We The People

How WWII Changed the Neighborhood

Submitted by AMAC Member Frank P. Russo –

At first, to a 10-year-old kid, the war meant those neat picture cards with the exciting war scenes showing enemy planes going down in flames, or some big ship of theirs with its bow pointed to the sky as hundreds of their sailors jumped, or were blown overboard, before going beneath the water.

We soon started to hear phrases like “war effort,” “ration cards,” and “ration stamps.” And then the big one . . . “The Draft.”

What the heck was “The Draft”? We soon found out as guys from the neighborhood were leaving home, going places in the United States we never heard of. For that matter, what was “Pearl Harbor”? Where was Pearl Harbor? Those were the questions we 10-year-old kids were asking that Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked.

I remember there was stillness in the air as if everyone went numb. It seemed as if everyone spoke in whispers instead of good-natured shouting and loud talking. “The neighborhood” — 14th Street in Astoria — was usually filled with street games and sidewalk activities. The shouts and laughter ricocheted off the houses, as was the norm, because of all the kids in the neighborhood. The streets were very narrow then.

But now our neighborhood was in the war. I could tell because now some of the “big guys,” as we used to call them, were in the service. They seemed to slip away in the night and then reappear in their uniforms, looking fit and trim. It was fun to hear their stories about boot camp and the new friends they had met from different parts of the country. Boy, we thought this was great: neat uniforms, travel, meeting girls.

But they all said the same thing: they missed home and the old neighborhood. It really didn’t mean much to a boy to hear the phrase “the neighborhood.”

The war was about two years old by now, and the reality of it was becoming more evident every day with news of those “killed-in-action,” or “missing” or “wounded.”

It was the flag ceremony that I can’t forget. A grandstand had been built and a microphone with loudspeakers was in place, and all the acknowledgments had been made to the hundreds of people in the street. This crowd was the neighborhood.

When they asked the mother of two of the big guys who were killed in action to step up to the microphone and address the crowd, they went silent. Really silent. She put one hand on the microphone and could not utter a single word. She just choked and sobbed. The silence of the crowd was soon broken by the open sobbing of all the men and women. I was frozen, and tears welled in my eyes, and in those of my friends.

Now, it seemed as if we were all one, monitoring the whereabouts of the big guys as they went into the service and wondering what part of the world they were fighting in. We couldn’t believe it. Nobody ever left the neighborhood before. It just wasn’t done.

It seems amazing now, as I look back, how easy it was to get a crowd together. Like the time Big Anna (everybody had nicknames) actually came running through the streets screaming and crying that Sylvio had been wounded at Iwo Jima. Sylvio was one of the big guys. In fact, his kid brother and I were school buddies.

Our Sylvio, wounded? He’s from our neighborhood! It can’t happen! But it did. He had taken a head wound and had a metal plate put in. And so, it was here. The real war. Not the picture cards or the movies we first saw.

I was going to school and heard that one of our school chums would not be in today. The family had received “the telegram.” The telegram or telegram boy became a dreaded sight in those days — it usually meant death, or someone was missing or wounded.

We began to understand the power and need of prayer. It seemed all at once the kids in the neighborhood were growing up. It seemed everyone was aging, and things started to change. I    remember going to a relative’s house because some cousin we hardly knew was returning to duty. We knew this goodbye meant going overseas and into combat.

Grown men embraced this soldier with tears. The elderly aunts and friends sniffed and asked God to bless him and watch over him. The soldier did not know everyone in this house, but he knew they were wishing him well.

They said the world changed from World War II. The 10-year-old kids were now teenagers, and the big guys weren’t hanging out anymore. They started getting married one by one. Some moved out of state, never to be seen again. I guess we were growing up. It was then that I finally realized the world really did change, and so did the neighborhood.

