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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

World War II Ration Era Recipe: Peanut Butter Popcorn Balls

This week, we are combining two of my favorite things into one blog post: Popcorn and Christmas.

Popcorn was popular in World War II at Christmas. Not only was it used as garland on Christmas trees, but it was used to make tasty treats at the holidays. Peanut Butter Popcorn Balls provide a source of protein and satisfy the holiday sweet tooth without forsaking the war effort.

Recipe from “Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen: World War II and the Way We Cooked” by Joanne Lamb Hayes

·         1 cup light molasses
·         2/3  cup of light corn syrup
·         1 tablespoon of vinegar
·         1 teaspoon of salt
·         1/2 cup of peanut butter
·         1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
·         3 quarts of popped corn

·         Combine molasses, corn syrup, vinegar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently until mixture reaches 250oF or until a little syrup dropped into cold water forms a hard ball. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla.
·         While syrup is cooking, spread out popcorn in a deep roasting pan. When peanut butter mixture has been combined, pour immediately over popcorn and stir until popcorn is evenly coated.
·         Lightly oil hands and shape mixture into 12 balls. Set aside to cool completely.

I will be honest, this recipe sounded much more promising than what it turned out to be. It was more difficult and messy than I anticipated in regards to mixing the molasses-peanut butter combination with the popcorn. I’ve also never really liked molasses, and the popcorn balls tasted more like molasses than peanut butter. They also did not stick together well at all, even after putting them in the refrigerator.

Perhaps, the reason why I did not do too well with this recipe is because I made it. I hope that you take time to try it out and I hope that you have better results than I did, especially if you like molasses J

Until next time,


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A 1940’s DIY Christmas

Hello, Friends!

The National D-Day Memorial's 2015 Christmas Tree
for the Festival of Trees
Each year in Bedford, Virginia, our Welcome Center hosts an event called “Festival of Trees.” Businesses and organizations decorate trees throughout the Welcome Center and the public is able to vote for their favorite tree for $1 a vote. Voting began November 18th and goes on through December 31st, 2015. All of the proceeds of the winning trees will be donated to their selected charities, with the Memorial's being our educational initiatives. 

This year’s theme is “DIY (Do It Yourself) Christmas.” While DIY is the “it” thing in home decorating today thanks to Pinterest, the Memorial hit the jackpot of sorts since Christmas both on the homefront and warfront during World War II for most involved improvising and creating their own decorations in order to support the war effort. Nothing was put to waste with most items being reused and recycled. So as I selected items to decorate the tree, I took into account things that would be readily available on the homefront during the war and could be repurposed for Christmas ornaments and decorations. Below are a few of the decorations we created for this event:

Materials Needed: Popcorn, cranberries, thread, needle and acrylic sealant spray

1.       Thread cranberries and popcorn onto a string to use as garland
2.       Stretch the cranberry and popcorn garland out on your work surface.
3.       Shake the can of acrylic sealant spray vigorously for several seconds. Hold the can of acrylic sealant spray about 10-inches above the garland.
4.       Start at one end of the garland and coat it with a thin layer of the acrylic sealant. Continue in this manner while moving down the strand. Let the sealant dry for at least 12 hours.
5.       Turn the garland over carefully and coat the backside of the garland with the acrylic sealant in the same manner as before. Let dry for at least 12 hours before using the cranberry and popcorn garland.
6.       Store the garland in an airtight plastic container after use. Add a few silica gel packets to the container before storing it away to help prevent moisture from building up in the storage container. Place the container in a cool and dry location.

During the early 20th century, popcorn was a holiday favorite not just for food but for decorations.

Of course, during World War II, acrylic sealant spray would not be available. But for the sake of preserving our decorations for almost two month, we needed to use it to keep it looking fresh and to keep the bugs and animals away.

Cookie Cutter Ornament featuring Bedford Boy,
Frank Draper

Materials Needed: Cookie cutters, photographs, scrap paper, and glue

1. Choose patterned papers or color-photocopy pictures onto card stock. Trace cutter on top; cut out. Dab white craft glue along cutter's edge. Press paper in place; let dry.
2. Thread narrow ribbon through needle; poke between paper and cutter, and wrap ribbon around top of cutter and tie a knot.

We chose to use photocopied photos of the Bedford Boys for the tree to give a personal touch to the tree.

We would love for you to come out and take a look at the Memorial’s tree, as well as all of the other gorgeously decorated trees. Just make sure to vote for our tree though! 

The Welcome Center is located at 816 Burks Hill Road, Bedford, VA 24523 with special hours as following:  Open until 9:00pm on Friday, December 4, 2015, Friday, December 11, 2015, Saturday, December 12, 2015, Sunday, December 13, 2015 and Friday, December 18, 2015. The Welcome Center will be closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day along with closing at 12:00pm on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Until next time,


Monday, December 7, 2015

74th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

This week, we are featuring a blog from Ches Bono, one of our Visitor Services staff members, about Pearl Harbor since today is the 74th Anniversary of the attack. I’ll be back next week with a blog on a 1940’s do-it-yourself Christmas tree.


