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Monday, May 8, 2017

V-E Day: May 8, 1945


Tuesday, May 8, 1945, the newspapers read “VE-DAY,” a victory for the Allied forces and the Soviet Union against Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Banners were raised all across the world, with celebrations and dances in the streets, as people read the newspapers and heard through radio broadcasts the Germans had unconditionally surrendered to the Allies. In London, at the House of Commons, Winston Churchill made an official statement on May 8, 1945 in honor of Victory in Europe day.  Although celebrations, parades, and bonfires, spread across the United States, Western Europe, the Soviet Union, Australia, and New Zealand, the brutal, gripping, and devastating war remained in the hearts and minds of every person in every nation.

“We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead. Japan, with all her treachery and greed, remains unsubdued…We must now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our task, both at home and abroad. Advance, Brittania! Long live the cause of freedom! God save the King!” –Winston Churchill May 8, 1945

Winston Churchill in London May 8, 1945.


President of the Third Reich for a week, after the suicide of Adolf Hitler on April 30, 1945, Grand Admiral Karl Donitz declared an unconditional surrender against the Allied forces and the Soviet Union on May 7, 1945. In Reims, France, Dwight D. Eisenhower accepted the surrender of all Germans from the East and the West. With the European theater of war concluded, nations across the world celebrated the defeat of Germany. Flags were raised, many stormed the city streets, pubs and bars stayed open late, and many danced the night away. Times Square in New York City held thousands of people reuniting and celebrating, New Orleans held Mardi Gras celebrations, and Paris roared in wild parties. People in towns and cities raised the banners and held parades to glorify an ultimate victory in a brief occasion of relief. Production and manufacturers were still open across the United States, where only a select amount of businesses closed early on May 8, 1945. When President Harry S. Truman addressed the U.S., he stated full effort now went to defeat imperial Japan.


"For this victory, we join in offering our thanks to the Providence which has guided and sustained us through the dark days of adversity. Our rejoicing is sobered and subdued by a supreme consciousness of the terrible price we have paid to rid the world of Hitler and his evil band. Let us not forget, my fellow Americans, the sorrow and the heartache which today abide in the homes of so many of our neighbors--neighbors whose most priceless possession has been rendered as a sacrifice to redeem our liberty…If I could give you a single watchword for the coming months, that word is work, work, and more work. We must work to finish the war. Our victory is only half over." From President Harry S. Truman’s radio broadcast to the U.S. 

Approximately 80 million people, soldiers and civilians were killed in the Second World War. The Nazis killed approximately 6-7 million Jews, Gypsies, Serbs, and people with disabilities, political opponents and resistance fighters. Victory in Europe, or Victory Day in the Soviet Union, presided in a moment of humble triumph, but the devastation and hardships prevailed for decades to come.

 V-E Day celebrations in Trafalgar Square, London. 

-Lindsay 






Thursday, April 13, 2017

What’s in Store: Home School Day 2017!

This past weekend, over 200 Boy and Girl Scouts, troop leaders, and parents gathered at the National D-Day Memorial for its annual Scout Day – a day full of educational, hands-on programs that related to World War II and D-Day, a tour of the Memorial, a chance to meet and speak with a D-Day veteran, and the opportunity to participate in a program to earn a merit badge. On May 5, 2017 from 10am – 1pm, the National D-Day Memorial will be hosting a similar day for home school children in the area. 
Home School Day will feature three distinct hands-on activities: Ration Recipe Round-Up, Barrage Balloon Blitz, and Envision the Invasion. Each of these rotating stations allow children to learn about the World War II home front, a special military unit on D-Day, and the essential planning process and execution of the D-Day invasion. Volunteers and interns of the Memorial facilitate each station and present a lesson, followed by the activity.
Additionally, Home School Day will include a tour of the Memorial that will inform students and families all about the planning, execution, and victory stages of the D-Day Invasion on June 6, 1944. Furthermore, children will have the opportunity to also meet a local D-Day veteran and be able to hear a first-hand account of the invasion. Home School Day is a rare opportunity for children to learn about D-Day and World War II in a hands-on and creative way. Registrations for Home School Day is open now so don’t hesitate to sign up because slots will fill up fast! Visit the event page www.dday.org to find more information and to register!


