Reflections: A day I will always remember
A day I will always remember
By William L. Bulla
Weekly Contributing Writer
It was a mild, pleasant, sunny Sunday December afternoon in my small hometown in Northeastern Oklahoma. A friend and I had been to a matinee movie and were walking casually homeward, when we decided to stop at one of the local drugstore soda fountains for a drink. We walked in calling out hellos to many friends, only to be greeted with shushing sounds. Everyone was listening to a voice on the radio. We, too, were soon captured by it. We heard President Franklin D. Roosevelt telling the world of the attack currently taking place on the Hawaiian Islands. America was at War! A war to be remembered as World War II.
December 7, 1941, is a date I will always remember. I had graduated from High School in June and just turned 18 years old in October. Later, I learned that one of my high school friends, who had graduated a year ahead of me, was aboard the U.S.S. Arizona, and entombed in its wreckage. As the war progressed, there were numerous other classmates that gave their lives for our Nation's freedom.
A short time later, I enlisted in what was then known as the Army Air Corps, soon to change its name to Air Force.
My life changed! Changed forever! Through the next few years ahead, I, and a world full of other teenagers, would face life-style changes daily. From happy youth we were rapidly becoming men, learning how to operate equipment and weaponry to bring down our counterparts from other countries.
Life styles changed on the home front, as well! Suddenly a rationing system was begun in the U.S. Tires became the first item because the supply of natural rubber was interrupted. Then came automobiles, bicycles, gasoline, silk, nylon, shoes, sugar, meat, lard, oils, shortenings, cheese, butter, and many other food items. People had to appear before local rationing boards to obtain a rationing stamp book for each person in a household. These had to be presented a when making purchases of rationed items.
An area of civilian involvement during the war was recycling. Many everyday commodities were vital to the war effort, and drives were organized to recycle such things as rubber, tin, waste kitchen fats (the predominant raw material of explosives and many pharmaceuticals), paper, lumber, steel and many others.
Legions of women previously employed only in the home, or doing traditionally female work, took jobs in factories that directly supported the war effort, or filled jobs vacated by men joining the military service. These women have been immortalized in songs such as "Rosie the Riveter."
Celebrities turned out across the U.S. to help the government hold bond drives. Bonds were sold to provide money to finance the war. The public paid three-quarters of the face value of the war bond, and received the full face value back after a set number of years. Employees in businesses and factories were challenged to put at least 10-percent of each paycheck into bonds.
When I returned from 20th Air Force duty in the Pacific in 1946, I visited my local cemetery. I found gravesites of numerous friends and fellow students. Some were only markers representing those whose bodies were never returned from their areas of combat.
I often think of those friends. I remember their dreams and plans they had for life...careers they were never able to pursue. Some of them that did return were not physically able to follow their dreams, either.
Yes, December 7, 1941, was a life-changing day for thousands and thousands. Our country called! Our citizens responded! Our youth responded! But the youth never returned. They either came back as old men or they never returned. Over the years, I have reflected on that day. Perhaps, as I get older it happens more often.
William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.