Early in the morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Army attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. During the attack, over 2,400 Americans died, and over 1,100 were injured. Of the eight battleships in the harbor, four were sunk and the rest significantly damaged. 188 aircraft were destroyed, three cruisers were sunk or destroyed, as well as three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. This surprise attack was meant to cripple the Pacific Fleet and deter the United States from entering World War Two. However, the attack woke a sleeping giant instead.

Jeanette Rankin, Congresswoman from Montana
(1916-1918 and 1940-1941)
On December 8, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war against
Japan. It was passed almost unanimously. The only dissenting vote came from Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, famously said, “As a woman I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.” Ironically, she was in Congress for the declarations of war in World War I and World War II. Almost immediately after the declaration of war, Germany, Japan’s ally and fellow Axis Power, declared war on the United States. With one swift attack, the United States entered World War II.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt during
a fireside chat
Throughout the Great Depression and the war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt communicated with the nation through his fireside chats over the radio. In his address to the nation after the attack, he declared that it was “a date which will live in infamy.” Americans all over the country were shocked and saddened by the sudden loss of life from such an attack. In Bedford, as in other communities across the country, the townspeople were preparing for the holiday season and enjoying their normal Sunday activities when they found out. Families were heading off to church and gathering afterwards
for a meal. When word came, families across the county worried for those in the Pacific, but they also worried for themselves since many of the young men in the county had enlisted in the National Guard in order to make ends meet during the Depression. For many of these young men, a dollar a day for the work that they did with the National Guard was a fortune, especially during such a harsh economic downturn. When Congress declared war on December 8, these young men were now in the military for the long haul of the war, whether they liked it or not. For many, however, the desire to serve their country outweighed the fear of war.

Although the United States participated in the war prior to the attack through the Lend-Lease Act, this declaration of war caused the economy to shift from a peacetime one to a wartime one, with rationing and production increasing across the nation. Although the United States did not see intense action for a few years, men were still called away from home for training leaving the factories and farms largely unattended. The women of the United States answered the call, and joined the ranks of factory workers and providers for their family, aiding in the victory effort.

On this solemn anniversary, we remember those who lost their lives on December 7, 1941 and all who participated in the war. Each December, the National D-Day Memorial remembers the 4,413 men who lost their lives on D-Day during our Flames of Memory Illumination Event with 4,413 luminaries placed around the Memorial. The event takes place December 11-13 from 6 pm to 9 pm on these evenings, and the cost is free for all, although donations are appreciated. We hope to see you all there!


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Our D-Day Fallen: Harold Eugene "Gene" Sellers

Hello again!

We’re now less than two weeks away from our annual Flames of Memory luminary event at the Memorial. I walked in the Education Tent earlier and it was full with the 4,413 luminaries ready to be placed throughout the Memorial in honor of each soldier who was killed on June 6, 1944. If you are able to, I would love for you to join us December 11-13, 2015 from 6PM to 10PM for this event free of charge!

Harold Eugene "Gene" Sellers
Private First Class
501st Parachute Infantry Regt, 101st Airborne Division
Today, I want to honor one of these 4,413 soldiers, Harold Eugene “Gene” Sellers, and tell his story.

Gene was born in Lawrence County, Arkansas in 1922 to David and Sarah Sellers.  During his high school years, he was a star on the Jonesboro High School football and basketball teams. He received a football scholarship from the University of Arkansas but before he finished his first year of college, he decided to drop out and enlist in Army.

Gene joined the 101st Airborne Airborne when World War II began as a paratrooper. One of his letters reveals his excitement during his training:

“Dear Ruth, How’s everyone, fine I hope. I’m making it swell. We get our wings on Saturday. It’s one hell of a feeling when you jump from a plane. When you jump the prop blast catches you and sends you whirling. Then your chute opens giving you a big jerk. You come down real peaceful then to Earth. You don’t land so very hard. We have learned how to hit and take up a tumble to lessen the shock. Well I had better close, I jump tomorrow at 8:30. Bye, and answer soon. Lots of love, Gene.”

On D-Day, he was part of the massive force of paratroopers who parachuted behind enemy lines the night before the Normandy invasion. As a part of the Pathfinder unit, their mission was to set up radar and lights for drop zones to guide the incoming C-47s loaded with paratroopers.

As the unit landed, Gene drifted away from the landing zone towards an apple orchard and a group of Nazi soldiers. On June 6, 1944, Gene became the one of the first men to pay the ultimate sacrifice during the invasion. He is buried at the American Cemetery in Normandy and was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his valor. Because of his valor and sacrifice, along with the 4,413 other servicemen who gave their lives this day, the Allies went on to free France and Europe from Nazi tyranny.

Until next time,



Alligood, Leon. “Old Paratroopers Relive Leaps of Faith: 12 D-Day Pathfinders Reunite in Nashville for What May be Last Time.” The Tennessean, May 20, 2006.

American Battle Monuments Commission. “Letters.” Accessed November 30, 2015.

American Battle Monuments Commission. “Their Shoulders.” Accessed November 30, 2015.