The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on August 14, 1995 · Page 6
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 6

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Monday, August 14, 1995
Page 6
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A6 MONDAY, AUGUST 14, 1995 LOS ANGELES'TIMES WAR: Americans Recall the Way It Was on Continued from Al morning coat and striped pants. He leaned on a black cane, balancing unsteadily on the peg-leg he acquired after a terrorist bombing in Shanghai. Gen. Douglas MacAr-thur, silent, motioned him curtly to a table. Gen. Hsu Yung-chjen of China looked at Shigemitsu and spit into his. handkerchief. Shigemitsu leaned over the table. His cane clattered to the deck. "The Japanese delegates," MacArthur said, a slight quaver in his voice, "will now sign the instrument of surrender." And with a stroke of the pen, the most destructive, deadly war the world has ever known was over. It RELATED STORIES: A9, Bl was a war that united America in spirit and purpose as surely as Vietnam would tear it asunder. It was fought on the home front as well as on the battlefields of Europe and Asia, and in the end it would change the face of society and the world forever. America had erupted in great spontaneous celebrations on Aug. 14. The official day of Victory over Japan V-J Day, Sept. 1 in the United States and Sept. 2 in Japan-brought a more subdued, reflective response. Here is how some Americans remember that two -week period 50 years ago, when Western Union delivered the last of its telegrams that began: "Regret to inform you your fill in blank: son or husband . . ." Calm Response "I'd come home from Europe in June, and I was in L.A. on V-J Day," said cartoonist Bill Mauldin, 74. "I don't remember a lot about it, except I was overwhelmed by domestic difficulties. I was in the throes of separating from my first wife. I think I took V-J Day pretty calmly. I remember going into a bar, but I'm not sure I even got drunk." Sgt. Mauldin creator of the bearded, scruffy, unsmiling dogfaces Willie and Joe had come home, rich and famous, at the age of 23 with a Purple Heart and a Pulitzer Frize. Willie and Joe were neither gung-ho nor particularly patriotic. They just wanted to go home. When Gen. George S. Patton was asked what he thought of Mauldin's cartoons, he replied: "I've only seen two of them, and I thought they were lousy." Had his editor at Stars and Stripes not stepped in, Mauldin planned to kill Willie and Joe on the last day of the war, probably with a shell exploding on their foxhole. Instead, under pressure from the syndicate that distributed his cartoons to more than 300 newspapers, he brought them home, gave them a shave and put them to work as civilians in a gas station. But "I really didn't know who they were anymore. They lost their identity as soon as the war was oyer. They were a flop at home, and I stopped drawing them." Mauldin went on to confront issues he cared about: supporting the civil rights movement and attacking the Ku Klux Klan, the House Committee on Un-American Activities and the militant veterans' organizations whose leadership, he suggested in 1971, should be drafted to finish the Vietnam War. Except for appearing at the funerals of Gen. George C. Marshall in 1959 and Gen. Omar Bradley in 1981, Willie and Joe were not seen again in a Mauldin cartoon. "The Washington Post wanted me to come up with something for the V-J anniversary," said Mauldin, who has been retired since his 1946 jeep slipped off a hoist and crushed his drawing hand three years ago at his Santa Fe, N.M., home. "You know, I couldn't come up with a single idea that I thought was worthy or viable. I finally told them I wasn't going to do it. That was a relief. The war is over. I want it behind me." America, 1945. Bacon cost 41 cents a pound, a dozen eggs, 58 cents. Bess Myerson was Miss America; "The Lost Weekend," a drama about alcoholism starring Ray Milland, was the most popular movie. "For Sentimental Reasons" and "It's Been a Long, Long Time" replaced "Marching Through Berlin" and "We'll Meet Again" on the pop charts. Heiress Barbara Hutton divorced Cary Grant, her third husband, saying, "He made me nervous." The population reached 140 million and, despite rationing and wartime restrictions, America was prosperous. Nineteen million more people were at work in 1945 than in 1940, and per-capita income had tripled over that span. Ninety -hour workweeks in factories were common. The Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 169. A 'Riveting Symbol At home, "Rosie the Riveter" Lockheed Aircraft's buxom, blond, coverall -clad heroine, pictured on posters across the country became the symbol of our civilian contribution to the war effort. Some 6,5 million American women went to work driving steamrollers. St r " - Gen. Douglas MacArthur, left, and Bill Mauldin with the