Local News

Springer Journal: A Nation At War!

Posted September 4, 2002

— As a rather small boy growing up in Central Pennsylvania during World War II, I saw first hand the impact of war on our community, state and nation. As we approach the first anniversary of Sept. 11, it may help to recall some aspects of that perilous time in our nation.

Most things which we take for granted today were either rationed or decades away from being invented. We were a half a century away from the 1990s decade of the three Cs: calculators, computers and cell phones. There was no television, only the daily newspapers, monthly magazines and the scratchy voices on radio to bring us news, entertainment and sports.

On Dec. 7, 1941, it was the radio bringing us the news of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. No pictures of the tragic events there, just words. Yet America was glued to those radio reports.

Nearly 60 years later, on Sept. 11, 2001, we were all glued to our television sets to witness, in real time, another tragic and horrific event. It is not only the difference between radio and TV that set us apart six decades later.

In the 1940s most of what we did have was rationed so as to conserve for the war effort. For example, sugar was rationed; margarine (with its accompanying little packet of food coloring to make it look better) replaced butter; many families had to make do with limited food so dried fruit was provided to school children as a dietary supplement. We had no school lunches per se in those days that I can recall. We were limited to one pair of shoes each year during World War II rationing.

Gasoline for automobiles was severely rationed with the greater quantities going to folks like doctors (yes, they made house calls then), and to men and women working in defense-related jobs. And, oh yes, automobiles were also in short supply as the automobile manufacturers were turning out tanks, jeeps, trucks and airplanes by the tens of thousands monthly in support of the war effort. A one car garage was adequate for the fortunate few with automobiles.

We had no Boy Scouts of America troop because there were no scout leaders available. The men who would have normally served in these positions were drafted or volunteered to serve their country in a different uniform, that of soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or Coast Guard. All would serve for the "duration." Some became prisoners of war, while others were less fortunate and paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom.

During World War II, everybody in this great country made sacrifices of one kind or another. We all literally were forced to do more with less. The war-making machine, along with the warriors, had priority on all raw materials. Tin cans became precious scrap metal, and were the forerunner of the "recycling" effort we know today.

Women became the key element on the factory floors throughout the nation. They were indispensable to the manufacturing of our weaponry, and were extremely important as ferry pilots flying all makes and models of combat aircraft from the factories to the Army Air Force bases. Many also made key contributions and sacrifices in the uniformed military services.

Sharing with the less fortunate was prevalent. And coming out of the Great Depression of the 1930s there were many who answered to the term "less fortunate." The impact of wartime shortages was controlled to a large degree by federal enforcement of price controls.

During and immediately after World War II, there were five plus years of significant contributions, major sacrifices, and getting by with only the basic necessities. The World War II generation of adults moved America forward after the war; and they moved this nation forward in a mighty impressive way. Our lifestyle today is, in large measure, a consequence of their sacrifices of yesterday.

When I reflect back on my childhood days in time of national peril, I can't help but think of the national peril we face today. Clearly the enemy is different. We have no nation-states engaged in a colossal war with us. Instead we have shadowy figures without borders employing asymmetrical warfare -- terror -- against us and our friends throughout the world.

We are once again at war in this country! I call it WWT, a World War on Terrorism.

A year has passed since the never-to-be-forgotten September of 2001. America lost its innocence and many of its freedoms on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.

A year ago in mid-September we were truly a nation united! American flags were everywhere, churches were an OK place to be seen and families ate, played and prayed together.

How do we feel today? Do we feel as though we are again at war? Are we willing to make the sacrifices necessary to defeat international terrorism? Or has our resurgence of patriotism trailed off from a year ago? Would we tolerate the sacrifices demanded of our parents and grandparents during World War II?

We need to focus our thinking. We are a nation at war! Sacrifices are necessary.

I don't mean to imply that we need to return to the days of rationing or drafting young men for military service. Certainly, we should go about our daily lives and enjoy America's freedoms.

Quite importantly, we need to know the incredible consequences which lie ahead if we do not confront the international terrorist enemy we face. Simply stated, we stand to lose our freedoms and our exceptional way of life as we know it. Sacrifices must be made.

We should all reflect on our sentiments today as we approach the first anniversary of Sept. 11. We should also note there are those in this world who seek to do us harm and to destroy our freedoms and way of life. Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction

are

a threat. Military action to insure a regime change there is likely.

Author and Nobel Prize winner, Pearl S. Buck may have said it best: "When good people in any country cease their vigilance and struggle, then evil men will prevail."

We must not let that happen in America.

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