Second World War: Our Country

Our country's entry into the Second World War from the eyes of an Oregonian woman.

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I was 14 years old when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. I was learning to put a crease in a pair of men's pants when I heard the news. Everyone was dumbfounded! How could anyone dare attack us? 

As if on cue, the people of our country banded together, rolled up our sleeves and prepared to defend what was ours. No loyal American neglected his or her part in defending our country, homes and families.

My family suffered through the shortages, sacrifices, rationing, air-raid sirens and the trauma of the Second World War as much as everyone else.

We suffered the loss of one of our own. Two of my brothers joined the fray in the spring of 1942. Tim joined the Naval Air Corps. His plane crashed on Puget Sound in October 1942. He and one other man survived the crash. Ray joined the Army Air Corps. He didn't come back. His plane exploded in mid-air over New Guinea in the summer of 1944. He had received one letter telling about the birth of his daughter, Linda.

There are many firsts attributed to the Second World War. For the first time in our country's history, women entered the armed services.

Women also went to work in shipyards, airplane factories and other war-related positions.

It was during World War II that women began shaving their legs. We were unaware of nylon. Ladies' hosiery was made of silk. But silk was being used for the war effort. No self-righteous lady would consider wearing the heavy, baggy, cotton stockings that were available. The answer was to go bare-legged.

My mother smoked cigarettes. They were not rationed, but they were not as readily available as they might have been. When the van came to our small town, Dallas, Oregon, delivering cigarettes to the stores, there was always a line of people waiting to buy some. The driver would sell each person two or three packs before he made his regular delivery. People purchased and smoked whatever they could get. All of the well-known brands of cigarettes were going overseas.

There were several farms between Dallas and Independence that had been owned by Japanese people who had been sent to internment camps. When we could find an unsuspecting person, we would ask, "and do you know what the authorities found in that barn after they were gone?" Curiously, they would answer, "No, what?" We would say, "Manure."

The government kept saying that the continental United States had never been shelled by enemy fire. Obviously, they did not want us to panic, and they did not want the Japanese to know how accurate they were. After the War, we learned our Pacific coastline had been hit by enemy fire in two different locations. An unexploded bomb - fired off the coast into the southern part of Oregon - was found by some children who were on a picnic with their pastor. Five of the children were killed when the bomb exploded.

Mr. Voth, a man of German descent, lived in the foothills of the Coastal Mountains range high above Dallas. He owned a dairy and a herd of cattle. At night, we often saw a searchlight cutting into the dark sky, originating from the direction of Mr. Voth's land. We wondered why a light of that magnitude was allowed to continue shining. After the War, we learned Mr. Voth was a German sympathizer signaling the enemy in code with the light. He was quietly sent to prison for his deeds.

When I was old enough to get a work permit, I started working in the Blue Lake Cannery in West Salem, Oregon. After the perishables such as corn, beans, carrots, etc. were canned, we dehydrated potatoes. One evening, the supervisor came to our area and announced, "Do an especially good job tonight, girls, because these are going to our boys." Surprised, I asked her where they had been going. She answered, "To Russia."

When the War was over, I was 18 years old, practically an old maid. I didn't really know how to date. My future husband was the older brother of my chums Violet and Virginia. Bob had been overseas for the duration of the War. We were married shortly after he came home.

Mary L. Hodson
Cornelius, Oregon

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.