Three blue stars hung in our dining room
window throughout the war and thankfully none were ever changed to gold,
which would indicate that the honored serviceperson
had been killed in action. 295,000 Americans lost
their lives as a direct result of WW2.
| For a chronology of the war and deaths by country|
The view of the war through the innocent eyes of a nine year-old
consisted mainly of frequent Air Raid drills, (Cookie was a
Block Warden, complete with muted flashlight and helmet)
many new G.I. heroes, "Eyes And Ears Of The World"
newsreels shown ahead of the weekly movie serials, and an
explosion of lapel buttons and posters. Many of the buttons depicted
Uncle Sam, V for victory, and slogans like "Loose Lips Sink Ships",
but most were derogatory depictions of Tojo, Hitler and Mussolini.
Some buttons were cleverly mechanized to hang their hated
subject with the pull of a string. These were all part of the
intensive propaganda to encourage patriotism and spur
the massive war effort. This propaganda no doubt contributed
to shortening the war and saving many lives, but there was a downside
to all this patriotic fervor.
World War II Posters
Prior to the post-war boom Pittsburgh, like many large cities
became divided ethnically with immigration. Our little borough
of Overbrook was mostly of German descent, just as were we Theobalds.
The only German that was spoken around our house was the
occasional swear word or disparagement, such as "du bist ein dummer Esel".
("You are a stupid jackass") However, many of our neighbors were
first and second-generation Germans, and often communicated
in Deutsche. There is no need to go into the ill treatment
of the Japanese-Americans during the war, but we citizens were also
guilty of distrusting those prone to speak "the language of the enemy".
Stories abounded about these good people, from cheating on
the meat-sugar-butter-gasoline rationing program to out-and-out
espionage. Folks got ridiculously upset over the most innocent
of activities, such as membership in any social organization of
German-Americans or Italian-Americans. Our whole family and that of many friends
were members of Der Deutsche Sports Verein. (The German
Sports Association) I doubt seriously that there was a subversive in the whole bunch,
as Der Klub prevailed due exclusively to the mutual love of beer and family parties.
I remember that one German neighbor woman was ostracized for using some of
her meat tokens to buy hamburger for her tiny dog.
No! It was a Chihuahua, not a Dachshund!
Ironically, the German-Americans hated the Nazis more than
those of us 3rd and 4th generation Americans, and many of the bravest
U.S. fighters were of recent Japanese, German, and Italian ancestry.
Impressionable as we were, my little friends and I discounted
these stories, and launched into daily support for our country's war effort.
We were formed into a platoon of "Junior Commandos",
sponsored by the U.S. Government, and we were issued armbands
designating our rank. I was a Corporal, and to my lasting
regret my 12 year-old sister Theresa was my Sergeant.
During much of our free time, we scoured our neighborhood
collecting metal and rubber for the community scrap drive.
At our Five-Points intersection, the scrap mounds would
grow to house-size proportions before being hauled off.
This was repeated all during the war. Our efforts were often
rewarded with free movies, comic books and War Stamps.
These were the child-size version of War Bonds with
denominations of 10 cents and 25 cents. I could be mean
and say that my sister stole all of mine, but truthfully I can't
remember what happened to them. They probably went to a good
cause with the rest of our spare money, to help with our family finances.
As the war stayed its bloody course, daily routine was mixed
with a heady dose of worry for the safety of our servicemen
and women. Lil attended 6 A.M. Mass at St. Norbert's every single
day, rain or snow. V-Mail became the highlight of every
weekday, even with all of it's censored words. Every letter mailed
by a GI in a foreign area was censored to eliminate any
possible military or location references. These words were
blacked out, and the letter was photo-copied on microfilm.
The reels of microfilm were shipped to the States, and printed at
about 1/4th letter size. The V-Mail that finally arrived often
looked like a small thin piece of black
and white Swiss cheese, but it was always treasured nonetheless.