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War Stories

February 5, 2009 - Jim Bartholow
Although I never served, the war of my generation was Vietnam. I never served, but I would have if I had been drafted.

With that as my background it was with great interest that I attended a luncheon in the Education Department of Marietta College Tuesday. Students produced 15-minute films that captured recollections from local people about what it was like during World War II. They all did a wonderful job, mixing comments with photos of things people have saved over the years, old photos and adding a variety of photos from various World War II archives.

One of those people featured was my wife's aunt, Jeanette, who's in her '70s now. She was a young girl at the time, but her memories remain as vivid as if events happened a week ago. The loss of a brother in the war and others serving overseas must have been a tremendous emotional drain on her family. And the sacrifices people made during the war were tremendous - gas rationing, food in short supply, blackouts. All I had to worry about at that age was getting my Cleveland Press delivered daily, do my homework and listen to the Indians, if they were on the radio that day. Thanks to the sacrifices by everyone during World War II we were able to have that kind of life in the 60s. We don't mention it regularly, but we should all realize it and appreciate it.

In the face of this global challenge to freedom in the 1940s, Americans of all ages and in big cities and small towns rallied around the cause. They made it through each day, getting war news on the radio and (my favorite form of communication) newspapers.

They bought war bonds to finance the effort. The women pitched in by either joining the armed forces or working in defense jobs. Apparently, there were plenty of defense jobs in the Marietta area, which I found fascinating.

Hearing the descriptions about those times from people who actually lived through them made the messages more meaningful to me. Growing up I knew my dad served during World War II as a fireman at a military base in New York State.

My father-in-law was a driver for Gen. Omar Bradley in Europe and, boy, did he have some stories to tell. But his case was an exception, I think. I knew my Uncle Barkie served in the war, the infantry, I think. But he never talked about it. It wasn't until his funeral that I found out he had earned a purple heart. How he got wounded, I don't know. But, I guess, the point is people of that generation didn't talk much about the war. As Tuesday's presentation showed, people of that generation have plenty to say. Thanks to the efforts of those Marietta College students and their computer skills, they brought those memories to life for me and for the people who told their stories. In 2009, there were still tears shed in looking back at those times that seem so distant to me.


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