We left our Church Family last month in October of 1944, with the War dominating almost every part of their day to day living. As usual for our information. we are indebted to The Girard News, Girard’s weekly paper, published every Friday, and available today at Girard Free Library on microfilm. On Friday, December 1st, the News announced Girard’s bond sales so far had reached $115,000, but our goal was $535,000. Beginning Monday, the Bond committee would be conducting a house to house canvass of the entire city. The next edition of the News on December 8th carried the headline, “Halfway Mark Reached in 6th War Bond Drive”. Apparently, the house to house canvass made a difference.
That same edition of the News reported that one Girard boy was missing in action. This would mean that his parents and other family members could still hope for . . . something.
That Dec. 8th edition also had some Christmas Ads that I found interesting. The contrast to our prices today seem so low, but often a family only had an income of around $2,000 per year. Wages were beginning to go up after so many years of the Great Depression, and because of scarcity of workers with so many men serving in the military. Here are some prices from Ads of 1944: Firestone Tire – ReCaapping for a 16” tire - $7. (New tires were only available with a coupon. You had to recap what you had.) These Gas Stations also sold special bakeware for Christmas – 1 ½ quart size glass cookware $1.75, a 1 ½ qt. double boiler $2.69, and a FireKing 1 qt casserole 35 cents. In addition, Bob Anderson of Anderson Texaco was also selling “the finest and largest selection of Christmas Trees I’ve ever had”.
The role of women was changing during the war years, also. Many companies found that women were capable of doing work formerly done by men including work on an assembly line, driving trucks, even flying planes. Many women also volunteered for and served in the military, mostly as office workers, drivers, and medical personnel.
An ad for the bond drive supplied the following statistics: “It costs us twice as much to fight the Japs” (as opposed to the European theatre where everything was closer to us and also closer together. The Pacific Ocean was so big and battles so far apart, just moving the ships and men around cost much more.) “The War is costing the US over 10 million dollars an hour” “$175,000 every minute” “$3,000 every second”.
Finally, an ad from First National Bank of Girard describing a new, wonderful service they were offering: “It’s Easy and Safe to Pay Bills By Check. Easy Because You Pay Your Bills By Mail – Save Time and Energy. Safe Because Your Check is Your Receipt For Every Bill You Pay. Stop in Today and let us open a checking account for you.” Oh, those modern inconveniences! Many companies paid their employees in cash back in the forties, even into the fifties.
The December 15th edition headlined an event similar to the one we’ve just experienced. “Girard Digs Out From Record Snowfall” I am writing this today just one day after Girard experienced a 50 car and truck pileup on 80. The 1944 snowfall (9” to a foot) fell on the Monday, Dec. 10th and paralyzed highway traffic for hours.
On the front page of this edition of the News was a picture of Pvt. Stephen W Genetta, 18, who joined the Army after graduating from Girard High School in June. He “is currently serving with the infantry at Camp Jos. T Robinson in Arkansas.” I think that would make him 93 years old now. My late husband, Clyde, and Steve were good friends. He served Clyde as Best Man when we were married. Steve and Betty were very active in the church back in the day. We used to visit each other often when our children were small and Betty was still alive. I believe he is still living at their family home on Forsythe, with his son Gary and daughter-in-law, Angie. Thank you, Steve, and all of our veterans - both from WWII and all the later ones. In that same edition, and on the same front page, were reports of 2 Girard boys killed – one in Germany and one in France. And on Monday, December 18th, all of the ladies who were members of the Philathea Class enjoyed a Christmas Program and Dinner in Fellowship Hall. Unit 1 was the Hostess Group for the evening.
The Girard News of December 22nd reported one Girard boy killed in France. The Friday, Dec. 29th issue reported that 2 Girard boys were home, recovering from wounds.