only Willie garbage trucks and taxis; building tanks, airplanes and jeeps; working in the timber forests as lumberjacks, tallymen and whistle punks. Jocelyn Knowles, a recent literature graduate of Columbia University, found work as a brakeman on the Pennsylvania Railroad. ". . . We were all fired up with wartime patriotism, and the notion of doing 'a man's job' was in those days thrilling," she wrote. An additional 265,000 women served in the armed forces. Mildred Pritza, 75, of Tinley Park, 111., recalled: "I'd never worked before the war." But in 1943, with her husband, Maine, in the Navy in England, a new baby to care for and her mother and two sisters, one an invalid, living at her home in Blue Island, 111., she went to work building crankshafts for airplanes at the Wyman and Gordon plant. She worked the 3 p.m.-to-11 p.m. shift and earned $1.09 an hour, wrestling steel bars off skids and into place to be sawed in half. It was dangerous work that resulted in serious injuries to several women who dropped the skids. "V-J Day? Oh, yes, I remember it. Maine was home, readying for the Pacific. It was near lunchtime, I think. We were in the house, and we got the news Japan had surrendered. We cried, we hugged. Bells were ringing. Everyone went outside and everyone was hugging. There was this feeling: This big terrible war, it's over. There was a real cohesiveness in the nation, with everyone working for a shared goal. There was a feeling this is going to be a wonderful world, and it was." After the war she turned her husband's Navy whites into coveralls for her sons. Next year, Maine, a retired steel plant inspector, and Mildred, who devoted her postwar work not to crankshafts but to raising three children and caring for her invalid sister, will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary. In 1939, the Army had a strength of 190,000 men and ranked 17th among armies of the world. The Army Air Corps was equipped with 1,700 mostly obsolete aircraft. By 1944, the United States was producing 96,318 planes a year. Ford's round-the-clock Willow Run plant near Detroit turned out a B-24 bomber every 63 minutes. Twelve million Americans were in uniform on V-J Day, and the nation's wartime production stood at 310,000 aircraft, 100,000 tanks and armored vehicles and 41 billion rounds of ammunition. Different League Bob Feller was a 16-year-old Iowa farm boy when he signed a - - i r ( Y - ' , .. . (I - - J I 'r .7 " A) V -; ;' I V A ill, ) H';J A -7t .vV.'V-: -.' aiT7A- -IV J v-j I t ,"trZm, -r- """ " . i. -'Al ..: , . ' . iJ U... -. - - - ' , - O--- i- Lt. Gen. Richard K. Sutherland, center, watch Japanese Foreign Minister ROSEMARY KAUL For The Times and Joe cartoon that he kept. major league baseball contract with the Cleveland Indians in 1935. In his first professional start, he struck out 15 batters, one short of the American League record. By the end of the 1941 season, he had won 107 games, more than any player his age in history. Feller was in Chicago the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The war need not have interrupted his brilliant career; his father was dying of brain cancer and a military deferment was his for the asking. "I called my general manager, Cy Slapnicka, that night," Feller remembered, "and said, 'Cy, I'm not signing my contract for '42. I'm volunteering for the war.' " Feller enlisted the next morning the first of 527 major league and Negro League players who went to war. For the next 3V6 years, before rejoining the Indians late in the 1945 season, he served as an antiaircraft gunner on the battleship Alabama and fought in some of the Pacific's bloodiest campaigns. "V-E Day I remember," Feller said. "I was in Columbus, Ohio, and all hell broke loose. But V-J Day doesn't ring a bell. I was probably pitching somewhere or other." Upon rejoining the Indians, he said, he felt no resentment toward his teammates who had played ball during the war. "I had other things to worry about. The war was over. All I knew was I was in five campaigns, the Alabama got eight battle stars, and I could look any man in the eye." Feller, 76, who was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1962, lives with his wife, Ann, in Cleveland and stays busy on the celebrity circuit, signing autographs and giving speeches. He is concerned that today's youth don't understand the concept of service to one's country and said: "I'll tell you this: I'd never vote for a draft dodger." Stunned Surprise The day was hot in St. Louis and on the steps of row houses in the blue-collar communities, men sat in their undershirts and women wore what were then called house dresses, their hair up in curlers. Martha Gellhorn remembers that image distinctly from 50 years ago. Having separated from her husband, Ernest Hemingway, Gellhorn who worked for Collier's magazine and was one of World War II's most distinguished