"World War II was everyone's war."
By Betty Hunter
"UNCLE SAM WANTS YOU!" Posters hung all over the country of a man, wearing a red, white and blue suit and top hat, was saying as he pointed his forefinger directly at viewers. And, he got us. The American people had a war to win and became one force determined to do it. It was a time when all of us formed a kinship, a closeness to focus on that all important goal.
Young men joined the military or were drafted, young women went to work in defense plants building ships, planes and tanks; older men were air raid wardens watching the skies in the event of enemy attacks; older women rolled cloth strips into bandages and served refreshments at the USO; movie stars entertained our troops here and overseas, and had rallies to sell War Bonds to fund the war, and we children did our part, too. We diligently searched for scrap metals to be recycled to aid the war effort, we bought defense stamps to paste in a book in hopes of one day purchasing a War Bond, and we made blankets.
In my school, and I am sure many others, a Red Cross volunteer came to show us how to knit nine inch squares in brightly colored, wool yarn. Each day the teacher set aside a time for all of us to knit, a lot of girls made them at home in the evenings and on weekends.
The volunteer would return periodically to gather our squares to be sewn together to make blankets for the wounded servicemen in hospitals. As an adult I have wondered what the men thought of all of those squares of uneven stitches made by our small hands.
Meats, sugar, shoes and numerous other items were rationed. We could only purchase rationed items with stamps issued by the government to families in limited amounts by the month. I remember eating a lot of egg sandwiches and spaghetti with meatless tomato sauce.
My parents were divorced, so my dad, who was considered single, was drafted sooner than my step-dad. My dad was sent to Europe to fight Germany, the country our ancestors had come from. He did return and on July 4, 1997 he died and joined his comrades at Jefferson Barracks Cememtery. My step-dad went to the Pacific returning as well, but he returned a beaten man who could not recover from the brutalities he had seen in the war. Shortly after, he killed himself.
World War II was everyone's war. We fought, we sacrificed, we faced tragedy, each in our own way. In those years I witnessed the highest degree of the glorification of the human spirit. The determination, the dedication, and the heroism of the people was awe inspiring. I look back now and reminisce, especially when knitting an afghan or a sweater, and remember how and where and when I learned to knit.