 - Meika  


            

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Nisei Soldiers of World War II

           African-Americans were not the only ones to experience racism and discrimination by the armed forces during World War II. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, first generation Japanese Americans, Issei, and second generation, Nisei, soon faced harsh discrimination and assaults on their character and loyalty to America. Out of wartime fear, two months after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the internment of some 110,000 Japanese-American citizens. However, perhaps President Roosevelt and ordinary Americans should not have acted so rashly to detain over 100,000 Japanese Americans, because the war in Europe would soon demand any able bodied men to join the fight.

            As American-born citizens with Japanese descent, many Nisei were eager to serve their country, but due to further discrimination, Nisei were not permitted to join the United States military. About a year after internment began, President Roosevelt reversed this policy and authorized the enlistment of Japanese Americans. However, though they were now allowed to serve in the military, Japanese Americans were restricted to a segregated infantry outfit. This unit became known as the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team. Upon requests for volunteers, 10,000 Japanese Americans reported to recruiting offices in 1943.



             In 1944, as the Allied fight in North Africa and Italy met increased opposition from German forces, the 442nd found themselves under the command of General Mark Clark, commander of the Fifth Army in Italy. The 442nd joined the 100th Infantry Battalion, which was a majority Japanese American unit from Hawaii, created in 1942 before the ban on Japanese American involvement in the military. This unit was battle hardened, having seen action in North Africa and Italy for some time. By June 1944 and the fall of Rome, the 100th experienced many casualties and were in need of reinforcements in order to continue the fight into central Europe. 

            The 442nd soon proved not only their loyalty to America, but also their indispensability in Clark’s army. They were instrumental in pushing the German lines back and their heroism and bravery were admired and revered by many. General George Marshall said of the 442nd: “They were superb! They showed rare courage and tremendous fighting spirit. Everybody wanted them.” The 442nd further demonstrated their “extraordinary bravery and valor” for their service and sacrifice in France in the fall of 1944. These Nisei soldiers who were “once considered a problem by the army, [were now] seen as a problem solver,” and were called upon for a special rescue mission of the 141st Regiment who were surrounded by German forces in France. In an effort to rescue these 275 men of the 141st, the 442nd experienced immense casualties. In addition to North Africa and Italy, Japanese Americans assisted in the Pacific Theater by serving as interpreters and translators against the Japanese as part of the Military Intelligence Service.

The 442nd in France. 

         The Japanese American soldiers, such as the 100th and the 442nd are often overlooked in the history of World War II. Despite the discrimination they met at home and on the battlefield, the Nisei soldiers proved to America their worth and loyalty. The role of minorities during World War II cannot be overstated; the efforts of Japanese Americans, African Americans, women, and Native Americans were vital to allied victory. While many recognized the effort and sacrifice of Japanese Americans in both theaters of war, these soldiers were not acknowledged for their service and bravery for almost six decades after the war. When they were finally recognized, twenty men from the 442nd were awarded the Medal of Honor. 

-Meika 

Source:
“Fighting for Democracy: Japanese Americans.” PBS. 2007. Web. Accessed March 28, 2017.             http://www.pbs.org/thewar/at_war_democracy_japanese_american.htm
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Prelude to Invasion

The National D-Day Memorial is gearing up for their annual spring event, Prelude to Invasion. This year the Memorial is putting a new spin on this classic education program by making Prelude to Invasion a living history experience. Prelude will still include the exhibits and information such as the uniforms, tactics, gear and weapons the Allies used on D-Day, just in a new format. Prelude to Invasion takes place April 22, 2017 at the National D-Day Memorial.
Prelude to Invasion seeks to give guests the feeling of time travel. Costumed interpreters giving accounts of their experiences on D-Day will help create an immersive experience for guests to see the details of the Normandy Invasion in a new light. Guests can interact with a range of characters from factory workers like “Rosie the Riveter”,  to French Resistance fighters, and the leadership, soldiers, sailors, and airmen who made D-Day possible. Guests will be able to hear the stories of these brave men and women and interact with them directly to ask questions and experience how life was on both the home front and warfront in the 1940s.

