Today is a notable day in my life time. I was 10 when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor. Speak of fear, it was the only thing talked about and in newspapers. Will Japan invade the West Coast? Are our military forces sufficient to repulse them? Will they establish a beach head in Hawaii? Will they bomb us? Will we have enough food?
President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to calm citizen’s chins up in his radio fireplace chats but there weren’t many radios owned then. My dad had a radio and kids came to listen to ball games, but after Dec. 7, fathers and mothers came to hear the president.
We lived in a small town in Illinois and everyone I knew quickly jumped into the war effort. My mother saved kitchen grease and any metal scrap. There were depots in the town to take it to.
There was rationing of meats and any form of fuel. Because of rationing there were thriving black markets.
Very soon after Dec. 7 the government, concerned about Japanese loyalty, developed what amounted to concentration camps and housed Japanese-American citizens there until the war ended. Being Midwesterners, most thought it was a good thing.
Today, critics compare it to slavery.
But constant propaganda in the forties showed Japanese as monkeys and subhuman. Many WW11 veterans to this day will only use the term Jap to describe them but many of them experienced the dark side of their behavior, including gruesome torture.
WWII lasted six years and day.
Since my parents owned a confectionary store, I knew many young men who went to war. When screams were heard in our neighborhood, we knew another family was informed their son had been killed. I knew many of war’s victims and our church had prayers for them but the effects remained for many years. There were somber recollections such as, “Remember when Herb loved baseball?” followed by silence.
I remember that most veterans proudly wore uniforms when they were on leave. They only spoke highly of the efforts to defeat the Japs or Nazis while knowing what the odds were of dying or living the rest of their lives damaged by wound effects.
As time moves on fewer and fewer WWII veterans leave us and I will talk about three of them.
I have devoted lots of print to Colonel Blaine F. Keith, my best friend, now 91. He learned to fly at age 10 and received a license to fly while still in his teens. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, he and all of his male classmates volunteered for service in one military branch or another. Blaine volunteered for the Marine Corps at age 17.
As an experienced pilot, training was quick and he became a pilot reporting to the legend Joe Foss. He flew ground support missions and moved from island to island until Japan was the next mission. Fortunately, President Harry Truman dropped atom bombs and ended that war.
After the war and college, he was recalled and flew 100 missions in Korea.
He became a NASA test pilot and later headed the tiger team that overlooked NASA space efforts.
I met Blaine in 1990 when he moved to Carefree, joined Kiwanis, became a member of a church and continued his work with the Masons. Now Blaine goes to church on Sunday, bible study on Saturday and is involved in Mason’s affairs. There are many other experiences he had but is restricted from sharing them due to high level security.
Our cartoonist for over twenty years is Bil Canfield. He served on a battle ship through WWII. At age 96, he still goes to Veteran meetings with former shipmates. Canfield retired from the New Jersey State Ledger after 50 years of employment. He still goes to art classes. Canfield has the gift of reading an article and presenting the meaning in art form.
When I was in the Navy, I ran a radar shop supervised by Chief Petty Officer Glen Lane (not sure of the last name). Glen was blown off the deck of the USS Arizona by a Jap bomb, but survived swimming to safety, or so he said. It was rumored that survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack had their choice of duty station and Glen was there long before I arrived in 1952.
Remember the TV show “Sgt. Bilko?” Glen was kind of like Bilko.
For instance, he could assign flight pay to deserving sailors. There was a sailor named Hillary (of all things) who got flight pay for babysitting Lane’s kids. For some unknown reason Lane stopped Hillary’s flight pay but wanted him to continue babysitting for free, or so the furious Hillary claimed.
Lane had a pet Walking Stick (insect) which he kept between an office window and the screen. Lane fed the Waking Stick flies that he caught and watched the Walking Stick creep slowly to devour a fly. Lane adored the Walking Stick which was about I foot long.
One day, Hillary snuck into Lane’s office, caught the Walking Stick and put one end of the Walking Stick on the plate of a transmitter vacuum tube (which when keyed would be at 1000 volts), the other end on the ground of the Walking Stick and then key the transmitter. The Walking Stick was quickly reduced to a carbon replica of the Walking Stick.
Hillary carefully put the carbon replica on the screen. When the crew arrived in the morning Lane called quarters and held us at attention. He was red faced and screamed, “Who is the SOB that killed my pet?” When no one spoke he said, “Well you will stand at attention until I find out who the killer is.” Fortunately, Tex, our pilot supervisor, arrived and asked what was going on, put us at parade rest, went in a corner with Lane to find what had happened, then burst into laughter and told us to get to work.