Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Stories from the 1940s: World War II From My Grandparents' Perspective

While indexing the 1940 census, I can't help but think of my grandparents.  If you haven't already, I really recommend you visit this site , sign up to index, and give it a try.  It is easy to do, and fun. 

Grandpa and Grandma lived in a small town in central Oregon when Pearl Harbor was bombed.  Grandma wrote: "Almost everyone was patriotic in support of the war, just didn't like the conditions, rationing, etc.  Quite a few men changed jobs to keep from being drafted (farm, labor, shipyards).  But many married men with families like Grandpa didn't wait to be drafted.  Grandpa is proud of the time he spent in the service.  Grandpa enlisted in June before [second son] was born . . . so I didn't work.  Grandpa was home from boot camp when [second son] was born.  I had induced labor two days before his leave was up so he could be here.  they wouldn't even let Grandpa see him, only through the nursery window.  Couldn't hold him . . .  I suppose that made it even harder to go back."


The facial expressions speak volumes.

Grandpa, in response to a question about where he traveled during the war:  "Boot camp at Farragut, Idaho on Lake Pond Oreille (Pond do Ray).  Assigned to Radar School at Point Loma, near San Diego.  Replacement barracks at Terminal Island at San Pedro, CA for Night Fighter Direction.  To Kirkland, WA (Lake Washington, Seattle) to pick up new ship.  To San Francisco for ammo and aviation gasoline.  To San Diego for shake-down and more instruction in radar and Night Fighter Direction.  To Pearl Harbor, then Einowetok Atoll, then Saipan, to set up seaplane base.  Then to Okinawa and then Tokyo Bay.  At war's end transferred to another ship.  To Pearl Harbor and then Long Beach, down around lower California, through the Panama Canal and up to New Orleans for decommissioning.  Then by train to Seattle for discharge."

Grandma talks about living conditions back home:

"[The town] was somewhat changed mostly because we had soldiers on maneuvers in the area.  Some of the people in town were quite upset (mostly those who had daughters as I recall).  As I recall there were no serious problems.

"If we had been used to a higher standard of living I imagine it would have been tougher but we didn't suffer for the lack of anything but money.  I can't even remember what my allotment was but never seemed to be enough.  I don't believe the prices went up much but of course there were shortages.

"Things rationed were gas, tires, shoes, meat, coffee, sugar and shortening, butter, etc.  As I remember, [there were] quite a few meatless meals.  More of the casserole, beans, macaroni and potato type.  I didn't have a garden."

After my grandparents' deaths, I received copies of various war records, including a request for leave form on which Grandpa had written:

"Prior to my induction on June 26, 1944, my wife was living in a house we had rented and refinished with the understanding we would have it for the duration.  The owner has sold and have informed us they are to be moved out by the first of the year.  Due to wartime housing conditions my wife is unable to secure adequate housing for herself and our two boys; one is 3 1/2 years old and the other was born in October of this year.  I would like to be sure she has housing for the winter as it gets very cold with quite a lot of snow there.

"It will take approximately 5 days out of the leave for traveling time.  I'm sure I can perform my duty to my country if I have no worries about my family this winter."

I can only imagine how difficult that situation must have been, both for my grandma trying to find housing, and for my grandpa, worrying from miles away.  Fortunately, his leave request was granted, and he was able to come home and relocate Grandma and the boys to another home.

Thankful thought:  Thanks for family members who support each other and work together in times of hardship as well as times of ease.

The legal fine print:  As part of the1940census.com ambassador program this blog post enters me into a drawing for a $100 Visa gift card.





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