Prelude to Invasion is also featuring a special experience for younger guests. This April, Prelude to Invasion will give children the chance to try their hand at living history. A special station will allow children to learn about how children their own age would have lived during World War II in several countries then allow them to dress in 1940s clothing and see what it means to be a costumed living history interpreter. This is an opportunity to take advantage of this April for the young historians in your family.

As always World War II encampments will be scattered though out the grounds and World War II veterans will be on cite to give their first hand experiences of the War.  Prelude to Invasion will be a great opportunity to experience World War II in a new light as well as show your gratitude to those men who lived that experience first hand. We hope you will be able to come out and join us April 22, 2017 at the National D-Day Memorial for this classic event with a new and exciting twist. Contact the Memorial’s Education Department at (540) 586-3329 ext. 111 or education@dday.org for more information.

-Olivia 




Thursday, March 23, 2017

Scouts in the Second World War


Robert Baden-Powell, writer of Scouting for Boys and founder of the Boy Scouts organization in England in 1910, stated “An invaluable step in character training is to put responsibility on the individual.”


Trustworthiness, obedience, loyalty, and responsibility are just a few characteristics that define a true Scout. These qualities are exactly what the Office of War Information, created in 1941 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, needed for distribution of war posters across towns and cities in the United States. The work and diligence of Scout organizations played a key role in conserving materials for the war effort and providing propaganda materials in local businesses for the American public. 
Boy Scouts display a recruitment poster at a local store.


Many Scouts distributed posters, by the thousands to local stores. In October 1942, the first poster was issued for Columbus Day, which celebrated the 450th year of the Columbus voyage. Over 2,300 communities joined the program, by 1942, with new posters produced every two weeks. In 1943, the Boy Scouts were named the “Official Dispatch Bearers” with participation of approximately 1,600,000 members. Also, in 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order, which banned discrimination against government and defense workers. Due to Roosevelt’s order, African-American troops received the same war posters to distribute in their communities. Other organizations that participated in the program were the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, the Association of American Railroads, and Western Union.



Scouts also contributed on the home front by conserving materials for the war effort such as aluminum, paper, rubber, and milkweed (used to fill life jackets). Scouts were responsible for going door-to-door collecting substances. Between March and April of 1944, Scouts collected over 300,000 tons of wasted paper.  The War Production Board gave 299, 936 Scouts the Eisenhower Award for their contributions in collecting paper products.


Scouts collecting scrap metal during the Second World War.



“Truly, ours is a circle of friendships, united by our ideals.” –Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of America

The Girl Scouts organization started in 1912 in a meeting of eighteen girls in Savannah, Georgia. Juliette Gordon Low developed an outdoor and educational program in order to develop character and confidence in young girls.

During the Second World War, the Girl Scouts collected scrap metals, fat, and clothing. They also grew Victory Gardens, participated in Farm Aide projects, and managed bicycle couriers. During the war, young girls had the opportunity to participate in new programs, such as the Defense Institutes, in which they learned survival skills.
Girl Scouts collecting fat or lard outside a local shop. 

Due to rationing of certain ingredients, including butter and sugar, the Girl Scouts stopped production of the famous Girl Scout cookies in 1941. Until 1945, Girl Scouts distributed calendars to the public.



The efforts of Scouts throughout the Second World War boosted morale among the American public. They provided tons of materials for supplies sent overseas throughout the war. For example, Girl Scouts collected 1.5 million pieces of clothing for war refugees, according to author Sarah Sundin. The achievements by Scouts were monumental for the U.S. home front commission.