correspondentshad come home from Europe after V-E Day, May 7, 1945, to visit her mother and was preparing to leave for the Pacific to cover the war with Japan. "I ran up and down the street, going porch to porch, asking, in a stunned sort of way, 'What do you think?'" she said of the day Japan surrendered. "Everyone was as bewildered as I was. What they said was, 'Well, our boys will come home now.' But the astonishment, indeed the fear, they felt was something like mine. One bomb after all these bombs! What could it be? What I remember from the war's end was a feeling of stunned surprise." Gellhorn had traveled wartime Europe as a gypsy, shunning the journalist pack, never bothering to get press credentials from the U.S. Command, and reported often from the front lines. She was with the first group to enter the Nazi death camps at Dachau and Buchenwald. "The military's learned since that if the press is allowed to see, it eventually will see what there is to see. I don't think any war in which our country has any interest will ever be covered properly again." Gellhorn, 86, remained in Europe after the war and lives in London. She travels widely and is writing a series of articles on South Africa, where she spent the winter, on the old manual portable typewriter she has carried around the world. Fifty-five million people died in World War II, including 300,000 Americans. Russia alone lost 27 million. The Nazi death camps claimed 6 million Jews and 5 million Gypsies, homosexuals, Catholics and "undesirables." The war destroyed more property and took more lives than any conflict in history. The war years that ended on V-J Day had no precedent except for the Black Death plague, which killed one-third of Europe's population in the 14th Century. POW Looks Back "Has the world learned from World War II?" asked Dr. Josef Gerster, 71. "Unfortunately I don't think so. Look at the turmoil in Yugoslavia, the old Soviet Union, so many places. But my hope is that the awful weapons the world has developed will prevent another all-out war." Gerster, a private in the German Army, fought in North Africa and Italy before being captured by Canadian soldiers in November, 1943, and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Atlanta, Neb. He was prepared for harsh treatment and was convinced Germany would win the war. By V-J Day, 400,000 Germans, 50,000 Italians and 3,900 Japanese were being held in U.S. POW camps, from Houlton, Me., to Douglas, Wyo. They worked in the wheat fields of Kansas, repaired Army vehicles in Virginia, picked peas in Upstate New York, sewed Army uniforms in Maryland. Gerster worked in his camp's hospital laboratory. "Most of the Dr. Josef Gerster wasa prisoner of war in a Nebraska camp. & Associated Press Mamoru Shigemitsu sign surrender. prisoners went out during the day to work on farms, and the farmers usually cooked them a big meal at the end of the day, even though fraternizing wasn't permitted. The town donated musical instrumentsa grand piano, violins, cellosso we could have an orchestra. We couldn't believe it." Gerster has no recollection at all of V-J Day. "I think it was just another workday." In January, 1946, the prisoners of Camp Atlanta were shipped to San Francisco for repatriation to Europe. Gerster remembers the beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city shimmering by the bay. He turned to a fellow prisoner and said, "When we get free, we've got to come back to America one day to visit." After getting a medical degree in Germany, Gerster returned to the United States on an exchange program, met his wife-to-be, Caroline, and in 1962, at the courthouse in Phoenix, stood before a judge with his hand raised. He renounced his . German citizenship, pledged himself to defend the United States if called upon and became an American citizen. Gerster, now a cardiologist in Scottsdale, Ariz., returned to Camp Atlanta with Caroline and four of his five sons for a reunion in 1993. The skeleton of the camp remained a cement floor where the hospital lab had been, some chimneys and crumbling wood walls, a few boards and frames from the barracks where Gerster had lived. Caroline picked up several stones as souvenirs. At the end of the day, the town unveiled a plaque that said: "Camp Atlanta 1943-1993-Where Enemies Became Friends." Everyone's War World War II was everyone's war. Eighteen million Americans grew victory gardens, which accounted for one-third of the vegetables produced in the United States in 1945. The War Production Board saved 40 million pounds of wool a year by eliminating vests, patch pockets, cuffs and an extra pair of trousers with men's suits. Gas rationing allowed us three gallons a week. Muriel Cowley, the wife of poet and literary critic Malcolm Cowley, hoarded her gas coupons until she had enough to drive her 10-year-old son, Robert, from their Connecticut home to New York