Frank P. Russo, Port Jefferson Station

 


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ernie prigge
8 years ago

Being born a yr after Pearl , I only know my parents were thankful for the extra ration bk for our NE farm family of 8. But recently I have read 2 newer histories that make me both mad & sad after reading these stories in light of them . Day of Deceit proves that FDR lied to get Japan to attack . He had their codes in 1940! Flyboys tells both sides of the Pacific war, but reinforces the duplicity of FDR and the war atrocities that our 18 yr olds experienced. My hat is off to all our military, past & present. The distain I have for politicians, past & present, cannot beexpressed in words! May they all rot in hell.

Richard Slate
8 years ago

My father was a WWII veteran and i was always so proud of him and the other veterans that fought in that war and defeated evil around the world and preserved our freedom. They were truly the Greatest Generation and there will probably never be another Generation like it.

Donna
8 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slate

I totally agree! My Dad was a WWII veteran too. He enlisted in the Marines shortly before his H.S. graduation in 1944, because he knew that otherwise he would be drafted into the Army, and he preferred the Marines. After spending several months moving around the Pacific, he ended up at Okinawa. Thank God we dropped the bomb so he didn’t have to participate in an invasion of Japan, and quite likely never come home. I like to say I owe my existence to the Enola Gay.

Walter Mills
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna

Me too. My father served in the Philippines in 1945. His Eighth Army group was scheduled to invade the Tokyo Basin in early 1946.
Without the Enola Gay, He would have been dead that year.

Charles Rhine
8 years ago

The war years in Baltimore were tough since we were near the port facilities and everyone thought the city would be bombed. Our uncle worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad during the day and was an air raid warden at night. He would go out and walk down the block checking to see if any lights were showing. Everyone had blackout curtains on their windows. The radio news was filled with names of far off places and a rare trip to the movies provided a look at the newsreels with war footage. Yes, gasoline was rationed and you had a Ration A or Ration B sticker on the windshield. People kept their old Model T’s and Model A’s running since there were no new autos produced during the war. Almost everything was recycled from rubber to bacon greese. For the scrap drives our family took old tin cans, tires, phonograph records (the old 78’s were made from hardened rubber) and saved the bacon greese to take to the local butcher shop. One fellow had a sign in his shop window that read “Ladies, bring your fat cans in on Tuesday”. People think that recycling is a new thing … we learned it 70 years ago.

There were a few diversions from the war. We enjoyed listening to Fibber McGee and Molly or the Lone Ranger on the radio. The big Philco tube set put out heat that felt good in the winter time. Listening to music like Glenn Miller and the Dorsey’s sure sounded great on it! Saturdays we would take the streetcar downtown to one of the big department stores such as the May Company. We didn’t have money for much but it was fun to see some of the new things for sale. We kept our old clothes as long as possible. Anyone remember darning socks or turning shirt collars to get another year out of them? We did that … and we were glad to have food on the table and be able to attend church with the few friends that were still around. Lots of neighborhood boys went off to war and some didn’t come back.

Leigh Knudsen
8 years ago

What wonderful comments from all here who shared their thoughts and experiences during WW11 and the aftermath.

Yes, I too lived during this time (born Jan. 37) on a farm in rural Kansas. Even in this remote location, war became the topic of discussion. Rationing, limitations on items we bought and the constant reminders of providing whatever we could to the war effort were standard practice.

My schooling was, at that time, in a one room schoolhouse at the intersection of roads certainly not paved – some were laced with sand and others simply dirt that became a nightmare to traverse after a rainstorm. It was in this schoolhouse that I sadly was introduced to the horrors brought by the war when a knock on the door by the parents of our young teacher requesting a private conversation outside in the small hallway. Within a few minutes, the teacher returned with tears streaming down her pretty face. She was bravely holding her feelings when she said she was sorry, but the school would be closed for a few days and we could all go home. We knew something terrible had happened but didn’t find out what until a few days later when a neighbor came by and said her brother had been killed in action.