Although Girard folks were probably unaware of it at the time, one of the most horrible and deadly battles of WWII began in the middle of December and was finally finished in January. It is known today as the Battle of the Bulge and it involved a surprise and deadly German offensive to split the allies’ line. It occurred during an overcast and stormy stretch of weather, and our airplanes could not respond to help until the weather cleared. Because the Germans were generally a smaller and attacking force they simply killed any men trying to surrender to them. Therefore, our troops and our allies also did not take prisoners. It was the most costly battle of the entire war with heavy losses on both sides. Men who fought in it would always remember it as awful. Years later, when my younger brother, Bob, was a youth, he had two good friends in the neighborhood. Their father had been in that battle. One day, they all happened to be together, and talk, somehow, turned to WWII. Bob asked Mr. N. if he had taken any prisoners during the war. “No, we didn’t take prisoners,” he said quietly. Bob told me of that conversation many more years later. The war would mark everyone who lived through it.
December, 1944 – 75 years ago in our church, our town, and in our country.
Thanking God after he gives you something is gratitude. Thanking him before it occurs is faith. Since we are entering the week of Thanksgiving and we will be celebrating all that God has done for us and all of the blessings great and small He has given us, let’s talk about another kind of Thanksgiving. Praising God in advance is a way of thanking Him and showing our faith that He will provide. He is a good God and wants to give us good things. He will honor our faith and expectation as we pray for His will in our lives and as we honor Him by thanking Him in advance for what He will do!
“Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” Mark 11:24
This verse demonstrates faith and expectation. It shows not that we have magical powers, but that God honors our faith. It does not mean that everything we ask for will be granted like a genie in a bottle, but it does show that if we are in line with God’s will, He may put desires and things in our hearts that we pray for and they may come to pass.
When my son was younger, we were in a Doctor’s office and the resident that day was asking him if he’s been good- If he behaves and listens to his parents. When the DR asked him this, he responded that he does behave and he showed great pride in the fact that he listens to his parents. The doctor proceeded to tell him that he must have the “obey me bone”. I don’t know why, but that phrase always stuck with me. As I think about faith and how this is also praising God in advance through our expectation, sometimes I think it’s like we have that phantom “obey me bone”. God puts something on our heart and He wants us to ask Him. He wants us to come to Him and put ourselves in a little child’s position and petition for this thing. He also wants us to know that He will provide a way. When we pray we are actually exercising this. The more we do this, the easier it becomes to believe that God really will provide a way. We can take pride in the fact that we are listening to our Father as he tells us that we are to Ask, seek, knock. He will answer. It may be exactly as you envisioned it or it may be in an unexpected way. Either way, be ready to be blown away by His great mercy and gifts.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4
We left our church family in late October of 1944, unaware that our Navy had achieved a huge victory in the Pacific Ocean while supporting General MacArthur’s return to the Philippine Islands. Just as we do today, however, they did support the children dressing up for Halloween. The Girard News of Friday, November 3rd reported that Girard’s streets on Tuesday evening the 31st had been jammed for the parade which was led by the Girard High School Band with more than 100 Halloweeners following. The weather had been favorable. As I write this, the prognosis is a little iffy for this coming Thursday’s Halloweeners, but maybe it will change.
That week’s issue of the News also reported that one Girard boy was missing in action with two wounded and one war prisoner in Germany. In the preceding months most of the news in prior editions of the weekly paper had focused on the war along with items of local interest. Now, however, with a huge national, state and local election occurring on the following Tuesday, the two slates of candidates took up the bulk of this issue of the Girard News. The Republican slate for President was Thomas E. Dewey, President, and John W Bricker, Vice President. Dewey was the Governor of the State of New York and Bricker the Governor of our State of Ohio. The Democratic slate for President was Franklin D. Roosevelt, seeking his 4th term as President and Harry S Truman, a Senator from the State of Missouri. For the State of Ohio Governorship, the candidates were Republican: Rep. James Garfield Steward and Democratic: Frank J. Lausche. For Congress the candidates were Republican: Herschel Hunt, and Democratic: Michael J. Kirwan.
Voting day was Tuesday, November 7th. Two days later, Unit 5 of our WSCS Philathea Class met for a business meeting and also made plans for a Christmas Party to be held on December 14th at the home of Mrs. Wilbur Price.
