Hello Readers and welcome back to the Hometown Heritage Blog!
Since it is Memorial Day this weekend, I thought it would be a good idea to share another story about a veteran from our Oral History collection today. Leo-LaVonne Carr shares this story about learning code and the end of World War II:
“[W]e lived in an apartment. We…five miles from where we worked and this lieutenant and his brother lived in the same apartment building so when they would call them they would run down and they’d get me and we’d go down to the signal corps and decode it you know. So the….very day before the day was over with the Japanese we decoded it and we got the message that five o’clock the next day the war would be over. So we had to make up messages to ever tributary all over the whole United States….the Marines, the Navy, the Army…the everything. But we couldn’t tell anybody. They locked us in there and we was in there all night and all day and even the girls that worked daytime, they couldn’t come to work. They had to go back home ‘cause we was getting all this stuff ready you know. And so at five o’clock that night we had all these empty tapes. We had the policemen were this way. The teletype…or telegraph company was this way and the fire station was this way and down below us was the radio station and we took empty tapes and we threw it out and we said the war was over. Well all those tapes got caught on the streetcars and the buses and the messages just went through just like that. Well then we sent the message to Fort Leonardwood and all the smaller places where they had the service guys and they stole the jeeps, knocked the fence down, stole the trucks, came to Saint Louis and you could buy booze in any drugstore and everybody got drunk and the roads were wider than this kitchen and by the time we got all the messages sent out and could go home all these people hanging on each other drunk, going up and down the street singing and then all the bands came to the big park right in the middle of Saint Louis town…the city of Saint Louis and they played and everybody was dancing. Everybody was drunk and I was dead on my butt.”
It sounds like it was one of the biggest celebrations anyone has seen all over the country, but unfortunately for Leo he was too exhausted to join in! You hear a lot of similar stories about parties happening in the streets when the news was announced (and even a few famous pictures). Most of you readers are probably too young to remember the end of World War II, but do you have any other stories (or maybe stories from your parents and grandparents) about the end of different wars? Let us know in the comments, and join us next week for another Hometown Heritage blog!
As some of you may know, here at Hometown Heritage we have hundreds of Oral Histories, somewhere around 600. Many of these histories contain stories of life in small town Iowa, but many of them also contain stories about the wars American have been through, from World War II to the present. Some of these stories describe how difficult it is during the war, what it was like to finally come home, and how some people felt the war had changed them. Some, however, contain humorous little stories about people finding a little happiness in dark times. Today, I’d like to share one with you all that I found to be rather entertaining!
This story comes to us from an interview with Dale Grow. It was during World War II, and Dale described what staying in the barracks was like. He said that “everything was blacked out. At night before it got dark you put the plywood up on all the windows and the lights had to be dimmed and all that kind of stuff you know and bed check Charlie would come over every night at nine o’clock see.” Charlie, according to Dale, was a plane that would check to see what they were doing. Clearly, the point was to make their barracks as undetectable as possible, so that the enemy could not find them in the dark. This is just a small portion of the story, however.
The real interesting part of Dale’s story is what would happen at night, and how one night Dale sneaked out to go see the cook. The cook’s name was Ben Eilers, and he was from Iowa. One night Dale went to visit him, and Ben was making apple pies. The surprising thing about these pies was that Ben was making them in square tins, so that they could be cut into squares for the commissioned officers. The rest of the story is as follows:
And he had just taken ‘em out of the oven. Oh my god Ben, we ain’t even had any fruit. And you had to get up in the morning and steal milk out of the carton. The milkman did bring some…we’d get a carton of milk but anyway…what have you had to eat? And I said well not…not too great. Not too great. And he went back in the cooler and come out with a steak and fixed me a steak to eat and fried some potatoes and stuff and I set there and ate it. When I got ready to leave to go back to the barracks of course it was dark...just black as all get out. But I could feel my way back to the barracks and he said now here…I don’t give a damn whether these officers have pie for dinner tomorrow or not. And he give me two tins of pie to take back. But there’s one stipulation…you gotta get the tins back here, tonight. Well when I got back to the barracks the blackout boards…had to take ‘em down so you could get a little air in so you could breath and I flipped the damn light switch on. The platoon sergeant was right at the door…oh he jumped up and give me hell. And I said sit down Bud, sit down. I got some pie here and he shut the lights off and we had a table in the middle of the barracks and I said nobody eats pie ‘til you get two people volunteers to take the pie tins back. Ben told me…we all liked Ben real good…Ben told me he had to have them back. Well he picked out two guys and they said they’d take ‘em back. That’s how we got our pie. Anyway he took ‘em back and we…we could say we had pie.
As you can see, Dale sneaked out to get his barracks some pie! Even the platoon sergeant was not as mad as you would think, having a soldier sneak off at night and get some pie that was not meant for them. It goes to show that sometimes it really is just the little things in life. Readers, do you have any good veteran’s stories, either of your own or someone else’s that you know? If you do, we would love to hear them. So, feel free to share them with us!