Yes, this was a long time ago but memories have a way of remembering the profound, the distinct, and the terrible hurt of those who were friend, relative and the unfortunate many who lost the future of growing old with family members. Needless to say, I have never forgotten those tragic moments in that small little school in remote Kansas. To this day, I wonder at times if our teacher was ever able to completely recover from this abupt interruption of her life. I doubt she did and could not blame her for hating war…

My many thanks go out to all of our Military members, past and present and those who will, in the future, carry on the tradition of proud members of the greatest country and military on earth. We cannot let the good old USA. EVER, become less that No. 1. May God Bless America and all who support the true traditions of what made us the one country that so many seek membership. I certainly hope we have enough Congress members left who feel the same way and will start working in unison to prove it.

Bill Elliott
8 years ago

1-11-2014 Saturday evening. RE: How WWII changed the neighborhood.

I was 2-1/2 on December 7, 1941. And, YES, I do remember the start of WWII. I was too young to understand what was going on in our dining room after returning from church that Sunday morning, but what I do remember vividly, was hushed conversations, distressed expressions on adult faces, and a sense that something was very very wrong.

I also remember the end of WWII. We spent WWII summers camping about 40 miles inland from San Diego, a prime target for a coordinated sea/air attack. Being prior to the atomic bomb, we were probably relative safe, and I had a chance to live idyllic summers playing amongst oak trees and swimming in a nearby creek. When the war ended, on August 15, 1945 (3-3/4 years after it started!) the campground host’s adolescent daughter (wearing a blue and white gingham cotton dress) rode her bicycle through the campground shouting at the top of her lungs….. THE WAR IS OVER THE WAR IS OVER THE WAR IS OVER! With gas rationing suddenly over, it only took a few minutes for drivers to line up at the local gas pump, WITH HORNS BLARING, to by a full tank of gas.

Back at our coastal home, during the fall/winter/spring months of the war, I recall being terrified every time I heard the roar of a fleet of fighters flying way too close to the ground. The sky would go black, the noise was deafening, and I would run screaming to the house seeking the comfort of mom’s apron. What I did not know then, but I do know now, is that that those brave pilots were training to defend our country from a foreign enemy that would do us harm. Thank you — all of you.

In those days, transportation was slow and communications over long distances even slower. No satellites, no U-2 spy planes, no B-52 bombers, no smart phones. The best that could be done to protect our coast was to rely on shortwave radio communications with whatever was floating around out there in the Pacific, as well as reconnaissance float planes whose distance out and back was limited to the amount of fuel they could carry. As to enemy submarines sneaking into San Diego Harbor, an anti-submarine net was stung across the entrance to San Diego bay.

Although the killing fields were thousands of miles away, in Europe and in the Pacific Theatre, FEAR — even TERROR — was an everyday emotion experienced here at home. For example, I was told that if I were to find an unusual looking paper bag in our yard, not to touch it! What? What could be wrong with an innocent looking bag? I was told that it could be an enemy bomb that had floated into our yard and would blow up, killing me, if I were to touch it. So, ya’ think maybe I was scared?

Thank you Greatest Generation for the freedoms we enjoy today. With deep gratitude and upmost respect for all our brave warriors who sacrificed their lives that ours here at home would be free, THANK YOU! Bill Elliott

Diana MacFarland
8 years ago

Thank you everyone who has taken the time to write these comments and stories! It is so important to remember who we have been and can be as Americans, and what we have accomplished and sacrificed to make this country the most productive, charitable democratic republic the world has ever seen.

We write this comment under our pen name as the husband and wife authors of a series of novels called Patriots for God and Country. The stories come out of our personal experiences, honoring the military folk of WWII and carrying the service forward through the Korean “Conflict” and then countering the Soviet subversion efforts within this country. The first book, Codename Wildcard, shows a dynamic young forester from the Pacific Northwest surviving a Rambo escape from North Korea, battling the PTSD that results, and becoming the nemesis of a Soviet Trojan horse op to destroy America from within. We show the Soviet strategy of disinformation and infiltration into the media, entertainment industry and universities. We show a holistic way of managing the incurable suicidal PTSD that results from nightmare memories of horrors seen and morally indefensible acts committed as survival reflex on the battlefield – because the realities of a war zone are at irreconcilable odds with the values we grew up with. A goal of the novel is to inspire readers to call on the hero that resides in each of us. Acceptance of personal responsibility for our actions (or inaction) and love of country ring clear throughout the story.