The November 10th issue of the Girard News Headline read “Election Results – Democratic Sweep Country-wide, County-wide and State-wide”. But you probably knew that. The same issue goes on to note that the Girard boy who was reported “missing in action” back in September, is now assumed to be a “prisoner of war” as the entire crew of his damaged plane had parachuted to the ground in Germany before it crashed. In that same issue, a large ad for War Bonds listed all the places of business in Girard where one could purchase a bond. I had assumed that you had to go to your local bank to buy them. Boy, was I wrong! There were 25 businesses in Girard where you could purchase a bond. The list included all of the Girard Banks and Insurance Companies, and Service groups such as the American Legion and the VFW Post, but also the Meat Market, The Bakery. The Jewelry Store, the Drugstore, The Diner, even the Lumber Company and the Flower Shop! It is hard for us to understand just how much the War influenced every person’s thoughts, words and actions 75 years ago.
The Friday, November 17th issue of The Girard News contained the following Headline: “Sixth War Loan Drive Starts Monday”. It seems like I just reported a couple months ago how they had raised a surplus for the last Bond Drive. A year or so ago, they raised enough money for the purchase of a bomber – “The City of Girard”. The high school kids had raised enough money to purchase a fighter plane. Now, Girard and the entire country faced the duty of contributing to another bond drive, with the hope that this awful war could be finished successfully, and our young men and women could come home and continue living their lives. But, not yet. This issue told of another Girard boy killed in action – this time in Italy. This issue also had another large full page ad for the War Bond effort. “Buy an extra $100 Bond,” said the ad. Here were listing twenty more places where you could buy them. This listed restaurants and places where you could buy alcohol such as The American Bar, The Blue Crystal Nite Club, and The Wonder Bar.
Thanksgiving would fall on the 23rd in 1944. It would be a quiet family celebration with too many tables having empty chairs representing members of the army, navy, air forces, marines and coast guard. There would also be a community wide Union Service held on Saturday at the Christian Church at 10 AM. Before our church family could attend that Union Service Saturday morning, they would have learned in the Friday 24th edition of The Girard News that one more Girard boy had been killed in the South Pacific.
November of 1944 – 75 years ago in our church, our town and our country
God has equipped us with many tools to use in the faith. One of them is friendship. Friendship can edify and "season" our lives in a way nothing else can. There are many examples of friendship and what it embodies displayed in the Bible. Let's take a look at a few.
Aaron and Moses were brothers but God used them as a team in leading the Israelites out of Egypt and in leading them spiritually. Initially, Moses was hesitant. He didn't believe he was cut out for the job. God used someone already in his life to help him meet the task he was given and created to do.
Moses did not believe he had the gift of leadership and felt he was not a good communicator.
But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” Then the Lord became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do. Aaron will be your spokesman to the people. He will be your mouthpiece, and you will stand in the place of God for him, telling him what to say. And take your shepherd’s staff with you, and use it to perform the miraculous signs I have shown you.”
Exodus 4:13-17 NLT https://bible.com/bible/116/exo.4.13-17.NL
God gives us people who can help us with his mission for us and the world. Moses had the ability. God knew he had the ability and God wanted him to use his ability. However, Moses was afraid and did not have the confidence needed to execute that ability. So what did God do? God brought his brother into the mix. God knew long ago that Moses would need a spokesperson and would need someone to be alongside him during this time. God knew that Moses could do it but that he would not do it without that helper. God equips us with people to help us in our mission. It may become their mission as well or it may just be that they walk alongside us.
Another example is the four friends who brought their paralyzed friend to Christ on the mat through THE ROOF!!!
When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”
Mark 2:1-5 NLT
Can you imagine having friends that move such a barrier to get you to Jesus? That's what true friends do. We are called to carry one another's mats and bring them to Christ when they are not strong enough. That doesn't mean being pushy or bossy. Often it means praying for them, being Christ to them and sometimes it's just listening.
We see another example of a characteristic of friendship in Paul and Timothy's relationship. Paul was a mentor and an encourager to Timothy. He taught him about the faith and he took pride in the mentoring he did so that Timothy could spread the news.
