Military History ►WWII Home Front War Effort When America was catapulted into World War II, life on the home front changed in ways it never had before—and probably never will again, according to people who lived through those times. “So many people don’t know what it was like then. Everything was for the war effort,” said Shirley Compton, a vivacious 80-year-old who lives in Colonial Beach. “Everyone was close and loving and patriotic. I remember that feeling most of all.” She grew up in Arlington, where families were encouraged to rent out rooms to workers who flocked to Washington to keep the war machine chugging.
Her childhood memories are of air-raid drills at school and blacked-out windows at home. She confesses she “did carry on a bit” when factories that made Coca–Cola and Double Bubble Bubble Gum shifted their focus to war supplies and stopped making her favorites. But even 6-year-old girls quickly learned to support the cause when everyone else was doing it, she said. “I never saw such a good feeling about everything, people working together,” she said. “I remember that still.”
So does Wayne Colton, a 78-year-old with an incredible memory for detail. Perhaps he paid so much attention to adults because he was an only child. His family lived on the outskirts of Fredericksburg when it was still rural enough to be considered the country. He was only 4 when Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, but he sensed the seriousness of the situation—and the subsequent four-year effort to defeat Japan and Germany. “I knew it was a life-and-death struggle,” he said. “It made a profound impression on me.”
LIFE WITH RATION BOOKS To those in the city or country, an account of life on the home front starts and ends with one word. Rationing. Almost any item that families used was in limited supply during the war. There were several reasons, according to the National World War II Museum’s website. Processed and canned goods were shipped overseas for Allied soldiers; gasoline was used to transport troops and supplies instead of food; and sugar and coffee were limited due to war-related restrictions on imports. Because of the shortages, the government established a system to make sure the few items available were distributed fairly. Each American got ration books with stamps for particular items, such as cooking oil, shoes or meat. No one could buy any rationed items without the stamp that went with them. When a shopper used up all her ration stamps for, say, sugar, for the month, she couldn’t buy any more.
The books were such an integral part of life that Compton kept one of her mother’s all these years. The problem was, she put it in such a safe place, she couldn’t find it when she was interviewed. Luckily, a neighbor still had a ration book, and she borrowed hers. Colton also starts off his list of wartime memories with rationed items. In addition to those Compton mentioned, his mother and all her friends and female relatives mourned a different loss. Nylons. Oh, how they longed for a pair of nylons. “For every woman,” Colton said, “that was on their lips.”
‘NO ONE COMPLAINED’ Living in the country, Colton and his family raised chickens and got pork from relatives who had a farm. They were able to grow most of the food they needed, unlike city-dwellers who relied on the market. The mere mention of meat brought up a subject that made Compton cringe. Spam, a spiced ham served in a can, became popular during the war to supplement the meat shortages. “I hate it to this day,” she said. “I don’t ever want to see it again.” She didn’t turn her nose up at another product available in lean times. This one was ground like burger. “They used to sell horse meat at the store, and we were lucky to get it,” Compton said.
Americans learned other ways to make do. Not only did Colton’s mother and her friends paint a stripe down the back of their legs when they couldn’t get nylons, but they also made dresses from flowered feed sacks. When margarine was introduced as a replacement for butter, it came with a cup of yellow coloring so it would at least look authentic. Copper was needed for wiring for every piece of equipment that rolled, floated or was flown in the war, along with the millions of radios being produced. Zinc replaced copper as the coating on pennies, Colton said. As much as civilians felt the shortages, they were also keenly aware of the need—and “no one complained about it,” Compton said. Radio programs, movies and school events stressed the need to support the war because the American way of life depended on it. “You woke up every day, realizing we were in a conflict,” Colton said. “The war was the predominant theme, and you were totally aware of how much people were sacrificing for it.”
GUARDING THE HOMELAND In the months after the Pearl Harbor attack, communities appointed civilians to keep an eye on the sky and water. Volunteer spotters, who learned to identify aircraft from their silhouettes, were posted around the Fredericksburg region. Guards were placed at the Falmouth Bridge, as well as other bridges and railroad crossings. Civil defense patrols in Fredericksburg had air-raid drills—the same kind Compton experienced in Arlington—when all the lights had to be blacked out. No one wanted to give would-be bombers a target to hit. As a boy, Colton saw these exercises and the regular troop trains that ran through Fredericksburg, headed for training at Fort A.P. Hill. He was absolutely fascinated by the war machine. Life magazine published weekly then, and he consumed every story and photo showing battles in far-off places. He learned that the nylons his mother coveted were used to make parachutes, that the metal and paper he and other children saved were used in weapons, armament and posters asking people to buy war bonds and further support the effort. Even the fat left over from cooking was saved and turned into soap. “It was significant to see these things,” Colton said, realizing at a young age that this wasn’t normal.