We were in grade school during WWII. Our fathers and uncles all served in the military, as did two aunts – one in the OSS and another as an RN in the army, where she earned the rank of captain. Our after school games changed from cowboys and Indians to japs and gerries versus the allies (none of those names is “politically correct” today, but that was the reality of 1942-1945). Because of gas rationing, the wife half of this writing team walked every day a mile to and from the rural excellent one-room school, where we collected wire hangars and flattened “tin” cans and bought war bond stamps (when we’d saved enough money) to put in a war bond booklet. Of course, because we needed coupons to buy shoes and sugar and butter (hello white margarine with orange powder to try to blend in in a big mixing bowl), we had to be careful not to wear out the shoes with the extra walking – besides, when we outgrew the shoes, they went to the next child down the family line. WWII is very much a part of our psyche and it’s important to note how a younger sister, born in 1948, grew up with classmates in a very different world and all of them took our country’s blessings for granted and as hippies focused on the country’s faults without recognizing who was paying for their relatively privileged lifestyle. Today such a tiny percentage of Americans serve in the military that most citizens are clueless about the importance and the family sacrifices involved to try to preserve our freedom.

God bless America, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Roger DIRocco
8 years ago

My Uncle, Silvio Donatelli, is the young Marine I Frank Russo’s article. He was initially rejected by the marine Corp, for what was thought to be a Hernia. He would not accept their diagnosis and went to the family doctor who examined him and sent him home with a note that there was no Hernia detected and that he was fit for duty. He enlisted, went off to Boot camp and landed on Iwo Jima on 2/5/1944. On day 21 he received a head wound and after much swearing in both English and Italian, wound up on a troop ship and eventually woke up in Guam. My Grandmother greeted the Postman each day for five weeks until one day, Mr. Postman came running down the street calling my Grandmother’s name with a letter from he Silvio in his hand.
My Uncle’s story is on of countless American families-both immigrant and non-immigrant, who saw their Fathers, Sons and Daughters go off to war to keep us free. These members of the greatest generation are dying off in countless numbers daily and should not be forgotten. I sent Frank’s (*Frankie’s”) article to my children who have heard stories about my Uncle what he meant to all of us in our family and was thrilled to hear that my Daughter who is a Middle School Assistant principal, shared it with her faculty who then shared it with children in the History classes.
We as a nation MUST NEVER FORGET the sacrifice made for us by this generation and those of WW I who fought to keep us free. God bless you, Uncle Silvio and rest in peace.

Lincoln Sorensen
8 years ago

Karen and Neva I agree…we need to take our country back. How do we do that? Well, voting is too piecemeal and those who campaign for a return to respsctability are stymied when they arrive in the senate or house. How? they have no voice as the heads of committees demand they vote their way or they will be isolated. It’s a no win situation. We can’t rely on the average American to take the time from their daily endeavers. Everyone is struggling just to keep family fed and together. Who can make a difference?? We who are retired and are on Social Security. We are not tied to jobs for our existance. We are receiving our “entitlement benefits”. I like how they now refer to SS as “entitlement” so we will all get brainwashed into melding SS into the group with all the other freebies doled out. Then they can cut and slash SS however they wish to get rid of the old crones and cronies who are a drain on “their” pot of gold. We need to assemble en masse at state and federal capitals and demand to be heard and remain till change is accomplished. Those politicians who control the senate and house and appoint committee members should all be removed. They can be identified as any one who is on more than their first term in office. AMAC is now a million members strong. If just at least half of us were to assemble at the US Senate what could they do to stop us? Shoot us? Maybe, but I would rather go that way than live out the few years I have left watching this country go down the toilet like it is. I was born July 1941 and was old enough to remember the end of WWII. I enlisted in the USNavy and was an enlisted man aboard the USS Lexington CVS 16. I made 2 far East cruises aboard the Lex, sailed a mile off the coast of Laos during the Laos Crises, took the Lex around the Horn to drydock in Brooklyn and before we got our machinery renovated we were given 10 days to steam for Cuba. We steamed off the coast of Cuba as the Russians ships were supposedly removing the missiles. We weren’t allowed to board their ships to verify the missiles were being removed. U2 spy photos released later by Reagan revealed the missiles were not removed at that time. The Lex was a proud ship and I was proud to serve on her. I was overjoyed when I learned she was not scrapped when she was taken out of service. The city of Corpus Christie, Texas bought her and she is a museum in the harbor there. Thank you Corpus Christie!!!