This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.
2 Timothy 1:6 NLT
Finally, another characteristic of friendship that we see displayed in the scriptures is loyalty and faithfulness. Naomi was Ruth's mother in law. They had both lost their husbands and Naomi planned to travel away and told Ruth to stay back. She wanted her to move on as she still could have built a life with another man. Ruth would not have any part of this. She wanted to be with Naomi. She was faithful and wanted to walk through the fire with Naomi.
But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”
Ruth 1:16-17 NLT
We have been given friendship as a gift. We can be a friend and we can receive friendship. It is a gift from God and friends are an important part of the joy of life. Be a good friend. Be a strengthener, a mat carrier, a mentor and a faithful friend. Pray for one another. Again, I ask that you pick someone in our church and pray for them. You do not need to let them know and it doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Watch what God does with just a friend’s prayer. - Meghan DeGregory
We left our church family and our town last month, mourning the increased losses of our local men due to the new action in the European theatre coupled with the action in the Pacific. Much of our news of this period comes from the Girard News, our weekly newspaper, published every Friday. The first issue in October, October 4th gave the weekly Girard casualties: 2 men killed, 3 wounded. All 5 casualties occurred in France over a month earlier. It is so hard for us here in 2019 to comprehend the slowness of receiving news 75 years ago. Based upon the good news folks were receiving over the radio and at the newsreels about our boys moving across France while pushing the Germans back, some people were thinking that the war might be over soon. It seems hard for us to understand, given the casualty numbers from just our own small town, but the local Girard Ministers were actually planning a V-Day celebration. Sitting here in 2019 looking back, we know that later news over the winter would seriously postpone the V Day celebration.
I only know of the Philathea Class because of their postings of meetings in the Girard News. It seems to have been composed entirely of women and was of pretty good size, as it had at least three units that met separately during the week to work on some kind of projects. Unit 3 seemed to be the most reliable poster in the News and in the October 4th issue they reported that the past Tuesday, 9 of them met at the home of Mrs. Harold Rees for their regular meeting, which was spent sewing. Their next meeting would be October 17th at the home of Mrs. George Williams. I wonder what they were sewing.
Playing at the Wellman Theatre: “Pride of the Yankees” starring Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig. This is a movie I have never seen in its entirety, only the “luckiest man on the face of the earth” clip from his farewell speech on July 4th, 1939. Someday if I see it listed on Turner Classic Movies, I will watch the whole movie. It received 11 Academy Award nominations.
The next issue of the Girard News had no casualties to list. That was good news. It also had another piece of good news –The company that announced in the beginning of September it was going to occupy the old A M Byers Company and produce equipment for the war effort, now announced that it, The Leader Specialty Company, would also move its Main Office to Girard.
The October 20th Edition of the News, reported on two casualties of Girard boys. One who was killed in action of the South Pacific, and one injured in France.
Also reported in that edition was a story of the McElhaney’s being honored by the Friendly Sunday School Class in a surprise party at their new home on Morris Lane. George McElhaney had organized that class fifteen years before, and been its first teacher for a number of years. Now, in 1944, Fred McLean was the teacher. The class had over 100 members and was the largest class in the church. And as promised a couple weeks earlier, Unit 3 of the Phillathea Class met at Mrs. Williams’ home Tuesday evening. The next meeting would be October 21 at the home of Mrs. Martha Williams on East Kline Street.
Our church family and people all across America would not know it at the time, but, now, in the month of October would occur one of the largest naval battles of the war, and possibly the largest naval battle in history. It would involve 300 ships on our side. 67 on the Japanese side; 1,500 planes on our side, 300 planes on the Japanese. The naval battle was in support of the invasion of the Philippines and the return of General MacArthur to complete the freeing of the Philippine Islands from Japanese occupation. It began on October 23rd and was over by October 26th. In the battle, our Navy was combined with the Australian forces. We overwhelmingly outnumbered the Japanese who lost just about all that was left of their navy in the battle. At the end of the battle, the Japanese had no carriers left and lost 3 battleships, all 300 of their planes, 10 cruisers and 11 destroyers, with an estimated 12,500 casualties. Their navy would not be a threat again. But, it was also the first time the Japanese used Kamikaze attacks. We had about 3,000 casualties, and lost 1 light carrier, 2 escort carriers, 2 destroyers, and about 200 planes. It enabled us and our allies to invade the Philippines practically untouched by the Japanese navy. But their soldiers on the islands would fight to the very last man.
