The USA was late to enter World War II. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 there was no doubt that our earlier position of neutrality could not continue. The war ended with the fall of Germany in May, 1945. The American losses were staggering with 405,399 killed in action and 671,278 wounded .
Those back home were called upon to do various things to support the war effort. There were price controls and rationing of civilian use of some foods, gasoline, and electricity. The cost to our nation of was 74% of the GDP. Staggering!
My father was drafted late in the war and was sent to the Philippine Islands. Thankfully he was never called into combat on the front lines and returned safely to our West Virginia home at war’s end. I was born in April of 1942 and yet do have a sketchy recall of some moments in World War II. For example, I recall my dad dressing in his uniform and walking away from our home to head off to the war. I stood on the sidewalk in front of our home and watched until he was out of sight.
I was recently reminded of how much war has changed as I read an essay by author E. B. White (1899 to 1985) (Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little). In his essay collection (One Man’s Meat), White shared his experience as a “shoreline plane watcher.” On both the east coast and the west coast, concerns about night time air attacks required that all sources of light to be blacked out so the enemy could not get a fix on potential bombing targets. His job as a member of a community volunteer group was to watch and listen to the nighttime sea and sky. Any intrusion into our space was to be reported immediately. That war was the last one to require something of every US citizen. Technology like satellites to detect air attacks would not be available for many years.
Today, war places few demands on our citizens. We can watch reports about it on television and express our sorrow at the loss of a few professional soldiers and military contractors as we pour another glass of wine. War is still horrible to those who are actually fighting it in our behalf. When you see someone in uniform, mean it deeply when you say, “thank you for your service.”