City for a two-day summer holiday in August, 1945. "We were in a theater near Times Square, watching newsreels, when the news of Japan's surrender was flashed on the screen," said Robert Cowley, now 60, the editor of Military History Quarterly. "Everyone poured out of the theater." The electric sign on the MICHAEL MEISTER For The Time Ml V ) -7 t 1 ' i V-J Day Times Tower flashed the message, over and over, "OFFICIAL-TRUMAN ANNOUNCES JAPA- JNUSfc; sukkcjNDEk, and 2 mil lion New Yorkers filled , Times square. ,; From the White House, Presi dent Harry S. Truman called his 93-year-old mother, Martha, in Grandview, Mo. "I knew he'd call," she said. In Waterloo, Iowa, a newsman asked Mrs. Thomas Sul livan her reaction to the , Allied victory. She could not .speak through her tears, and her daugh ter, Genevieve, answered for her: "She told me today she's glad for the other boys coming home." Her five sons had gone down together with the cruiser Juneau in a Japanese attack off Guadalcanal in 1942. Not since Linda Bixby of Boston lost five sons in the Civil War in 1864 had one American family suffered such a loss. - Racial Contradictions A year before the war's end, in April, 1944, Army Cpl. .Rupert Trimmingham and eight fellow soldiers all blacks were travel ing from Camp Claiborne, La., to the military hospital at Ft. Hu- achuca, Ariz. Only one place in town the rail station , coffee shop would serve them a meal, and then only if they ate, in the kitchen. While they stood there, eating sandwiches, two dozen Ger man prisoners of war, accompanied by two American guards, came into the station and took seats at the tables. They were served a, hearty lunch, and talked, joked, smoked and, Trimmingham said, appeared to have quite a swell time. ' Trimmingham wrote Yank mag azine: I stood on the outside, looking in, and I could not help but ask myself these questions,: . . . Why are they the Germans treat ed better than we are? Why are we pushed around like cattle? i . . If we are to die for our country, then why does the Government-allow such things to go on?" More than 1 million African Americans fought in the nation's segregated armed forces during World War II; The Tuskegee Air men, who shot down 261 enemy aircraft, the Red Ball Express truckers, who shuttled supplies to the front, the Buffalo Soldiers of the 370th Infantry Combat Team, who fought their way through Italy, all performed with legendary daring. Lt. Harold Montgomery,' one of two black company commanders with the Buffalo Soldiers, retired as a colonel after 20 years' service and is now 74 and lives in Wash ington. "Looking back, I think you could say the civil rights move ment started with the obvious contradictions the war raisfed for blacks." Montgomery's unit suffered 5,000 casualties in Europe. When he came home to his wife shortly after V-J Day and Went to reclaim his job at the post office, he learned that white returning servicemen had received step-in creases in pay during the war; his salary had been frozen. He looked at the names on a plaque that had been hung to honor employees who had fought for America; his name was missing. He turned to his wife and said, "Helen, that's it. I'm re-enlisting." Five days later he was back in the Army. '" Proving Themselves Executive Order 9066, authorizing the U.S. Army to round up and intern the 110,000 Japanese Americans in California, Oregon and Washington as potential spies or terrorists, was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942. Kumemaro Uno who had emigrated from Japan as a young man and changed his first name to George was a successful Los Angeles salesman, traveling np and down the West Coast selling insecticide to farmers. Within days of Roosevelt's executive order, he was sent to a military prison in Nebraska. His wife and 10 children were herded, along with hurjdreds of others, into temporary quarters at the Santa Anita racetrack then shipped off to the newly built Amache Camp in Colorado. "I was only a 17-year-old boy then, but yes, we felt a sense of disappointment, disillusionment, even betrayal," said Uno'i son, Ernest Uno, an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church, who is now 70 and lives on Oahu, Hawaii.."We were loyal to the United Staties. We were clamoring for a chance to prove it." ' That opportunity came in late 1942 when internees were allowed to enlist in a recently fqrmed Japanese American unit, commanded by Caucasian Amerjcans. He and his two older brothers were among the 17,000 Nisei in the camps to volunteer. His unit the 442nd Regimental Combat Team fought in seven major European campaigns, rescued the Texans of ' the "Lost Battalion" who had been surrounded by German trodps in the French Vosges forest, and was the first liberator to open the gates of the Dachau concentration camp. 3. Please see JVAR, A7

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