-Lindsay 








Wednesday, March 15, 2017

An Unsung Hero of World War II: Jacqueline Cochran

Discussions of the American women who participated in World War II has a tendency to revolve around the Women’s Army Corps (WACs), Women’s Nurse Corps, or of the thousands of women who worked in defense plants all across the country, who had picked up where their husbands, sons, and fathers had left off. While most people have basic understandings of women’s participation in the Navy via the WAVES and in the Air Corps via the WASPS during World War II, less is known about the women who started it all – the women who paved the way for female service in the United States military.

For this Women’s History Month, it is important to pay tribute to the women who opened the door to and began conversations about women’s involvement, treatment, and equality in the United States. When thinking of the World War II generation of women who had a great influence on our position in society today, my thoughts ran to Eleanor Roosevelt and the many Rosie the Riveters. However, this post is dedicated to all the unsung heroes, such as the lovely Jacqueline (Jackie) Cochran, who not only was a founder of the Women’s Army Service Pilots (WASPs) during World War II, but also helped normalize women in aviation in America. Jackie Cochran’s story is lesser known and for someone who was instrumental in American aviation and military history, she deserves to be recognized on this platform and many others.

Jacqueline Cochran was born May 11, 1906 in Florida. Soon an orphan, Jackie spent much of her childhood living with a foster family and grew up in poverty. As a teenager, Jackie began training to be a beautician, and as a young adult, made her way up the social ladder while residing in New York City and working in a prestigious salon on Saks Fifth Avenue. In 1932, Jackie married millionaire financier Floyd Odlum, which provided her the means and supported her in pursing other interests, such as taking flying lessons. In her 1953 autobiography, Jackie stated that, “at that moment, when I paid for my first lesson, a beauty operator ceased to exist and an aviator was born."

By the time World War II broke out in 1939 in Europe, Jackie had already established herself within the aviation community, having set and broke various flying records. Believing that she and other female pilots could put their passion and skill to good use serving their country, Jackie appealed to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to create a “squadron of female pilots…who [in the eventual U.S. involvement in the conflict] could fly military aircraft on support missions, releasing men for combat duty.” However, it was not until 1941 and 1942 did Jackie see her dream of flying for the military come to fruition. After being inspired by the female pilot squadrons utilized in England, Jackie returned to America and with the blessing of President Roosevelt, “hand-picked 25 American women recruits” to implement female aviation into the U.S. Army Air Corps by ferrying planes. After their success, Jackie was asked to organize a program for training women pilots in the United States. In 1943, Cochran’s program became known as the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs).

The WASPs boasted impeccable flying records, and in “January 1944, the War Department announced that the Army Air Forces women's fatal and non-fatal accident rates were lower than the men's.” Cochran and the WASPs continued to train and fly non-combative missions for several months more, but the end of 1944 and the turn of the war in the Allies’ favor deemed the WASPs’ service obsolete and unnecessary. Jackie hoped that Congress would make the WASPs an official branch of the U.S. military, but this dream was not to be. The WASPs were grounded and absolved on December 20, 1944.



Jackie’s flying career did not end with the disbandment of her creation, the WASPs. After the war, she continued to fly and break more records. She competed in many races, such as the Bendix Race, “coming in second with a time of four hours and 52 minutes.” Moreover, the 1950s saw further aviation accomplishments for Jackie, including record speeds for “propeller driven aircraft” and becoming the “first woman to break the sound barrier.” Jackie continued to derive passion for flying until her health and her husband’s death began to inhibit her career. After Floyd died in 1976, Jackie, who was aged 70 at the time, saw her health deteriorate further, and she passed away on August 9, 1980. Jacqueline Cochran loved flying until the day she died, and was instrumental in creating more roles for women in not only the U.S. Air Force, but within the aviation community as a whole. If Jackie had been alive in 2009, it would have pleased her immensely to witness President Obama sign the bill that awarded Congressional Gold Medals to veterans of the WASPs.

-Meika

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Women of World War II Mobile

When it comes to studying the impact American women had in World War many historians look solely at the numbers. Historians look at the number of women who joined the work force, the number of planes, ships, bullets, parachutes, bandages, and any other necessity these women produced that made Allied victory possible.  Yet, these women who took up new jobs in fields they never imagined, had an impact on history that goes beyond Allied production and victory. These women, who stayed behind to support the war effort by joining the work force, also witnessed the transformation of America, specifically the transformation of small towns that became centers for war production. Such a case can be made for the town of Mobile, Alabama.