October of 1944 – 75 years ago in our church, our town, and our country.
During the time that Jesus was experiencing the night before his crucifixion, He prayed for us, His church. It was so important to our Savior, that he spent a great deal of time praying for HIS followers. He knew he would not be with them much longer and His work with them was done. He began praying that they would be allowed to enjoy the fruits of a life filled with fellowship and community. There is nothing like a body of believers on a mission together to not only reach those within their environment, but also to enjoy the fruit and blessing of this mission.
In his book The Pursuit of God, author A.W. Tozer wrote the following:
“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”May we enter each day into a covenant with one another and with God so that we grow together and bring others closer. Reaching out is a great first step. In fact, just picking someone in your congregation and saying a prayer for them daily can open up the floodgates. Can you imagine if each person in the congregation picked one person to pray for daily for a month? Just praying for God’s blessing on their lives can be a huge game-changer. Maybe this challenge intrigues you. If so, pick a person in our church and pray daily for them. You don’t have to tell them you’re doing this and it doesn’t have to be a long, elaborate prayer. It will make a difference, I guarantee you. Let’s see what we can do with one another in unity so we can move forward and reach even more. Don’t get greedy with God’s love and peace. We want to share it and a quick prayer for another believer can make all the difference.
“I pray not only for these followers but also for those who will believe in me because of their teaching. Father, I pray that all who believe in me can be one. You are in me and I am in you. I pray that they can also be one in us. Then the world will believe that you sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me. I gave them this glory so that they can be one, just as you and I are one. I will be in them, and you will be in me. So they will be completely one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you loved them just as you loved me. John 17:20-23 ERV
We left our Church Family and our Town in August of 1944 with their lives completely dominated by the War, and with the sudden rise in wounding and deaths of our local servicemen with the escalation of the war on the European theatre beginning with the D-Day invasion at Normandy, France in June. Each weekly edition of the Girard News, brought the story of more Girard boys injured or killed. However, nationally the war news was positive. Our troops along with our allies were pushing the German army back toward Germany and out of France. In late August Paris was liberated with much jubilation by the small but valiant Free French Army led by General Charles De Gaulle. The casualty count simply reflected the greater number of our troops in battle as the European theatre proceeded on several fronts attacking the Germans from the north, south and west.
The September 1st edition of the News told of a new war plant to occupy the old A M Byers plant which was now empty. They were going to hire 40 to 50 workers, needing press operators and die setters. All production would be devoted to the war effort.
The casualty rate for this week was 6 men wounded, and 1 missing in action. Meanwhile, our church family members not away at war, continued with their church work. The Alethea Class met for a corn roast on a Tuesday evening, September 7th at the home of Mrs. L. C. Underwood. Mrs. Hotchkiss led the discussion of the Study Book for the coming year, “Highlights of the Bible”. The next meeting of the class would be at the home of Miss Edith Howells, 2257 Volney Rd, in Youngstown.
The September 8th edition of the News reported casualties for the week of 1 wounded and 1 killed. The edition of September 15th reported 2 Girard men missing in action and 1 wounded.
On September 13th the Friendly Class met at the church in the evening for a dinner meeting, with over 40 present. After dinner entertainment consisted of Donald Robinson playing several violin selections accompanied by his wife on the piano.
The September 22nd edition of the News reported 1 man killed and 2 wounded.
The WSCS met Monday evening at the church for their regular monthly meeting at 7:30 on September 25th.
The Friday, September 29th edition of the News reported “Five War Casualties This Week”. Two men were killed in action, 3 wounded, and one man who had been reported missing in action had, happily, been found and was now back with his regiment.
