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