We left our Girard church family and our other Girard friends in February of 1945, mourning the increased number of casualties of our Girard boys in Europe and in the Pacific, while doing everything possible on the home front to support them by rationing anything that could be used for the war effort (food, tires, silk stockings, etc.), and collecting papers, tin cans, and anything metal that could be melted down and recast, and donating money to multiple bond drives in support of the war. It is hard for us to comprehend how much the war influenced the lives of everyone. One could buy war bonds at almost any retail establishment in Girard – and in those days before large shopping centers and big-box stores, and now Amazon, there were many more small stores or bars and restaurants in Girard than there are today. As usual, for all this information from 75 years ago, I am indebted to The Girard News, Girard’s Weekly newspaper back then, published every Friday and available today on microfilm at Girard Free Library. Now, as February drew to a close, Girard folks were beginning another fundraising goal. This one was so much smaller than the bond drive just finished in January of $535,000 – a mere $12,500 for our local Red Cross. Still, the money was needed and our Girard families were raising it.
The Friday, March 2nd issue of the News had a much happier casualty report. Only one Girard man was reported wounded, back on January 10th, a leg wound. He was expected to return to action soon. And, the Red Cross Fund drive was officially on.
The Friday, March 9th issue had more serious news. One Girard boy was killed by a hit and run driver near his Naval Base in Richmond, Virginia, just a week prior on Friday, March 2nd. One boy was also killed in action on an air mission over Germany several weeks before, but his next of kin only receiving the news in the past week.
The March 16th issue reported two Girard boys killed in action, one in Italy and one in Germany, both deaths occurring back in February. Two were also wounded, one in Luzon, Philippines, one in Germany. The March 23rd issue reported no war fatalities, only two wounded, one in Iwo Jima and one in Belgium. And the March 30th issue, happily, reported no war casualties.
I have been reporting on the pre-war and war years in Girard every month for quite a while. I have always included the casualties as reported in the News, not by name, just where and when. One thing I have learned from writing this blog is just how violent and vicious the fighting was until the very end. Both the Germans and the Japanese had leaders who believed in fighting until the death. Only after Hitler’s suicide could the Germans surrender. Only after Japan’s Emperor surrendered, overruling his military, could the Japanese stop shooting. Thus, the most awful battles occurred at the end when the enemy was surrounded but any man who tried to surrender would be shot by his own commander. We, in hindsight, know that the war with Germany had only a month and a half until its end. But, that last month would be as deadly as any.
In the last part of the month of March of 1945, our Church Family was preparing for Easter. March 25th was Palm Sunday, which also featured a Baptismal Service. That afternoon at 4 PM, we had a Vesper Service featuring a Cantata by our choir, “From Olivet to Calvary” by Mauder. During Holy Week, we Methodists would hold an evening service from 7:45 to 9 Monday evening through Thursday evening. The subject of each sermon was as follows: Monday, “Judas, Who Defeated His Environment”, Tuesday, “Pilate Who Dodged His Duty”, Wednesday, “Caiaphas Who Drove Christ To The Cross”, and Thursday, “Longinius – The Man in Charge of Christ’s Crucifixion”. Then, on Good Friday, our church would host the Girard Union Service from 1-3 Friday afternoon. Friday evening we would hold our own Communion Service with the sermon title “Dismas, Who Spoke To Jesus About The Error of His Own Ways”.
Easter would fall on Sunday, April 1st in 1945. Also, on Easter Sunday afternoon, The Wellman Theater would feature a matinee movie running from Easter Sunday through Wednesday, April 4th, “Meet Me in St. Louis” starring Judy Garland and featuring the wonderful song “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” At last that wonderful movie that played to New York audiences during the Christmas season would now reach small town theatres such as Girard at Easter. At last!
That concludes our Glance back at our Church Family and our Girard friends, in March of 1945, seventy-five years ago.