As time marched forward toward the United States entering World War II, many people were afraid for the lives of their sons. My dad’s mother, who had two sons, was among them. Things were really heating up while my dad was working in California, and the family really wanted him come home. The word was that any young men 18 to 20 years of age were going to be deployed by Christmas 1942, putting my dad and my Uncle Bill squarely in that group. It was a fearful time in our country. People didn’t want their sons to go to the war, but they knew that Hitler had to be stopped. The things Hitler was doing were so horrible that everyone knew that he must not be allowed to take any more countries over. He was completely insane and dead set on controlling the whole world. They knew that while the fear of sending their sons into battle was almost more than they could possibly bear, it was also going to be the only way to stop this horrible man.
The letters from home to my dad in California were filled with worried questions. They had heard rumors of the impending deployment back home in Holyoke, Minnesota, and were desperately hoping that what they heard in that small town was wrong. They questioned my dad, as to why he thought he would be going so soon. Uncle Bill and Dad had both decided that if one was called to go, the other would join up too. I’m sure they were thinking that if they went together, they could watch each other’s back. In the end, that was not to be, because Uncle Bill had flat feet and a hernia that needed to be repaired. It was a devastating blow to him. He wanted so desperately to be there with his little brother. He had always been there for him, to protect him, and it seemed impossible that he couldn’t do that this time. He was scared for his little brother. He even tried to get him to take welding classes, because he mistakenly thought that my dad wouldn’t have to go if he was working in the shipyards. I don’t know if dad took the classes or not…he did at some point, because he worked as a welder for many years…but if he did, it did no good, because they needed men in the war zones, and that was more important to the country. In the end, he chose the Army Air Force, and went to the war, did his duty to his country and the world, and he lived!!
For some time now, I thought that the main reason my dad’s letters home were always upbeat and positive was so that he could protect his mother…keep her from worrying about how bad things were. Now, after reading her letters to him, and the letters from his brother and sisters, talking about how worried their mother was, I realized that he wasn’t trying to keep her from worrying…she had already voiced those fears…she was already in the middle of serious worry, and now she was in the middle of praying that her boys wouldn’t have to go, and if they did…please dear Lord, take care of them and bring them home to her!!
It is hard enough to go into battle or to send your son into battle…to deal with the fear in your own heart…much less to know that your soldier was scared…and for the soldier, to know that your family is scared. Knowing my dad like I do, I know that he was in the process of pushing his fear back, putting his faith in God, and setting his mother’s worried mind at ease. He knew he could not stop what was coming, but the hardest thing to accept was that he couldn’t really stop his mother’s fears…no matter how excited, positive, or fearless he made his letters sound. And, that tore him up more than anything he would face in the war. The days leading up to, and during World War II, were filled with the worries and fears of a nation. The letters to the soldiers and home from the war, were carefully worded so as to try to alleviate the fears that could not be alleviated until the deployed loved ones were home again.