On November 16, 2012, I received an email from WordPress.com telling me that gpcox had liked several of my posts and suggested that I check out their Blog, pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com, which I did. I read about the 11th Airborne Division and their war in the Pacific. I also enjoyed reading, with humor, a letter from Smitty to his Mom describing a recipe for “Jungle Juice”. The similarities between our posts was not lost on me and I sent a comment to gpcox. Since we had both started Blogging in September of that year, I thought we might be able to connect and give each other encouragement and advice.
As we emailed back and forth I learned that there were more similarities than I had imagined. Our fathers were born in the same year and drafted within months of each other. There were also sharp contrasts between our Blogs. Mine was focused on an ordinary family, trying to live an ordinary life, during an extraordinary time in our history. gpcox’s Blog focused on the accurate, factual experiences of the 11th Airborne Division and Smitty’s “take” on the whole thing.
I emailed gpcox with a request to write a Guest Post for my Blog, and gpcox eventually wrote almost a dozen Guest Posts for me and I will be re-posting them each Sunday for the next 3 months.
By reading both blogs, the world as it was then comes into sharper focus.
The World in 1940 by gpcox
Judy contacted me to do a guest post when she discovered the similarities in our father’s lives. Both men were born in 1914 and were presented with their “Greetings” cards from the draft board only months apart. Now Judy and I are very close in age and are posting our father’s letters simultaneously.
In my blog, pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com, I briefly describe my father, Everett Smith’s life on Broad Channel, NY and then his service in the 11th Airborne Division in the Pacific War. His letters home show just how he believed every day was a learning experience. He used his wit and dry humor to describe the events around him, but not the striking brutality of combat.
Rather than go into detail about my blog, I would prefer to co-ordinate with Judy, who at this point in her blog is, 1940. In this way, we can better visualize the era.
We are looking back to an age when an average house cost $3,900, an average wage was $1,725 and a gallon of gas was 11 cents. A time when America was finally easing its way out of the Great Depression, people were enjoying the new motion picture, “Gone With The Wind,” and listening to the jazz tunes of Benny Goodman and Count Basie on the radio.
As far as the conflicts in Europe were concerned, the U.S. was divided in thought. While half believed in remaining isolationist and curing this country’s ills, the remainder followed FDR’s thoughts of entering the war and assisting England. My father believed in the former train of thought, but the latter ideal won out and the first peacetime draft was installed in September of that year. (It was called: The Selective Training and Service Act.)
In Broad Channel, Everett, also known as Smitty, had a boat dock named (what else?) Smitty’s, (which still exists today) and tended bar at a friend’s restaurant, “Grassy Point,” at night. On this small island, when the Broad Channel Red Cross Auxiliary ordered a house-to-house collection for the War Relief Fund, the Sand Bar Restaurant opened its doors and the Bathing Park hosted a professional tennis match between Don Budge and John Nogrady. Judy’s father was in an area where the people were seeing the life style of countries and they wanted a higher standard of living and a stronger voice in government. Industrialism became their priority.
But, other parts of the world were not as peaceful. Japan went through four Prime Ministers in 1940, while Australian P.M., Robert Menzies, kept a sharp eye on that island nation to his north as Chungking, China was bombed by the Japanese. Neville Chamberlain held the P.M. post for the United Kingdom until May, when Winston Churchill took his place. German Chancellor Adolph Hitler, agreed to form an alliance with Italy and proceeded to invade Denmark, Norway, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands and the Battle of Britain began. Russia’s Joseph Stalin looked on from the Baltics as 1940 exploded around the world.
Throughout all the turmoil and hardships, the greatest generation persevered.
Stay connected to both these blogs and see how these two families succeeded.
A little about gpcox.
I was born Gail Smith on the island of Broad Channel, NY to my loving parents, Everett and Lillian. I grew up in East Meadow, out in Nassau County, NY and although an only child, I had two foster brothers and a neighborhood of friends I continue to stay in touch with today.
Even as a child, I was interested and curious about the scrapbook my grandmother kept for my father while he was engaged in the Pacific War. I used to ask my father why he didn’t try to have his letters published. His reply: “Who would want to read about me?” Later, here I am after years of research and countless e-mails with historians still trying to put the details into some semblance of order. A condensed version of all that research is currently being posted at: pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com. I am happy to say that a month and a half, three posts have been re-blogged and the blog has 60 followers.
I am honored that Judy has requested I be a guest on her blog. She feels, as I do, that family and history are important, not only for us, but for future generations. Hopefully our stories will contribute to that ideal.
Tomorrow, I’ll begin posting letters written in 1942. Both Lad and Dan are in the Army and going through their basic training. Ced is working in Alaska as an airplane mechanic and Bush Pilot. Dick and Dave are living in Trumbull with their Dad, known to me as Grandpa.