Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Virgil Goes To War

I haven't got to the 1940s in my transcription of Gramma Lu's memoirs, but I often look ahead to see if I can nail down dates and events to index.

I couldn't find any mention of Pearl Harbor, but she did talk about the day Virgil enlisted. Then later on, when she talked about the day he actually left for war, I found her summary of the buildup to war, and Pearl Harbor!  So here is the post, a little late. 

At this time Virgil had been out of jail for a few years (after his drunk driving manslaughter incident -- to be posted later).  I believe the family was still living in Homestead, though they did spend some time in Thompsonville around then too.  I should note that Gramma Lu herself suffered from depression during this period, and her difficult relationship with Fred was at its worst then.  It is no wonder that Virgil was morose....

Virgil at training camp - we have no idea which one is him

Virgil Goes To War (Spring 1942)

from the memoirs of Lula Janet Wanamaker LaGuire

Virgil had become more and more morose and stayed at home and avoided other people more and more. I worried about him as there seemed no prospect of his marrying, though there was a girl who would have been glad to have him, living not too far away, a friend of ours. So he was more of a problem than I could cope with. I prayed and prayed night after night for them all.  Then on e day he came home and announced,

"Well, I belong to Uncle Sam now!"

There was a new spring in his step, a new light in his eyes. He was 1A!

The time came that Virgil had to leave to go to camp!  We knew he must go, as all other parents knew it.  He drove with me to Frankfort the day before he left and when we were through at the doctors, he drove to the end of a street that ends on a bluff beside some grand residences. The waves were dashing high. We just sat there and watched as the spray from those mighty breakers soared high above the lighthouse, great white caps rode the crest of each wave and ever and anon they would sweep to their utmost height then swirl back to be chased by another and higher wall of water!

The sight was magnificent and inspiring! I don't know what Virgil thought as we sat and looked at good and Great old Lake Michigan!  I thought of the ocean he would probably have to cross and no doubt his thoughts were a good deal like mine.  We drove home after a while.

The following day, dad and me accompanied him to Beulah, where several recruits waited for a bus to carry them on the first lap of that most unforgettable journey. It was a cold, rather cheerless day. The boys from our vicinity waited in a bus beside the lake for another busload to join them.

There was no fanfare. The day was cold.  Later when other boys went, the High School band gave them a little serenade before they left. But not for this bunch of men. No one thought of it, I guess. Just another crowd of our young men (17 to 40 about) going to give their all for our country if need be!  Just a few relatives (parents mostly) and friends came to see them off. We stood around stamping our feet to keep them warm, saying goodbyes and making joking remarks.

The first bus lumbered up. The fellows got aboard and waited, trying to look unconcerned. Parents trying to look cheerful.  "Don't forget to write! We'll be thinking of you. God bless you, we'll pray that you'll be all right."  "Bring me a necklace of Japanese ears," said some youngster. "Don't let those French girls rope you in," etc.  Just to pass those last tense moments, shaking hands again.  "Good bye. Good bye -- I'll write often."

Then another bus load of men came and our boys left us, waving their hands as long as we could see them.

Our last child had gone out into the great world and to war.  Strangely, I had worried that my three oldest, Orville, Stanley and Dudley, would have to fight in World War I, and perhaps never return!  That Virgil would go to war never occurred to me then. The three oldest never saw fighting, as it developed, although Orville did go into service.

And now Virgil was going to another beastly war.  In only one generation -- 2 wars!  Fred and I drove home silently. There was nothing to say. When at home again, Fred put more fuel on the fires to warm our chilled frames. We wondered if the boys would have a cold ride.

I sat down by the fire and wept silently.  The futility of it all.  Raising sons only to fight these cruel battles, to kill and be killed!  What good did it do to get up petitions, to write the president and our governors and representatives?  To talk peace and negotiations? There were women's clubs banded together for the purpose of promoting peace and out-loving war!  How far did they get?

First we heard the rumbles in the distance, "We'll be in another  war before we know it. It's coming, we can't stop it Everything points to war."

 Then one grim and awful night, Pearl Harbor with its terrible results and aftermath! We were at war!  No alternative, it seemed, young men begged for a chance to retaliate this fearful attack. They were given a chance and many many went who would rather have stayed with their families.

As I think of it later, there were no girls congregated about when this first contingent left. The boys were not in uniform then! What a difference that makes!  I saw many in uniform later, and heart breaking scenes at the depots. To many it was like tearing the very heart out to watch them go bravely away to foreign lands.