That edition of the News also reported that, on the previous Saturday evening, thirty members of our MYF enjoyed a Hayride at North Jackson in place of their regular meeting.
Our church attendance during the month ran from 263 on Labor Day weekend, to 287 on the last Sunday of the month.
This was our church and our town in September, 1944 – life dominated by the war, but still attending church weekly and going to their small group meetings regularly.
We left our church family at the end of July, 1944, knowing that the invasion at Normandy had been successful, but hard fought. News trickled in slowly, the dreaded telegrams telling of the death of a loved family member, only arriving after a period of several weeks. As always much of the information in this blog comes from the Girard News microfilm archive from Girard Free Library, along with our church archives.
It is hard for us to realize how different life was seventy-five years ago, especially the slow pace of the news. Girard lies between Youngstown and Warren, both cities having a daily newspaper. Niles also had a daily paper. Girard is closer in distance to Youngstown but they lie in different counties. Girard folks had their choice of three daily papers, but their weekly paper, the Girard News, gave them the local stories, so it was well supported by the community. National news, especially war news came over the radio every evening, along with newsreels seen at the local theaters.
The fifth national war bond effort had begun in late May, just before the D-Day invasion. Sales were slow, many families feeling tapped out by their previous purchases of bonds. However, when news of the successful invasion came, people finally felt the war was progressing. We were freeing our ally, France, and driving the Nazi regime back to Germany. The change of mood was reflected in support for the bond campaign. The headline of the August 4th edition of the Girard News read “Bond Sales Total $ 949,066”. This was more than $300,000 over the quota for the Girard-McDonald combined campaign.
These figures are impressive even today. However, back in 1944, folks did not begin to earn as much money as we do today. Of course, the dollar back then bought more. But, just to make clear what the average wage was, I looked back at our church records for the month of August, 1944. Total church expenditures were $630.96 for the month. This included utilities, salaries, and supplies for Sunday School and church services. Of the list of expenditures, our pastor, Rev. Arthur Maly, received two checks, each one $ 115.00. Thus, his monthly salary was $230, and his annual salary was $2,760, which was probably a fairly average yearly wage.. Of course, the $949 thousand was the face value of the bonds, an amount redeemable a number of years in the future. The actual amount paid was not given in the article. I believe it varied depending on the type of bond purchased. However, there was no doubt of the support of everyone in our country for the war. It was a rare family who had no one who had either volunteered or been drafted – uncles, cousins, brothers. They were putting their lives on the line, and, of course, their families supported them.
That same August 4th edition of the News also carried bad news. The names of Girard men killed or wounded in the invasion were still coming in. Pfc. Clyde R. Aubel, Pfc. Ken E. Whitfield and Pvt. Patsy Gallo were wounded during the Invasion of France. Cpl John Holmes was wounded in the Battle of Saipan in the Pacific, and John W. Brooks, who was reported missing in action during a bombing raid on Germany back in January, was now confirmed dead.
The August 11th edition brought more bad news: Two Girard men wounded and 2 killed, one in the Pacific and one in France. Also, one missing in an air battle over Germany.
The August 18th edition reported 5 casualties that week: Two killed, one in New Guinea, one in France. 3 wounded, two in France, one in Guam. Also announced: Cpl. William W Stewart, 22, was killed in France July 5th. He had been wounded June 8th, when he first arrived at Normandy, but continued fighting until his death one month later.
The August 25th edition of the News led with a non–war headline: “City Schools to Open September 5th” However, they also printed the total war statistics for Girard since the War
began December 8th, 1942.
They were as follows:
18 killed in action 3 killed in service
32 wounded in action
4 injured in service
2 missing in action
4 prisoners of enemy nations
At the end of June, 1944, we left our church family and all the families in our town and in our country, waiting anxiously for news of their boys fighting in Europe following the landing on D-Day, June 6th and the further fighting as they fought against the German Army, trying to force them back out of France. Other families, with their boys fighting in the Pacific, were waiting for word of the invasion of Saipan and whatever islands would come next. It still amazes me how slowly news traveled 75 years ago. There was no TV. Girard’s two movie theaters, the Wellman and the New Mock, ran news features between movies. There movie patrons could see our fighting forces in action, all in black and white and heavily censored removing disturbing images, and always two to three weeks after the battle. So, too, were the dreaded telegrams received by families telling them of the death of injury of their boy in the war two to three weeks prior.