Clyde
8 years ago

I was a 9 year old Kansas farm boy when Pearl Harbor was attacked. We didn’t even know where Pearl Harbor was attacked–our geography lessons never talked about remote places like that. Because we had no phone, a neighbor came to our house to tell us the news. I was kept home from school the following day with a bad cold. We had been listening to a regular country-western music show when the program was interrupted to go live to the US Capitol to hear the vote on the war declaration. My mother came in from the kitchen to see what happened to our music program. As soon as I explained congress was about to declare war, she began crying and shut off the radio.

It took me a while to figure why she was crying–my brother was 18 and she knew he was liable to be drafted, which did occur. He never finished boot camp due to a previous civilian injury and thus survived. But he was sobered to realized that 90 percent of his boot camp class were casualties on a Pacific island invasion, and that haunted him the rest of his life.

Like some other commentators we pre-teen boys played war games and wished we could join up right then. Nine years later, just after I graduated from high school, the Korean “police action” began, and I and my peers suddenly realized that WE were to be the next draftees.

We had numerous cousins and neighbors in service; a close neighbor boy was killed in Holland, and mother lost a cousin in the sinking of the USS Juneau. That was only a handful of those lost from our county or acquaintances. Yes, the neighbor(hoods) changed, and as long as we witnesses to that period survive they will not be forgotten.

Bob Barrett
8 years ago

I was 9 on December 7th 1941 and I remember going on Alum. Drives with the Boy Scouts. I served in The Korean War. Thank God for the USA and lets get rid of the Socialists.

dick
8 years ago

1941 I was seven years old, grew up with the war, 1951 I was off to Marine boot camp, then to Korea, I knew the routine, I had to go, it was my duty to my country. I wouldn’t have it any other way…
Semper Fi

John E Nevola
8 years ago

To read what it was like during the War, in the European Theater and the Home-front, I recommend THe Last Jump – A Novel of WWII. Some proceeds are donated to the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund to assist children of the fallen. http://www.thelastjump.com

Rick McKain
8 years ago

All the comments I’ve just read that were posted after Frank P. Russo’s post about WWII and the neighborhood were very heart felt and moving to me. As I type this, I have tears in my eyes. I am only 59 years old and the military stopped the draft my senior year of high school [1972].
I remember the sense of country and sacrifice and patriotism. I love the men and women who have served in the military. My fear is that we as a country have more than half of the members of the country believing the government should provided for them. I fear the sense of community, the sense of personality responsibility, and that dogged American spirit that is willing to work hard, sacrifice, and pull together is gone for good.
There are children growning up in families where they have never seen an adult male go to work in the morning and earn and income for the family. Their legacy is not what our was. We also have a person in the office of the president who has no earthly idea about what made American great, and hard work and sacrifice. He has no idea about integrity, and personality responsibility.
I fear if we don’t get someone in the White House who has some of these basic concepts that make American great that we are going to be just another super world power that is in demise and joins the lists of the ones that are no longer around.
I also appreciate the comments of Frank’s sister Angela M. Rosait. Thank you for what you said and I really liked the idea that one of the qualifications for running for president is that they should have been in the militarty.

