Starting a war as this one, the most destructive, barbaric and inhuman in the history of the world, all because of one evil, mad, psychopathic monster that the world laughed at until it was too late, or in my case a few pecks on a computer keyboard, and it begins.
In 1941, we only received a newspaper on Sunday, so it surprised us when Dad brought one home early one Monday morning with a big black headline that read … WAR!
Mom began to cry, sister Betty stole the comic section (called the “Funnies” then) and ran to her room, and at age 12, I made the stupidest remark of my life: “I know about war from the movies and for 1 and ½ hour, it’s crash, boom, bam and our side always wins. No big deal!”
My mother frowned and dad struck me on the shoulder … hard!
I later learned Mom’s concern … the draft. Dad was over draft age with three dependents, but having lived through WWI at age 8, she knew that as war progresses, draft age goes up and dependents matter less, and if it lasts long enough, well she always worried about me, too.
As I arrived at school that morning, Principal Leonard Miller was gathering everybody into the auditorium where a big cabinet radio was blaring. It was the day after Pearl Harbor and President Franklin Roosevelt was delivering his historic speech declaring to the nation that: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy, a state of war has existed between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan”.
I HEARD IT LIVE!
Two days later Hitler also declared war on us.
The first peacetime draft had passed Congress, by one vote, and some of our local boys had already been called into the service.
Take a map of Louisiana, draw a line from Marksville in the north to Lake Charles in the west, then east to Boothville and back to Marksville, and within that triangle and despite its diversification by 1941, it would always be identified as the “Cajun Nation” where our ancestors first settled and where lived a religious, hardworking people who loved their country, neighbors and friends.
That’s still us!
How did we fare out during WWII? Less we forget, I hope to answer some of those questions in my next few columns. There are not many left who remember, and we grow fewer every day.
World War II was on and our government assured us that the Atlantic and Pacific oceans would protect America from an invasion. But we knew of an ‘ocean’ less than 20 miles away, where, on a windy day we could feel and taste the salty air blowing our way from our own Gulf of Mexico.
Would that ‘ocean’ also help protect us … or not?
I wrote in a past column about how not too long after Pearl Harbor an oil tank exploded less than 900 feet from my 7th grade classroom, breaking windows and knocking students off their chairs. Sabotage was suspected and that and other events brought the war closer to home.
My father had quite trawling during the $8.50 strike of 1938, and was working for Golden Meadow Oil Company, delivering gas and oil to stations and boat docks in the area. He often told us rumors he heard that strange things were happening just off of Grand Isle.
He knew that his brothers, cousins and friends, being Cajuns, could sometimes stretch the truth, but just about one week later he had to make an emergency delivery to the Bayou Rigaud dock and told me to hop in his truck.
Just a few hours later, he and I would see, hear and smell the truth, and so will you, in next week’s column.
I have no humor this week, because there was little humor then and for the next three and a half years. We just sang “Remember Pearl Harbor”, rolled up our sleeves and got to work. There was a war to be won!
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Posted on Tue, March 3, 2015
by Leroy Martin, Contributing Writer