By 1945 the Allies were prevailing. In the Pacific our troops had captured Iwo Jima and Okinawa, but at a horrible price paid for by some of our local boys.
In Europe the Germans had lost their last offensive, The Battle of the Bulge.
My brother-in-law Parrison Guidry survived that one. He was drafted at 18, went through basic training, shipped overseas, shot on D-Day, recovered, re-assigned to Patton’s Third Army, got frostbit at Bastogne, recovered, was informed his original squad was wiped out, then honorably discharged.
His death, years later, was caused by recurring battle-related injuries.
In Europe, General Patton was rolling in from the west and the Russians were roaring in from the east. Hitler’s demise was eminent, but many Cajuns were yet to die.
In the USA came a major shock! On April 12, 1945, President Roosevelt died of a heart attack at age 63.
Harry Truman became President and Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945 (V.E. Day).
America dropped the Atom bombs on August 6th and 9th and Japan surrendered on August 14th. (V.J. Day).
Joyful multitudes took to the streets and “the lights went on again, all over the world.” World War II was over and Europe and Japan lay in ruins. Everybody turned to America for help, friends and enemies alike, and as usual, well, you know the rest.
During the war, a black market existed locally. Unpatriotic citizens sold rationed commodities, hurting the war effort. Automobiles had not been manufactured since 1942, but gasoline, tires, shoes, meat, coffee, and practically anything desirable was in short supply. Ration stamps were issued proportionality but were not required for the black market, just money.
Shamefully, some locals helped these malefactors by buying their goods, supplied by crooked manufacturers. Even in war, money ruled.
Some compared it to bootlegging during prohibition. NOT! Purchasing illegal liquor was tolerated, even condoned because:
(1.) The Volstead act was hated and repealed in 1932.
(2.) Cajuns enjoyed beer and liquor and some were actually in the business, even relatives.
(3.) Illegal liquor was transported by boats, and where were most boats located with outlets to the Gulf and the three-mile limit?
(4.) How else could our priest obtain wine to perform mass?
I don’t know the answers, I just ask the questions! Most citizens were patriotic and united in the great cause of winning World War II.
During this time my mother and I were walking to church, two miles away. Most of the time, some kind soul would give us a ride but walking 4 miles to worship reaffirmed our faith. A person mom knew beckoned to her and they talked. Suddenly, in a loud voice unusual for her, Mom started to denounce the person in French, “tois tet un traitor a tont payee.”
She didn’t know the French word for traitor but it was loud and clear in English. “Tet s’amis et paron après batte et mourier pour tois, traitor”, and other words I didn’t think she even knew. (Translation: “You are a traitor to your country. Your friends and relatives are fighting and dying for you, traitor.”)
She had been offered to buy coffee! Should Bill O’Reilly been around (radio then) he would have called mom a “Patriot”.
My Dad, a voracious coffee drinker, consumed many cups a day so mother guarded every ration stamp and coffee grain for him. We drank pop rouge and orange soda pop (great substitute) imported to New Orleans from M.B.C. in Lockport.
Consequently I never acquired a coffee habit and hardly drink it. (There are better consumable liquids.) When at Café du Monde however, if a “croak cee y‘all” happens to find its way into a cup … well, it’s the exception that makes the rule.
Thus ended my wartime experiences on Bayou Lafourche. We moved to New Orleans and I stayed at my Aunt Elicia’s to complete 7th grade. Her husband, Frank Griffin, was in the Navy operating the landing crafts my Dad was building, only his were loaded with soldiers and dodging bullets and bombs at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. His fishing boat skills had landed him that “easy” job.
Look out “Who Dats, here comes “Bonjour, comon ca va?”
Comments are welcomed at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Posted on Tue, March 24, 2015
by Leroy Martin, Contributing Writer