George Luenberger
8 years ago

I was 15 when Pearl Harbor happened. A boy, Victor Nelson, dropped off newspapers for me to sell, from the back of a pick-up truck. 4 years later, I was walking down a road on Saipan & a voice spoke my name. It was Victor Nelson. I enlisted in Sept.1943 when I turned 17 ‘For the duration of the war plus six months’. I never saw ‘heavy combat’ though twice I heard the whish of bullets go by my head. Three of my buddies died when their airplane crashed, I was originally scheduled to be on board. Other friends from home died in combat. For 45 years I never gave them a thought then one day, I burst out crying and have been mourning them ever since. At the time of Pearl Harbor, we Americans had a very, very, low opinion of the Japanese. If they attacked it would be the Philippines where we would stop them and then our powerful fleet would sail from Pearl Harbor and besiege Japan. we knew Pearl Harbor was only 50ft deep and torpedoes would not work there. We did not know the Japanese had developed torpedoes that would work in the harbor’s shallow depths. Their sweep of the Philippines totally astounded us. The Japanese turned out to be very capable, formidable foes.

karen white karen white
8 years ago

This is my country and we were taught respect and patrtisum. I am an American Christian and I will stand my ground on that. We need to fire all those who are in command? They are money hungrey. and they don’t care about the American way. I don’t have a lot of words but WE ALL NEED TO STAND UP FOR OUR GOD AND OUR COUNTRY.

Dean
8 years ago

At 67 I am to young to remember WWII but I do remember Korea and least part of it and Vietnam , Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. I spent 8 years on active duty then got out as in my eyes this country was splitting in half and the
military was an example of that. No longer did service to your country mean anything except vilification by those who did not serve and moreover they were and are the ones who now run this country having a 4 to 8 year plus head start on those who served. I believe that today’s military is political arm of the government and in a pinch most will turn on their
fellow citizens in a pinch.
Belief in God and Country is now only held by a minority, the mass of illegal immigration, and a media that parrots the government line all are signs of the decay now we have let it reach the point of no return. Sorry but once the progressives
got this much control they will not let go.

NevaB
8 years ago

The comments here are simply wonderful. It’s so sad that there are so few of us who are old enough to remember. My Great Uncle was killed in WWI in France which made Grandma a Gold Star Mother. Two cousins were at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked that fateful day and the ships were locked up and they couldn’t get to the weapons. I’ll never be convinced that Roosevelt didn’t know when we would be attacked and put all our men in harms way. Luckily they both survived. My husband was in Italy at the end of WWII, went from there three times to Korea, rattling around in a tank and later was in Vietnam. He was killed as a civilian aboard a C130H in 1982, a veteran of 30 years service. Our military veterans have been shamefully treated by the politicians who ordered them into harms way. They were lied to, promised things that were never fulfilled and I have watched that move over generations since. In my personal opinion, one of the conditions of being President should include a requirement that they should have served in one of our Armed Forces. We have had two draft dodgers in the past several years who couldn’t even muster a salute for our men in uniform. Shameful!

It’s time for us to take back our country and restore it to it’s previous state, where pride ruled and we were well thought of by the rest of the world. This socialist crowd has to go. Get up folks, make your voices heard, roll up your sleeves and let’s get it done. It’s up to us. The youth of today expect everything for nothing and our country is in peril.

Faye
8 years ago
Reply to  NevaB

Amen!

Marge Brittain
8 years ago
Reply to  NevaB

I agree with Neva B. I was 12 living in a small mining town in Eastern Oregon when Peral Harbor was Attacked and remember before the Attack how upset my father was and conplained about us getting scrap iron to sell to Japan to make bullets and war material to fight China and sending war material to China to fight Japan. One brother came home from the Army Paratroopers with one eye missing; another brotherin the Marines was wounded twice in the Pacific with no Leave to come home. After the war I married a Sailor from our home town and he was on a Destroyer that was sunk when he was 17, was recalled in 1950 for the Korea and it was the first time I had seen him really sob because they sent him back home as he felt it was his duty to protect hid Country. If there was a refund from our income taxes he didn’t feel that we should take it as his words were, “We owe Our Country”. When they started taxing the Social Security he approved with the same words. He died September 2013 seeing Our Country going down the Drain.

One of our son-in-laws was in the Marines and during Vietnam battle our son and another son-in-law served in the Navy. And Now living in ” Our Country” we need to take it back where our grand children can be proud of what their Ancestors done to keep their Freedom.