Like so many American towns, Mobile went from a small, sleepy American city to a booming war production hub seemingly overnight. Before World War II began the work force in Mobile was around 17,000 men and few women. By 1943 Brookley Air Field would employ that many civilians by the end of the War and local ship building industries would employ over 30,000 workers by 1944. Before World War II women’s occupations were limited to administrative or teaching jobs where the average salary was around $800 a year. With the onset of war came a demand for ships, planes, artillery, and endless demands for support supplies. These goods required the skilled labor of welders and mechanics. At Huntersville or Redstone Arsenals women found jobs on assembly lines that paid around $1,400 annually. Shipyards in Mobile also hired laborers, paying $3,600 annually. These jobs provided unimaginable salaries and the chance for many to move to a new city and start a new life.

One such woman was Emma Bell Petcher. After graduating high school Petcher wanted a chance to put her love of mechanics to the test. Petcher breezed through the mechanics tests and secured a job working on airplanes. Petcher is just one example of women moving to take advantage of defense jobs in America. These women saw not only the value of their work and impact, but the American economy transform from the depths of the Great Depression to the vibrant booming economy of World War II. The economic boom would continue in the 1950’s with the War’s ed. It was due to the help of the six million women who entered the workforce that this economic boom was possible.

With workers came families. This caused the population of Mobile to more then double during the War from 110,805 in 1940 to 201,369 in 1944. With the great influx of workers came a housing shortage unseen in Mobile’s history. People were living in tents in vacant lots. Boarding houses would have four men per room or rent beds to multiple men and women with differing shifts. Oftentimes both men and women in the same family would take up a defense job, leaving childcare a much-needed commodity in Mobile. Thus, women ushered in and witnessed the evolution of day care in America. Day care centers were viewed as patriotic, promoting a safe place for loving mothers to leave their children as they went off and produced items needed to win the War. Women who manned and operated day care centers were viewed as protectors of liberty and praised for providing a service that allowed women to help win the War. Day care was not a practice forgotten after the War. Women would continue to use and work at day care centers after the War and into the later part of the twentieth century showing how the War gave women the tools needed to pursue both career and family.

The women of Mobile during World War II also witnessed many domestic events and policies that would help shape the remainder of the 20th Century. Mobile’s location in the Deep South made Mobile subject to Jim Crow laws. These racial regulations kept many black American citizens from taking advantage of defense jobs in the early days of war production. However, on June 25, 1941 President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, banning racial discrimination in the defense industry. This was the first step toward equal opportunity employment in America, and women of all races, in Mobile witnessed the unrest and success this order brought. After the order was issued many small fights broke out in shipyards and factories in Mobile. Governor Chauncey Sparks called out 150 state guards to keep the peace, this created a precedent of having to use police and state troops to keep the peace as integration began and established itself in the defense industry. Segregated workspaces brought a peace and successful routine to the workforce in Mobile. However, Americans such as Thurgood Marshall and A. Philip Randolph were pushing to make the Fair Employment Practice Committee a permanent fixture in the Federal Government. It was the women of America, who stayed behind to serve and work who witnessed these milestone moments that would reshape America in the 1950s and 1960s.


The women of World War II Mobile gave their all to help American men win victory across the globe. The hundreds of thousands of hours spent in factories and shipyards gave the Allies and edge the Axis powers simply could not match. Yet, the women of Mobile also witnessed several key events and practices put into place during World War II that would shape the remainder of the twentieth century. Advancements in training, work assignments, childcare, and civil rights gave women new platforms to stand on after the War ended. These issues would also go on to be displayed on the national stage in the post-modern era. While it is important to remember and note the millions of supplies American women built and assembled to help the Allies win the war, it is equally important to note the transformation they witnessed and played a role in during World War II. 

-Olivia