'Things aren't normal at all!'.
I WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER my sixteenth birthday [December 16, 1941] because right before that, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and things were so different. We [she and her mom and dad] were sitting around the kitchen that Sunday morning when the news was announced on the radio about the Japanese attack in the Pacific. It seemed so underhanded since the Japanese ambassador was in Washington at the time talking to our President.
Everyone on our street is talking about the attack and many of my friends are going to enlist although we are all still in high school. My father is ineligible for military service because of a knife accident as a boy that blinded him in his right eye. But he wants to do his part and so he's volunteered to be the Civil Defense Chief for our street. He still has his very important job with the Water Department in Cleveland, but now he and Lois' father [Lois was Eva's best friend] check to be sure that all the houses on our street have black curtains for the windows so that no light can come in should there be an air attack [so light wouldn't escape and reveal targets to enemy planes].
My mother sewed black curtains for our house on the electric sewing machine. She had received it as a wedding present years earlier and put the machine to good use now. I think everyone is secretly worried about the Japanese somehow attacking the mainland of the United States. Hence the concern about not having any light visible at night. I watched my mother work. She said this job of hers helps her from thinking too long and hard about what is happening with the war.
Christmas is just around the corner, but we are celebrating more quietly than usual. I got some nylon stockings from my mother and Arpege perfume from my father. We had turkey for Christmas dinner and I gave Rexie [the family dog] scraps of the meat as a special treat. We listened to Christmas carols on the radio all day.
My father mentioned at supper the other night [in December 1942] that he had heard that new cars won't be made anymore until the war is over. He always drove a black Ford and traded it regularly for the newest model; but, no more! Now the iron and steel are being used for the war effort, for tanks, guns and to replace the ships lost at Pearl Harbor last December.
My birthday is here! I am a December girl and got my first pair of high heels! I am the envy of all the girls at my high school [John Adams]. My mother got me some rayon stockings to go with my shoes and I just love to dress up in my new clothes!
Lois and I went to the movies where we heard more about the war in the newsreels. General Douglas MacArthur lost to the Japanese in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May [1942--the "news" in newsreels was months behind]. After the newsreels, which were kind of depressing, we saw a cowboy movie with Roy Rogers and a Tom & jerry cartoon. My favorite cowboy is Gene Autry and his horse Champion, but Roy wasn't a bad choice either. We paid 9 cents to see the show so afterward Lois and I went to the local drugstore off of E. 131st Street for a milkshake.
More and more men, some from my high school, are enlisting to fight the Germans in Europe and North Africa. A lot of my friends and their families are spending time at church services, praying for a happy outcome. Everyone writes regularly and the letters go through the A.P.O. [Army Post Office]. It's important that morale stays high for the soldiers abroad and on the Homefront, too. Lois and I saw another newsreel at the show. It was all about German General Erwin Rommel, who is leading the Axis Powers to victory in North Africa. I think the stress of the war is getting to everyone, since it is all that is on the radio and all anyone talks about, and it seems that the United States and our Allies are losing.
It's been a while since I wrote in my diary, but today, July 22 , was the beginning of gas rationing in the country [gas rationing had actually begun on the East Coast in May 1942]. Things have been so dark and grim that I haven't felt like it, but here I am with Rexie in the top bedroom of our house on 147th Street. Because my father works at the Water Department in Cleveland, a "necessary job," we are getting 8 gallons of gas per week rather than just 4 gallons [the amount allotted to most households].
We are driving to Bluffton, Ohio, this summer to visit our relatives. Since some of my father's family are farmers, they have plenty of gas [farms received extra rations] and can loan us some to get back to Cleveland. The food my Aunt and Uncle grow is so very important to the soldiers. My father and uncle spent all of their time patching tires in the barn because of the rubber shortage. We made it home in time for the "blackout patrol" to be sure everyone had their black curtains in place and no light showed through the windows. It took some extra time because of the slow speed limits [35 miles per hour] to save on gasoline.
My mother and I took the bus downtown and found something brand new at Higbee's Department Store-leg make up! We can't get rayon stockings anymore because of the war, or silk either [because silk and rayon were mostly reserved for making parachutes]. Something else that is new--two-piece bathing suits. It's a good time of the year to buy a suit and we are helping the war effort by saving material. Lois' mother said that she "couldn't see how something that was so skimpy to start with would be saving anything much at all!"