Colton was so fascinated by the military, he eventually joined the Air Force and earned a Bronze Star in Vietnam—the same medal an uncle received at the Battle of the Bulge. He retired after 20 years in the military, then worked as a defense contractor. About 25 years ago, he answered a different call of duty: to become a minister. At 78, he’s the senior pastor at Triangle Baptist Church. Colton never forgot the wartime experiences of his childhood. “It gave me a sense of pride in the country and the sacrifices men and women were making,” he said. “It was a life-forming orientation.” [Source: The Free Lance–Star | Suzanne Carr Rossi | December 27, 2015++]
Hiroshima ► Atomic Bomb Decision According to White House officials, on 27 MAY the President will visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, a site at the center of Hiroshima where the United States dropped an atomic bomb in 1945 in an effort to end World War II.
“He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, Mr. Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, said. “Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future.” A useful perspective of the decision to drop the bomb is provided in the book As I Saw It, written by Dean Rusk, the 54th Secretary of State under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.
Emperor Hirohito Dean Rusk
Rusk, who served at the time in August 1945 on the General Staff planning the invasion of Japan, writes: “It was clear to us that taking the main islands would be a frightful affair. We planned first to launch sustained saturation bombing attacks on Japan’s coast and its cities; these attacks by themselves would have killed millions of Japanese. Then we planned to invade. Millions more Japanese would have been killed then. Estimates of American casualties ranged from four or five hundred thousand all the way to MacArthur’s figure of a million. Harry Truman’s decision to drop the bomb should be viewed in this light. Truman wanted to end the war quickly and avoid the hideous casualties of landing on the main islands.”
There’s no question that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unspeakable tragedies. Although the exact death toll from the attacks will never be truly known, it’s nearly certain that at least 200,000 people perished in the two attacks In fact, the casualties from the U.S. strategic conventional bombing campaign greatly eclipsed the number of individuals who died from the atomic bombings. The March 1945 firebombing of Tokyo alone killed some 120,000 Japanese. A ground invasion would have resulted in nearly immeasurable more casualties. As one scholar who studied the U.S. invasion plan, Operation Downfall, notes: “depending on the degree to which Japanese civilians resisted the invasion, estimates ran into the millions for Allied casualties and tens of millions for Japanese casualties.”
That being said, a strong case can be made that Operation Downfall, at least as it was planned, wouldn’t have been necessary even if the U.S. hadn’t resorted to nuclear weapons. In particular, the Soviet Union’s decision to enter the Pacific War against Japan would have certainly hastened Japan’s surrender, and thereby saved lives. Indeed, some have argued, quite convincingly, that “the bomb didn’t beat Japan… Stalin did.” But even if Operation Downfall as planned wouldn’t have been necessary, Hiroshima and Nagasaki still almost certainly saved lives. Although the Soviet’s entrance into the war further sealed Japan’s fate, it’s nearly unthinkable that — given Imperial Japan’s views of surrendering — the Japanese Emperor and other leaders would have surrendered immediately after the Soviet invasion. Instead, domestic politics and the need to save face would have compelled them to try and fight the two future superpowers simultaneously for a while, even though they knew the effort was futile.
Every year the City of Hiroshima holds the Peace Memorial Ceremony to console the souls of those who were lost due to the atomic bombing. The floating lanterns symbolize the journey to the afterlife. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki gave Japanese leaders the excuse they needed to take the absolutely unthinkable action of surrendering. Indeed, the atomic bombings figured prominently in Emperor Hirohito’s unprecedented speech to the nation announcing Japan’s surrender. “The enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization,” the Emperor told a stunned Japanese nation (stunned partly because they had never heard the Emperor speak and partly because they couldn’t believe Japan was surrendering.)
Arthur Ishimoto believes dropping the atomic bombs on Japan saved a million American lives — including his own — as well as at least 5 million Japanese lives. The 93-year-old served in the Military Intelligence Service, a U.S. Army unit made up of mostly Japanese-Americans who interrogated prisoners, translated intercepted messages and went behind enemy lines to gather intelligence. he was a technical sergeant scheduled to join the invasion of Japan in November 1945, and believes he would have died in the assault. President Barack Obama doesn't need to apologize for the atom bombs, Ishimoto said, but it's good for him to go to Hiroshima and "bury the hatchet." "War is hell. Nobody wins," Ishimoto said. "There's no victor, really."