Now, in the month of July, bad news for individual families was still coming in by wire, telling of Girard boys killed or injured either in the original beach invasion, or in the days following in the surrounding countryside, attacking the German soldiers who were able to put up a strong defense using the rural hedgerows as hiding places to pick off our men. The July 7th edition of the Girard News told of the wife of Lester Scott, living at 137 ½ N. Market St., receiving a wire that her husband had been badly injured on June 13th following the initial invasion. His injuries included a fractured skull, a broken nose, and a fractured jawbone. A three week lag time between the event and the delivery of the news seems to be typical. Thus, families were under constant stress . . . wondering. And, still, life in wartime went on. Almost all industry had been diverted from peacetime products to items needed by our military. Ration coupons were needed for almost everything you had to have. Enough gas coupons to get a person to work and back home. Sugar – butter – shoes – meat – clothing – Scarcity was just a part of daily life. Gradually, however, word of the battles in France began to get better. When a working temporary port was constructed in the days following June 6th, then our heavy weapons, especially tanks, became available. Suddenly the hedgerows didn’t provide the German
troops with cover. As more and more of our troops were unloaded in France, the German defenders became outnumbered. Our troops were making steady progress. People all across America began to feel that a turning point in the war had occurred. It wasn’t exactly “optimism” but hopelessness and pessimism became harder and harder to find. Confidence increased. It was evident in Girard. The Fifth War Loan had kicked off early in the month of June, and, by the end of June was only a small fraction of the way to its goal. But, then good news from the Front in Europe came in. Now, by July 14th, the News could report that the bond drive went “over the top”. Girard had met its goal and even exceeded it. And, life went on.
In our church, many of our Sunday School classes and members of WSCS were holding their monthly meetings outdoors because of the wonderful summer weather. Group 3 of the WSCS met on Tuesday, July 25th, at the home of Mrs. Harry Blair on E. Prospect St with 20 members present. Group 4 of the WSCS met on Thursday, July 27th at the home of Mrs. Charlotte Schoenfeld on St. Clair Ave, with 20 present. And the Friendly Class, the largest adult Sunday School Class, met on Thursday, July 13th, with 95 present. Group 3 and the Friendly Class said there would be no August meeting. Group 4 decided to hold an August meeting on the 10th at the home of Mrs. Edward Clark.
The July 21st edition of the News reported that Mr and Mrs Mike Brutka of McKinley Heights received a wire from the War Department that their son, Pvt. John Brutka had been killed in action on June 12th. That was just 20 days before what would have been his 20th birthday.
The war may have turned for the better but there would be many more of those telegrams before it would be over.
That was the month of July, 1944 – seventy-five years ago in our church, our town and our country.
We left our church family seventy-five years ago in May of 1944, celebrating Memorial Day on the last day of May with a Memorial Service both on the Girard Viaduct and tossing of a wreath off the bridge into the Mahoning in memory of our Navy Veterans lost at sea, and then a long march to the Cemetery with further Memorial Service for those Veterans who lost their lives on land in service to their country. I am writing this a few days before the 31st, and I have just participated in a Memorial Day Parade where I now live, in Lake Milton. Now that Memorial Day is celebrated on the Last Monday of May, we often find ourselves with almost a week of days left in May after the celebration. So, while describing a Memorial Day service 75 years ago, I am also savoring the recent honor of driving the Parade vehicle carrying a 92 year old Veteran, Murle McLaughlin, who served in the Pacific theatre of World War II, where he participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima. In our Memorial Day Parade at Lake Milton, we also stopped at the bridge, where Murle’s Wife, Kaye, tossed the wreath over to honor the Veterans lost at sea, and Murle delivered the Prayer for them. Then he got back into our Golf Cart and we proceeded to the American Legion grounds where the rest of the service was held. It is so amazing to realize that the service is almost identical to that service held in Girard 75 years ago, and, while I do not participate in the Girard Memorial Service any more, I know that it, too, is almost identical to that service 75 years ago.
