Pearl Harbor & Going to War

My father graduated from Jamestown High School in Jamestown, North Dakota on June 1, 1939.  He was 17 years old.

That day, newspapers all over the country featured at least a couple of stories mentioning Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.  While the articles contain an undercurrent of concern, there was nothing specific in any of them that would indicate war in Europe was just 91 days away.

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A Murder in Queens

The above photograph was taken in early August of 1933.  The woman on the left is my father’s mother, Virginia.  She is posing with her friend Marian Cunningham. They are in Colorado.

That year, America was fully and firmly in the grip of the Great Depression.  Jobs and, by extension, money were very hard to come by.  Virginia’s husband was working in New Jersey and their only child, my father, was living with Virginia’s parents in Atlanta, and Virginia was in Colorado simply because that’s where her job was.  This situation was not uncommon in America in 1933.

While researching the company my grandmother worked for in Colorado, I stumbled across newspaper accounts of a sensational crime in New York City that Virginia and her husband and her parents would have undoubtably been following that August.  It was in all the papers.

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Finding a Box of Old Letters

Just before Christmas of 2009, my parents, then in their late eighties, decided they needed to move. My father, in particular, felt they were no longer capable of living completely on their own.

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One day, when I was in my teens, I asked my father about his experiences as a prisoner of war during World War II. The story he told was simply beyond the comprehension of a fourteen year old. Stunned, I told him I didn’t think I would have survived. I have never forgotten his quiet reply, “Son, humans are amazingly strong creatures. When the time comes, you will surprise yourself with what you are capable of and what you can endure”.

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Watching Hogan’s Heroes with my Dad

Hogan’s Heroes, the CBS sitcom about life in a German prisoner of war camp during World War II, debuted September 17th, 1965. Our family was living in Burnt Hills, New York, a small, bedroom community upstate just a few miles north of Schenectady. I was fifteen years old and just starting the 10th grade.

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