Arthur Ishimoto, 93, a Japanese-American and U.S. Army Military Intelligence Service veteran, poses
with archival photographs of himself as he is interviewed in Honolulu. He was born in Honolulu to parents who hailed from western Japan. He read Japan's plans for fiercely defending its home islands when he served in Tokyo during America's postwar occupation of the defeated nation. He recalls the plans calling for using kamikaze aircraft, submarines and piloted torpedoes followed by beach mines and suicide units. He met civilians who showed him weapons they had planned to use against the invaders, including a 15-foot-long bamboo spear. "A lot of these people telling us we shouldn't have dropped the bomb — hey, what they talking about?" said Ishimoto, who after the war became an Air Force major general and commander of the Hawaii National Guard. "They weren't there. They don't know what we faced or what we would have faced. It would have been terrible." [Source: NAUS Weekly Update & ap | May 20 & 24, 2016 ++]
Nagasaki► 20 Minutes After Bombing | Leaflets
Nagasaki, 20 minutes after the atomic bombing in 1945. A similar bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Subsequently Americans dropped the below leaflets warning of what was going to happen to all Japanese cities. Some people still refused to leave. Leaflet #1 TO THE JAPANESE PEOPLE: America asks that you take immediate heed of what we say on this leaflet. We are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man. A single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is actually the equivalent in explosive power to what 2000 of our giant B-29s can carry on a single mission. This awful fact is one for you to ponder and we solemnly assure you it is grimly accurate.
We have just begun to use this weapon against your homeland. If you still have any doubt, make inquiry as to what happened to Hiroshima when just one atomic bomb fell on that city.
Before using this bomb to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, we ask that you now petition the Emperor to end the war. Our president has outlined for you the thirteen consequences of an honorable surrender. We urge that you accept these consequences and begin the work of building a new, better and peace-loving Japan.
You should take steps now to cease military resistance. Otherwise, we shall resolutely employ this bomb and all our other superior weapons to promptly and forcefully end the war.
EVACUATE YOUR CITIES.
Leaflet #2 ATTENTION JAPANESE PEOPLE. EVACUATE YOUR CITIES. Because your military leaders have rejected the thirteen part surrender declaration, two momentous events have occurred in the last few days.
The Soviet Union, because of this rejection on the part of the military has notified your Ambassador Sato that it has declared war on your nation. Thus, all powerful countries of the world are now at war with you. Also, because of your leaders' refusal to accept the surrender declaration that would enable Japan to honorably end this useless war, we have employed our atomic bomb.
A single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is actually the equivalent in explosive power to what 2000 of our giant B-29s could have carried on a single mission. Radio Tokyo has told you that with the first use of this weapon of total destruction, Hiroshima was virtually destroyed.
Before we use this bomb again and again to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, petition the emperor now to end the war. Our president has outlined for you the thirteen consequences of an honorable surrender. We urge that you accept these consequences and begin the work of building a new, better, and peace-loving Japan.
Act at once or we shall resolutely employ this bomb and all our other superior weapons to promptly and forcefully end the war.
EVACUATE YOUR CITIES.
Military Trivia 122 ► Operation Santa Claus Christmas in America had been anxious and somber during the four years of World War II. The peril and sacrifice of war was hard to reconcile with memories of the joyfulness of pre-War holidays, and by 1944 many American servicemen and women shared one particular Christmas wish: to be “Home Alive by ’45.” That year, as war drew to a close in both Europe and the Pacific, it seemed possible that the wish might come true. But the war’s end hardly meant that the 2,000,000 men and women eligible for separation—those who could be done with active duty—were home in their civvies by the time the holiday rolled around. With all resources dedicated to winning the war, neither the Army nor the Navy had spent much time thinking through the logistics of bringing everyone home until after the fighting was finished. And so it was without too much preparation that Operation Magic Carpet began in September 1945 to bring the troops back home to the United States.
As Christmas approached, the Army and Navy launched Operation Santa Claus to expedite Operation Magic Carpet, with the goal of rushing as many eligible men and women home for the holiday as possible. But violent storms at sea and the volume of eligible servicemen conspired to thwart the high ambitions of these operations. And so throngs of American military personnel—some 250,000 in all, some with brand new discharge papers and some just a day or two away from separation—found themselves back on American soil for Christmas 1945, but not quite home. Instead, they faced the worst air, rail and automobile traffic jams in history. The rule of thumb in the days immediately preceding Christmas 1945 was that a westbound train would be about 6 hours late, and an eastbound train about 12 hours. The predicament was met with overwhelming understanding and good nature among the servicemen. Upon being asked by a newspaper reporter what he thought about being among the 150,000 who were stranded along the West Coast for Christmas, an Army Private trying to get home to Texas responded that simply stepping on U.S. soil was, “the best Christmas present a man could have.”