The first issue of The Girard News in June, on Friday, June 2nd, reflected on the Parade held there just two days prior. There were various short stories about Girard men, “somewhere in the British Isles”. I believe I noted in a previous month’s blog, that our men were not allowed to tell their families where they we stationed in the weeks and months leading up to the big invasion. No one could know because the planned landing site was a huge secret. Now, of course, we know that they landed at Normandy, but General Eisenhower and his staff did everything they could to signal that the landing would be at Calais, the closest place across the channel from England. So, our town’s Mothers and Fathers of service men received V-Mail (special letters reduced in size for mass shipping back home) from “somewhere” in England or in the British Isles. An example of this was on the lower part of the front page of the June 2nd issue, “Three Brothers From Girard, All Serving Somewhere in the British Isles”. Then followed pictures of the three men, Paul, Andrew and John Bozin, with a description of when they joined, and their current rank and position. They were the sons of Mr and Mrs Dimitry Bosin, 309 Skoplee Avenue.
I was eager to see what the News would say about the invasion, so I paged forward to the July 9th edition. This was 3 days into the invasion. June 6th was “The Longest Day” – the first day of the largest invasion ever attempted in the history of the world. To my surprise the News said – nothing. They must have known that the invasion had begun. The Girard Ministerial Association announced that during the summer they would hold bi-weekly Sunday evening Union Church services at 7 PM at the High School Stadium, weather permitting, or at the High School Auditorium in case of rain. Each Pastor of the Association was assigned a specific date to preach. Our Rev. Maly was scheduled for August 6th. I am assuming that these extra church services were a response to the invasion which involved so many young sons of Girard families Almost 160,000 troops landed at Normandy, the 6th, with more arriving each day after the initial beachhead had been achieved. By the end of June, 875,000 men had landed, and were fighting their way into France, pushing the Germans back toward Germany.
With little news coming from Europe, our Girard families concentrated on what they could do to help the War Effort. Nationwide, the Fifth War Loan began. Our country needed to raise 16 Billion dollars to continue the war effort on both the European and Pacific theatres, to provide our soldiers with ships, tanks, guns, planes, trucks, and food and clothing so that they could finish their jobs. Of that 16 Billion dollars, our communities of Girard and McDonald were asked to purchase $600,000 in bonds. As of June23rd, the News reported that only $100,000 had been raised. The Chairman of the Girard Bond Drive, E. L. Houser made a plea in the News article of that issue – “At a time when the invasion of Europe has begun, and it seems as if the Jap Fleet has finally come out to fight, we will need more supplies to rush to our troops. The bonds purchased in the present drive might be the decisive blow to defeat the Axis.”
Meanwhile, life at our church continued with folks enjoying the summer weather and the longer days. The women’s groups continued to meet. The Friendly Class, our church’s largest adult class met and had its annual election of officers. Edward L. Clark was elected President, George Minze Vice-President, and Mrs. John W, Nace Secretary-Treasurer. They, along with many other church groups, were planning a picnic for their August meeting.
The January 30th edition of the Girard News finally brought some news from the Invasion of Europe – unfortunately not good. “Pvt. Leighton G. Allison, son of Mr. and Mrs. E. E. Allison, 713 N. State St., was killed June 10th during the invasion of France. His parents were informed in a wire from the War Department.” And, “Cpl. Earl Bundy with the Glider Infantry, was wounded in the invasion of France. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Earl Bundy of 445 W. Liberty St. were informed in a wire received from the War Department Thursday.”
Suddenly the great difference between our families’ lives 75 years ago and our lives today becomes VERY CLEAR. We get our news in the present – on-line or 24/7 news channels, or text. The gliders were the first troops into France. Cpl. Bundy was wounded on the 6th. His parents finally got the telegram on the 29th.
On that sad note we will leave our church family and our town in June of 1944 – 75 years ago.
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