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.