchased, the residents of the county were encouraged to purchase more. Children brought dimes to school and received a stamp which was fixed into a small booklet. When the book was filled, it was traded for a War Bond. Then Germany surrendered. That gave new hope that Japan would soon follow.
The headlines of Aug. 1, 1945 read “Non-stop raids in Japan continue.” Aug. 4 – “Allied Naval boarding party discovered arms, ammo and fake “wounded” aboard a Japanese Hospital ship.”
Report of Aug. 6: “First atomic bond used against Japan, 2000 times more powerful than biggest before. More to come, Japan warned. Two Million dollars had gone Into making the bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima.”
On Aug. 7: “We will withhold the use of the atomic bomb for 48 hours in which time you can surrender. Otherwise you face the prospect of the entire obliteration of the Japanese Nation.”
On Aug. 9 it was thought the war in the Pacific was coming to an end. A second atomic bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki, 1,500 planes had bombed targets and warships.
Each day, there was a new headline about the war, and each day Japan continued to refuse to surrender. On Aug. 10: “Japan Accepts Terms.” “Allies debate Jap offer – official surrender near.”
Aug. 11 – “V-J Day expected soon. Surrender in 3-4 days”, but on Aug. 12, the headline read “Japan Keeps World Waiting.”
Aug. 15 headline read: “Peace, Its Wonderful.” President Harry S. Truman who had assumed the office after President Roosevelt’s death, declared a two day holiday for the country.
It was agreed that the Japanese officials would sign the treaty on am American ship. Radio broadcasts were heard about the event when General McArthur would accept Hirohito’s surrender in writing. A very formal event occurred when the Americans and their allies, along with the officials of Japan gathered on board the ship to sign the historic document granting peace at last.
Gradually, the men and women who had been fighting on behalf of our country came home to heartfelt thanks and welcomes, but it would be quite a while before life returned to normal. In time manufacturing plants started once again to produce cars, coffee and sugar became available. Citizens had certainly done their share to further the effort of peace.
Joan Baxter is a Greene County resident and historical columnist.