Saturday Lois and I saw a very risque movie at the Avalon [Theatre] with Clark Gable, one of my favorite actors, who came from Cadiz, Ohio. He played a character named Rhett Butler in the movie, which was called Gone with the Wind, a story of the Old South during the Civil War. It was so sad, Clark's third wife, Carole Lombard, was killed in an airplane crash when she was traveling around selling war bonds the previous year. Her husband was inconsolable.
Something new can be seen in our neighborhood. Families are putting flags in their windows to honor those serving abroad. The flags are red with a blue star and have a V below the star for each serviceman. I think it is so patriotic.
Lois and I saw another older movie besides the war news [the newsreel shown before a feature film] on Saturday at the matinee. There was a Roy Rogers serial, a cartoon and Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca, a really creepy mystery starring Laurence Olivier. Our movie tickets were only 10 cents and we even got free popcorn!
When I went back to school [back] in September , my school began selling "war stamps." I paid 10 cents for each stamp and pasted it into a book. When the book was full, I turned it in for a $25.00 war bond. My mother and father think this is a good idea, since I will learn how to save money!
My graduation is coming up in August of 1943. I am just seventeen, but I finished up early and have decided to join the C.A.P. [Civil Air Patrol, a civilian auxiliary of the US Army Air Forces], I've always wanted to learn to fly a plane and now I will have a chance, since C.A.P. protects our homeland.
I got a job at the telephone company. Jobs are plentiful since so many of the men are away fighting in Europe or the Pacific.... I work five days a week, but on the weekends, I am flying and learning Morse code at the airport [Cleveland Municipal Airport]. I am so happy to be learning to fly. I feel like a bird, no longer bound to the earth.
My father is still working for the Water Department. He tells me that the economy is booming and nobody even has to hunt for a job. When our friends say anything else, he snorts and says "Horsefeathers!" to them.
Everyone is trying to keep the holidays as normal as possible this year, when things aren't normal at all! We spent Christmas listening to "White Christmas" on the radio and sending care packages to the men abroad. My father cut our tree from the lot on E. 147th Street and I decorated it with popcorn chains. We had turkey for dinner. I think Rexie liked it best of all since it was a real treat!
Looking back on 1943, I remember several things.... The newsreels at the movies were filled with necessary information, particularly about the ration coupons necessary to buy food. And the rationing books for different grocery items consisted of stamps of different colors: red for meat and cheese, blue for coffee and baked beans, and white for bread and sugar. 1 always gave my Rexie a share of the meat, too, since he is so precious to us.
More and more women are now working to help with the gigantic labor shortage caused by the war effort. The Ohio Bell Telephone Company was a big employer in the Northern Ohio area. Salaries averaged 74 cents per hour and a family could buy an entire dinner for 43 cents!
Travel has become nonexistent because of the gas rationing. Lois and I go to the movies; Flash Gordon and Sherlock Holmes are very popular at the box office right now. Afterward, we have an ice cream soda at our local drug store.
Something new has been added to aid "essential industries" and the war effort: salvage drives to collect cans and other used items [so the raw materials could be recycled for military use]. Everyone on our street is collecting since it is considered the patriotic thing to do.
I remember 1943 as a time of watching and waiting and praying. Church attendance has risen as many people turn to God for help. Many lives have been changed forever, yet all of us feel a determination. Our country must win this war because the consequences of losing are unthinkable.
It is 1944 and the salvage drives are continuing as everyone on our street dutifully collects scrap iron and waste. Everyone at my school is busy writing letters to servicemen abroad which are mailed to the F.P.O. [Fleet Post Office] to the sailors in the Navy who collected them when their ships docked in port. All anyone talks about is the war effort, as lives are changed, careers are put on hold, and parents anxiously wait for news of their sons abroad. The movies have gotten into the act with a series of shows starring John Wayne and Tyrone Power plus the greatest war movie of all time, Casablanca, with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. I cried when Rick left lisa at the end to return to fighting for what he believed to be right. The latest news is also at the theatre when the newsreels are shown at the beginning of each show.
Since rubber and chocolate candy come from the islands in the Pacific controlled by the Japanese, there have been gigantic cutbacks in these two products. Cocoa just isn't available.
When Lois and I aren't going to the show, we go to the local bowling alley. Pinsetters set up the pins each time we knock them over, making strikes and spares. Afterwards, we go for Cokes at the local drugstore.
