Garrett (garote) wrote,
Garrett
garote

Excerpt from a Social Studies essay I wrote in the 8th grade

My father is one of the people who experienced world war as a young civilian. During World War II Ben was about seven and a half years old. He lived at 348 19th Street in Richmond, California with his mom, dad, and brother.

Since so many people were being drafted, work opportunities were numerous. People joined in mass migration to the cities to take up jobs that were left behind. Youngsters were earning money themselves for the very first time, and adults earned more than they thought possible. Ben's father got a job driving a tractor for a construction company, helping clear lots and put up rentals for the thousands of people flooding into the cities. Previously he had been working in the Golden Globe Brewery as foreman of the bottling division. Ben's mother, however, stayed a housewife throughout the war. "Takin' care of me and my bro'." as Ben calls it.

Just like everywhere else, Richmond was preparing for the worst. Blackouts were practiced. Ben's father was captain for their block, and some nights he would put on a steel hardhat, pick up a flashlight with a cover over its top, and walk out around the block, making sure everyone's lights were off after a specified time. This was all done so that if enemy planes went on night raids, they wouldn't know where to drop their bombs. The streetlamps had special caps put over them, to keep the light from shining up into the sky, and nobody could drive without installing shielded headlights. (Not that there were many cars being driven. Gas was rationed, as well as were tires.)

Near Alameda, Ben saw large groups of blimps held earthbound by long, thick cables. "It's not the blimps, it's the cables", Ben told me, "Because they're almost invisible in the air, and if a plane ran into one of them..." (He chuckles, and I get the point.) If a plane were to hit one of those cables, if would be cut in half. Even a clip off one of the wings could send a plane out of control and down into the ocean.

The schools took precautions too. Students were taught to duck and cover when an alarm sounded, with their heads under their desks, similar to earthquake drills today. It was at school that Ben had first heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when the principal stopped by his class to tell them.

Trains filled with troops would sometimes pass through Richmond, and since Ben lived two blocks from the railroad station he often got to see them. They would stop and accept various gifts from the citizens, resting and stretching their legs before going on their way again.

There have been mixed feelings as to whether or not President Roosevelt made a good decision when he entered the war. Ben said: "I don't think he had any choice." He went on to tell me that Roosevelt had, in a sense, almost saved the world, because the Nazi war machine was gaining momentum and it finally took U.S. effort to stop it. According to him, "I think the only reason we won the war is because we had more guns than they did."

When asked what he thought of Hitler, Ben promptly replied "He was a maniac -- Crazy." This was the usual opinion of him in America, for obvious reasons. In fact, it is still loosely in debate right now as to whether or not Hitler really was crazy. During our conversation, the possibility that Hitler might actually have won the war came up. Ben told me: "It's probable though, looking back, that he would have been assassinated later on."

As with any war, propaganda soon appeared in many places. There were war movies and war songs, and a great many war novels later. Ben, being a kid at the time, was mostly interested in cartoons, and of course many of them became war oriented. In them the "Japs" were short, bald men with huge buck teeth and squinty eyes, and always talked with a funny accent. "I remember you could go down to the local movie theater and see twenty-four cartoons in a row for a quarter," Ben said. "And they played war songs on the radio, and in all of them we were going to 'Get the Japs' and 'show 'em who's boss' and things like that. One of them went 'And we'll go THPTPT in Der Fuhrer's face!'"

According to Ben, the War didn't have that much of an effect on him because he was too young. He was lucky, in that no one in his family had been drafted except for two distant cousins, and he had known very little about them. There are some who carry the scars of family deaths and suffering for the rest of their lives, but he knew neither in the War. Apparently it was all a part of growing up in America.
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