Personnel sling hammocks (left) where available and (right) killing time on the hanger deck during transport back to the States on board Intrepid (CV 11) as part of Operation Magic Carpet. Civilians near the West Coast “separation centers,” where soldiers and sailors were being relieved from active duty, enthusiastically opened their homes to the new and soon-to-be veterans, while many of the 50,000 men and women awaiting discharge from points along the Eastern Seaboard were required to have Christmas dinner at the separation center itself, or sometimes even on the ships which had just brought them there. But even then hardly a complaint was heard, as the troops enjoyed hearty meals provided by the Army and Navy while noting that this year ration tins were nowhere to be found. As reported in the New York Times: “tens of thousands of tired troops, dreaming of a white Christmas, are seeing enough of it from (train) car windows to last them a lifetime.” A full 94% of the passengers on trains originating from the West Coast on Dec. 24, 1945, were military or recently discharged military personnel. Even recently minted veterans unfortunate enough to still be in route between their separation center and home on Christmas were cheerful about their holiday circumstances. Christmas dinner with their families would be eaten on whatever day they arrived home, it hardly mattered whether it was December 25 or a few days later.
Goodwill was everywhere. Civilians gifted their train tickets to returning servicemen and women. Others threw spirited, though condensed, parties for the trainloads of veterans who had even just short stopovers at their town’s station. In at least one instance, a trainload of vets returned the favor by spending their 20-minute layover in Salt Lake City taking up a collection of $125 ($1,650 in 2015 dollars) for a local charitable cause they learned about at the newsstand during the stop. Citizens even volunteered to sacrifice Christmas with their own families to get veterans home before the New Year. A Colorado trucker drove 35 veterans marooned in Denver to their homes in Dallas and 34 points in between. The driver refused to accept payment, insisting the men spend the money on presents for their families. A Los Angeles taxi driver drove a carload of six new veterans 2,700 miles home to Chicago. Another drove six veterans from L.A. to their homes in Manhattan, The Bronx, Pittsburgh, Long Island, Buffalo and New Hampshire in exchange for nothing but the cost of gas.
“This is the Christmas that a war-weary world has prayed for…” proclaimed President Truman at the National Tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 24, 1945 – and Americans did everything they could to give their servicemen and women the holiday they deserved. [Source: TIME | Matthew Litt | December 21, 2015 ++]
WWII Battles Q&A (2) ► Questions 1. Which 4th largest city in the USSR was the site of four battles back-and-forth between the Germans and the Soviets?
Kiev | Kharkov | Berlin | Hamburg
2. Which of the following battles was the first major offensive by Allied forces against the Empire of Japan?
Battle of Medenin| Battle of Guadalcanal | Operation Lüttich | Battle of Rimini
3. After which battle, deemed a stunning success, did Churchill cautiously advise, “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations."?
Battle of Timor | Battle of Keren | Battle of La Ciotat | Battle of Dunkirk
4. What is the name of the bridge in the Netherlands which was the pivotal objective of the Battle of Arnhem?
Stari Most | Great Belt Bridge | John Frost Bridge | Alcántara Bridge
5. Which of the following is true about the Battle of Badung Strait?
This was the first battle along the Western Front.
Four Japanese destroyers handily defeated a much larger and more heavily armed Allied force.
The combined air-and-sea attack was conducted by the British Royal Navy off the coast of North Africa.
6. When did the Japanese first start leveraging kamikaze attacks in WWII?
Late 1943 | Middle of 1944 | Late 1944
7. Which Western Front battle heralded the first time that a significant German force fought on the defensive yet emerged victorious in the end?
Battle of Palembang | Battle of Prokhorovka | Operation Battleaxe | Battle of the St. Lawrence
8. When did the Battle of Nancy begin?
September 5, 1944 | January 15, 1940 | August 17, 1948 | March 4, 1939
9. Which general was awarded the Medal of Honor for extreme bravery early in WWII and then went on to preside over the Japanese Unconditional Surrender in 1945?
Douglas MacArthur | George Patton | Maurice Gamelin | George Marshall
10. Which battle was the only battle in which American forces sustained a greater number than total casualties than the Japanese?
Battle of the North Cape | Battle of Iwo Jima | Battle of Dakar | Battle of Zeeland
11. Towards the end of the war, which U.S. general led a force of over 1.3 million troops (America's largest to serve under one man)?
Petre Dumitrescu | Maxime Weygand | Omar Bradley | Hugh Dowding
12. Which battle prevented Germany from gaining air superiority, eventually forcing Hitler to cancel Operation Sea Lion, the planned amphibious and airborne invasion of Britain?
Battle of Britain | Battle of Timor | Battle of Okinawa | Battle of Rotterdam
[Source: http://www.zoo.com/quiz/world-war-ii-battles | May 2016 ++]