This summer our family is making a trip to Euclid Beach Park [at Lake Erie], My mother bought a whole strip of tickets for the rides at a nickel a ride. My favorites are the high roller coaster, the Thriller; the Flying Scooters; and also the Racing Horses. My mother likes the rocket ships. We all stuffed on hot dogs and a specialty of the park, the frozen custard.
Sugar is ... rationed and newsprint is being considered, but this is all worth it since the news from the front lines is better. General George Patton has pushed the Germans out of Italy and in June, Rome was liberated. The landing at Normandy [also in June] marked the beginning of the end for Germany. The Allies advanced on Berlin by the end of this year.
My friends and I carried balloons and posters in a parade on Independence Day. I am making popcorn balls and carved a pumpkin, home-grown from our very own garden for Halloween. My mother and I packed fruitcakes, candy and cookies to send to the troops for Christmas.
It has been a long year but we on the Homefront are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. More of my friends from high school are enlisting and church attendance has reached an all time high. Everyone is hoping and praying for good news for the Allies in 1945.
Charles Dickens said that "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times." In certain ways this is true of 1945. Jobs are so plentiful, that necessary occupations like my father's job at the Water Department have "frozen" the employees in place. Plus they are working double and triple shifts! I'm working at the Ohio Bell Telephone Company but there are many opportunities, since the enlisted men are still abroad.
Everyone saves what they can, since some items are so scarce with rationing still going on. Everything is being recycled, paper, metal, even lipstick tubes!
It looks like the American forces are making progress against the Axis. In February our soldiers placed an American flag at Iwo Jima. In Europe the Allied forces are on the march towards Berlin.
The worst day of the war was April 12, 1945, when our wartime President, Franklin Roosevelt, had a massive heart attack. We lost our leader, but our new President, Harry Truman, has promised aggressive action on the Pacific front.
Everyone rejoiced when Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945. Houses in the small German villages had white flags of surrender in each window. Berlin was overrun with American, French and British troops.
The war in the Pacific, unfortunately, is not going as well. The Japanese have vowed to fight to the bitter end and it looks like many American lives will be lost before our enemy surrenders. American bombers are blanketing the island night and day, but the Japanese aren't going to quit. Lois and I went to the theatre to see the newsreel, but the situation in the Pacific doesn't look good.
August 6, 1945, is the day of reckoning for Japan. A massive bomb was dropped on a city called Hiroshima. We listened on the radio as the announcer heralded this as the start of something called the Atomic Age. Many of the Japanese people ignored the thousands of leaflets that the allies had dropped telling them to leave because the city was going to be bombed.
Unfortunately the Japanese still didn't surrender so a second atomic bomb was dropped on another city called Nagasaki, causing massive loss of human life. The leaflets were again ignored so many people died. But Japan has surrendered!
September 2, 1945, is the date that went down in history [as Victory over Japan Day, or V-J Day]. There are wild celebrations everywhere and parades are being held in Cleveland to honor the soldiers, who are finally coming home! Rationing is over, hopefully forever!
The newsreels show the surrender of the Japanese to the American forces. On the Homefront many people have gone to their local churches to pray. Cars are out of storage as tires and gasoline become more available again.
People weep for those who will not be coming home. Some soldiers are missing arms, legs, or have other serious injuries. Yet the war has ended as our new President, Harry Truman, will meet with other leaders of the Allied countries to try and establish a lasting peace. The organization to perform this Herculean task has been called the United Nations. Our country, according to the newsreels, will be a member of the Security Council, a prominent position, along with England, France, Soviet Russia, and China.
And so it is over, the war to end all wars. It feels strange in a way that all anyone has thought about or spoken of at long last is ended. We can go on with our lives and yet this time, these four years, will live on in our memories, never to be forgotten.
The year after the war ended, Eva got married and, in 1947, had a daughter, Linda. In 1951, Eva, now divorced, moved with her parents and Linda from Cleveland to Parma, Ohio, considered the countryside at the time. They remained there until 1958, when they settled in nearby Northfield.
Eva Lehman lives in Northfield, Ohio, with her daughter, Linda Masek, a fifth-grade teacher and author of seven books who submitted this journal kept by her mother to America in WWII.
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|Title Annotation:||I WAS THERE; United States in World War II|
|Publication:||America in WWII|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2016|
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