Young men were drafted and sent to boot camps all over the U.S. They were taught skills for hand to hand combat and how to hit the bullseye with rifles and 45 caliber pistols. For Advanced Training they were sent to different places to learn specific skills such as flying an airplane, how to be a tail gunner, or earned navigation by air or sea. Many ended up as a foot soldiers. It took all kinds of training and skills to fight a war. The average person does not realize the need for cooks to feed our men and women in Mess Halls. Men and women are needed to handle communications, to care for the wounded on the battlefield as combat aid men, or at Clearing Stations and hospitals. Some were trained, how to drive a tank, duce and one half truck, or jeep. And learn how to weld to repair their cruisers when damaged.
The skills needed depended on whether or not one ended in the air force, marines, navy or army. Men lied about their ages to join and fight for their country. A friend of mine shared his experience on the U.S.S. Chester in 1942. He was a welder and the Japs blew a hole in the side of his ship, The Chester, and it was lofting. Hank and his buddies were lowered over the side to weld the hole. They were shot at from the Japanese planes in the Pacific. They welded the side and saved the crew and cruiser.
Those men who were left behind due to physical problems felt inferior and as outcasts. My father resented not being able to join the air force. He was rejected for hearing deficits. Three of his brothers enlisted, one was trained as a pilot, the middle brother as a tail gunner and the youngest trained to be a navigator. Dad’s resentment grew stronger and he began to hate going to work at the railroad. Even though his job was important to keep the trains running and in good repair. Pennsylvania Railroad built and repaired freight cars and steam engines. War supplies and servicemen were sent by rail wherever needed, or to airports to be flown overseas. Dad felt left out and was became irritable. He started drinking more beer as an escape mechanism. When his brothers came home in uniform before being shipped overseas he said,” I would gladly change places with you and would rather take a beating than go into work at the railroad.”
Mother was a true patriot and when women were “stay at home moms” she joined the work ethic. She took a job at the railroad. Dad was furious but calmed down when he found out she would not be crawling around railroad cars painting and riveting. Her job was in the office as secretary and she could continue to wear dresses, skirts and blouses and high heeled shoes. My grandfather said it was refreshing to see her working in the office and not hearing foul language coming from her like it was from some women working in coveralls. Although he appreciated the work all women were doing in absence of the men who went to serve our country. Mother volunteered as air raid warden on our street. She trained my brother and me how to blacken the windows and hide in the attic stairwell. Mother wore a special vest, hard helmet and carried a flashlight with a red lens. She took this position seriously.
Dad continued to be resentful and I noticed more arguments between them. He was jealous because she was bringing in almost as much income, but enjoyed the extra money. When we were at the cottage he built along the river they did less arguing. We had wonderful weekends together as a family. Although Dad continued to drink several six-packs of beer over the two days. Was this the beginning of what was to come? Read more in A Marked Woman based on a true story of what happened.