Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Kids in WWII

For quite some time now, we have been working on a “Kids in WWII” project. We have a form in the Nimitz gallery for recollections of those who were young during the war. After all, the war was experienced by people of all ages on both the warfront and the homefront. There are so many remarkable stories from many different countries and I thought that this blog would be a great outlet to share some of them.

This story is of a man named Tom who was born in 1933 in Honolulu. The following are excerpts from his recollections.

“One of my friends and I were playing war out in our adjoining backyards. We saw these strange planes flying over and then saw what was probably anti-aircraft fire. We went into our respective homes and told the families that the Germans were attacking. Germans were the only ‘bad guys’ we knew of and many of our friends were Japanese.

My mother began providing home cooked meals to servicemen. They were pretty much a constant presence. They came with food and liquor, some from a chaplain and some that ‘fell off a truck.’ The effect of rationing was lessened by the efforts of these men. Mom cooked for as many as 50 men on the big holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. She encouraged us kids (my brother was 13, my sister giving was 14) to bring the men home. Every man had to sign the guestbook and then mom wrote to the parents of each of them. By the end of the war, there were over 2000 names in the guest books… When we found out a man did not come back from the war, mom wrote to the parents.

Mom and I visited a few of those families in 1951, after I graduated from high school. It was a very emotional trip.

We favored enlisted men, but a few officers did get to come into the house. Mom had a rule that every man had to get out of his uniform shirt and put on an Aloha shirt. No rank was visible. One enlisted man found a pair of eagles on someone’s shirt in the closet and came out quite concerned and asked mom who the ‘full bird colonel’ was. Mom would not tell him.

When we got the news that the Japanese had surrendered, I made my mother angry by beating a hole in her favorite dish pan with a wooden spoon. That was on Ninth Street and the neighborhood was celebrating quite noisily.”

Hopefully this sort of recollection will connect today’s children to those of World War II and help us live out our motto, ‘We inspire our youth by honoring our heroes.’