One little girl in a small town in Georgia on December 7, 1941 : that would be me, facing a time of fear and scarcity but surrounded by familiarity and love . I have no problem remembering disjointed moments in disjointed ways. I don’t recollect the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but I do have memories of WWII that are as clear today as they were the day they happened. I’ll share some now and perhaps some others at a different time.
Although gas was rationed during the war , my daddy , as a cotton broker, had coupons for gas since cotton was essential to the war effort. He saved coupons for a period of time so that Mother and I were allowed to spend a month on Sullivan’s Island, SC, in the beach home of a friend.
The beach itself was magnificent but quite different during wartime. There were huge sand dunes, human-built, several feet tall and several feet wide at the base, manned by Marines (?) who stood on guard at the very top, eyes peeled toward the ocean and rifles at ready. The bulwarks were positioned approximately 50 yards apart and when looking at them up and down the surf, there appeared to be no end. Truly a sight to behold even for a pre-schooler.
Another immediate impression had to do with amphibious vehicles. Never in my short life, nor in my wildest dreams, had I imagined that a motorized car could drive on both land and sea. Watching those Jeeps carrying soldiers, up and down the beach, into the water and out again, was like science fiction is to young readers today. That, too, was a sight to behold.
But the most outstanding recollection has to do with bedtime one night on Sullivan’s Island. I was sound asleep on a single bed in a room alone when suddenly I was tossed from my bed onto the floor ! Not hurt but scared silly, I next recall being lifted and comforted by my mother, but not being told what had happened. Perhaps because she did not know at the time.
A German submarine had been spotted off the coast, and our military defense responded by blowing it up. The impact of the explosion shook our house and tossed me to the floor.
The story of the bombed German submarine is told by tour guides on the island today.
And then there was the Christmas Day that the Haley family invited three paratroopers stationed at Camp Toccoa to join us for Christmas dinner and tree. I have no idea who they were, where they were from, or what happened to them. What I do know is they had a precious Christmas with a family of strangers.
But my fondest memory is this : they showed us ( right there in the parlor at the Haley House ) how they fell to the ground when they parachuted from planes. I distinctly remember their demonstration of how to hit the ground, roll in a single motion, and crawl to what they hoped would be a safe place. They even let my cousins and me practice the crawl. I am happy to report that I never actually had to use that lesson in real life !
The bombing of Pearl Harbor and the sacrifices made can never be truly conveyed in history books or even from outstanding teachers. It was a time unto itself : a time that would prove to be the very epitome of patriotism, unity, and sacrifice, at home and abroad.
GOD BLESS AMERICA…………………………….