Ron Mitchell
8 years ago

A very touching story. In my case, remember 7 Dec 1941 very well. I had turned 7 in October. We lived on a farm in east Tennessee without electricity at the beginning of the war. Received the news on the battery powered radio.
A long hard fight for all and much sorrow and grieving for families.
If politicians could only concentrate on the horrors of war, this and all countries would be so much better off.
Ron,
Submarine veteran

Mary Ann Jenks
8 years ago
Reply to  Ron Mitchell

I was also 7 in October 1941 and remember December 7th clearly. That Sunday my father and I were playing checkers in the living room with the radio crackling in the background. When the bombing of Pearl Harbor was announced, my parents became silent and somber; the checker game was over. The following years were filled with Victory Gardens, rationing, War Stamps and War Bonds. War Stamps made me adept at collecting Green Stamps later in life, only a full booklet then could be redeemed for a Bond not a new toaster. We bought the stamps at school and that’s where seeds for our Victory Gardens were distributed. My garden was in a vacant lot next to our house. Cars had “A” and “B’ stickers indicating what days the car could be filled with gas. I remember car headlights were painted black on the upper half and we had to keep window shades completely down at night. I lived in New York City, in the Bronx, near the Long Island Sound. Several times I saw oil slick wash up on the sand and rocks, rumored to be from German subs. We collected tin foil for the war effort, peeling it off our gum and candy wrappers. School assemblies were all patriotically themed; we wore military or Red Cross outfits. My mother bought me a WAC costume at Macy’s and I made a Red Cross Nurses’ outfit from some white clothing and red paint that I scavenged from somewhere. I remember being sent to the butcher’s shop for a chicken and not having enough rationing stamps. Seeing naked and dead chickens hanging from hooks – almost – turned me into a lifetime vegetarian. The war permeated so many aspects of our day to day life. We couldn’t buy leather shoes but had to settle for “play” shoes with rope soles. But with all that, I was never exposed to the heartbreak of war except in movies. I never personally knew a soldier or sailor until I was a teen ager, although they were all around us in New York, probably on leave. When the war ended there was a citywide celebration. The sirens blasted non-stop throughout the city. My sister and I jumped in the bed of a neighbor’s truck and joined the parade of cars and trucks, waving our little flags, in a massive traffic jam. Thank you for stirring up these memories. They may be boring to everyone but me, but I thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

Angela M. Rosati
8 years ago

Frank P. Russo is my youngest brother. And I remember well our neighborhood in Astoria, New York. It was Sunday, 12/7/41, and he, my parents and I, age 12, had just returned from the Steinway Theater, where they usually showed a movie and a stage show. Arriving home, my mother turned on the radio. We all stood absolutely still as we heard the terrible news of the Japanese attack and America’s entrance into the War. My mother burst into tears. I wondered why; my brothers were too young to be in the service. But, during World War 1, while still in Italy, my mother’s oldest brother never returned from the war. And as happens, young boys reach draft age and they are called. My oldest brother, Tony, went into the Marines. The day he left was traumatic for us. My mother and I hung out the window, weeping and waving to him. Papa escorted him to the elevated train, then he went to work. When he returned that evening, we, including my second oldest brother, Rocky, were at the dinner table, silent. Papa sat down wordlessly, covered his face with his hands, and cried like a baby. We all joined him. Papa knew whereof he wept; he was a soldier in the Italian-Turkish War of 1912 and a corporal in World War 1 and served 2 12 years in the Austrian campaign, which I later found out was very dangerous, as the Austrians were the first to use hand grenades. We never thought there would be a World War 2.
When my brother came home from the Marines, Rocky went into the Navy. Thank God, they both came home unscathed. And as is normal, we all went on with our lives. We all participated in the “war effort”. We saved the foil from our Hershey bars and donated it. We donated aluminum pots. We tried to buy 10 cent war stamps, but money was short. We did what we could. God Bless America, the best country in the world. People are dying to get in, but nobody’s dying to get out!

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