Robert C. Daniels

Author / Adjunct History Professor

Author of: 

- 1220 Days: the story of U.S. Marine Edmond Babler and his experiences in Japanese Prisoner of War Camps during World War II

- World War II in Mid-America:  Experiences from rural Mid-American during the Second World War 

- Several published military history articles at www.militaryhistoryonline.com.

 

Order Autographed copies of books directly from the author

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About 1220 Days

About World War II in Mid-America

Read Interviews

Order autographed copies

Exploring Norfolk Cemeteries Project

Read Some of My Published Articles:

Ed Gein:  the Cannibal Myth Exposed

World War II Veteran Interview

Hell Ship - From the Philippines to Japan

Interview of a WWII Veteran

The Failures at Spion Kop

The Quality of the Combatants in the Black Hawk War

The Muslim Horde's Easy Invasion of Iberia

MacArthur's Failures in the Philippines

Failures of Democracy Led to the Rise of Communism during the Spanish Civil War

Hitler, Germany's Worst General

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About "World War II in Mid-America"

Published by authorHouse, ISBN 9781477236833, World War II in Mid-America can be ordered directly from the publisher at http://www.authorhouse.com, from on-line bookstores such as Barnes & Nobel (www.barnesandnoble.com) and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com), or from your favorite bookstore.  It is available in Hardcover and Softcover versions, as well as in ebook form.

Autographed copies can also be ordered directly from the author:  World War II In Mid-America

 

World War II in Mid-America:  Experiences from rural Mid-America during the Second World War is a year by year account in an historical-biographical format of 34 individuals as the war progressed, telling their stories--what they experienced, how they lived, how they sacrificed, etc. 

 

In short, World War II in Mid-America is an exploration of how the Second World War affected typical small-town America using Waupun, Wisconsin, and its surrounding area, as well as its citizens, as a back drop, solely because this is the town the author came from, the town he is familiar with.    Special attention is paid to what the people of the Waupun area did during the war--not only the military men and women who fought and served in the war, but also their spouses, sons, daughters, girlfriends, fathers, mothers, etc., who held down the home-front--as well as what affect the war had on the Waupun area as a community.

Of the 34 individuals whose stories are told, 33 were interviewed via videotape, with the 34th individual's story related via email and other written correspondence.  All of the interviews have since been transferred into DVD format as well as transcribed into Word® documents.  Although the contents of the DVDs are considered copyright material, copies have been sent of the individual interviews (in DVD format) to each of the interviewees for their and their families' personal use.  Copies of all of the DVDs have also been sent to the Waupun Historical Society for its use.  In addition, the interviews in their entirety, in Word® format, have been combined into a booklet format.  Copies of this booklet have been sent to the Waupun Historical Society, the Waupun High School library, and the Waupun Public Library for their archival use.  All of these interviews can be viewed in their entirety by selecting "Read Interviews" to the left.

 

Selected Excerpts from World War II in Mid-America

By all accounts, the Second World War was one of the most singular world shaping events of all time.  Never before had such a war been fought by and effected so many differing nations; over fifty countries or dependencies were involved in one way or another.  The casualty rates were staggering by all accounts.  Estimates on the military and civilian death toll vary from sixty million to around seventy-five million, and this does not include the millions upon millions that were wounded, injured, or displaced. 

Like the First World War, the United States was a relative latecomer to the Second World War, not fully becoming engaged in the conflict until after the 7 December 1941 Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and other Allied Pacific outposts.  Once engaged, however, the United Stated entered the war with everything it had, eventually fighting in every theater of the conflict and sending over sixteen million of its sons and daughters to the fight.  Over three hundred twenty thousand of these would be either killed or wounded. 

Unlike many of the previous wars, however, and even the wars since—the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, and even the first Persian Gulf war (1991), as well as the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—the Second World War did not just involve the military.  In World War II the entire country went to war, with those that stayed home full-heartedly supporting the war effort in any way they could throughout its entire duration.  There were no anti-war riots, and very few, if any, anti-war protests.  There were very few draft dodgers; for that matter, it was considered nearly a disgrace for any able bodied man of service age to be seen on the streets throughout the United States not in uniform.  Many of the disabled even attempted to enlist, sometimes more than once, to ‘do their part’; some would eventually be accepted.  Others lied about their age to enlist, some actually being in their mid-teens.  It was also a time when movie actors, directors, and producers, professional athletes, politicians, and sons of presidents and congressmen flocked to the recruiting stations—not to do so would have been considered unpatriotic.

Those who were not able to serve in the military due to their gender, age, health, or, in some instances, where the need was greater for the individual to serve in factories or on farms for the nation’s and the war effort’s good, including the parents, grandparents, wives, sisters, brothers, girl friends, and even children of the servicemen and women, eagerly and unwaveringly served their country’s war effort in other ways.  They not only stood firmly behind the war effort, they also endured rationing, many times going without such staples as sugar, new clothes, new shoes, tires, gasoline, silk stockings, and new cars.  Even old cars often sat idle for months and sometimes years on end when repair parts or replacement tires became non-existent.  These Americans gathered and donated, without expecting any reimbursement, anything the government requested for the war effort.  They also helped and supported each other, many times without even being asked to do so, and they seldom if ever grumbled about their difficulties and shortages—because it was for the war effort.  

What follows is their story, many times quoting their own words using the exact dialect and idioms in which they related them, representing their thoughts, their views, and how they experienced the war, with no apologies made nor intended to conform to the modern concept of political correctness.  These accounts are not from a politician’s view, or a military leader’s view, or even a historian’s view, but the view of the everyday citizen, soldier, sailor, and airman who lived through the World War II era.  Although it is a story that centers around one small, rural, mid-western community, this community can easily be considered indicative of nearly every small, rural community in the heartland of America.  The area of the country for this narrative was chosen simply because it is the town and community the author grew up in; it is a community he is familiar with.  But it is also a community that readily represents many thousands of other rural, small American towns throughout the country.

Although it is in fact a story about the Second World War, it is not intended to be in itself a history of the war.  Instead, it will only cover the theaters and battles of the war that were experienced—and then only to the extent that they were experienced—by those individuals included within these pages.  It is the story, however, of the honest, hard working, patriotic American of that generation.  It is the story of the soldier, the airman, the Marine, and the sailor; why, how, and where they fought in the war, as well as how the war affected their lives—including many of their pre-war as well as post-war experiences.  It is also the story of the housewife, the factory worker, the farmer, the girlfriend, and the children of the era.  The story of how they too willingly sacrificed to win the war against Japan and Nazi Germany; and how the war changed their lives, as well as how they lived their lives before, during, and after the war.  In short, it is a study of how rural small-town America contributed to and fared during the Second World War through the eyes of some of those who witnessed and lived it.

Our story begins in the mid 1930’s, since this is when most of those featured grew up struggling through the Great Depression, a time when many did not even have electricity and running water in their homes and country schools.  A time when youngsters walked a mile or more to and from school—in all forms of weather.  It was also a time when one out of every four adults was out of work, and had been for quite some time due to the Depression.  We then move onto that fateful day in December of 1941 when the United States was suddenly and shockingly forced into World War II, and then follow our featured characters from year to year as the war progressed and finally came to an end.  

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Sunday, 7 December 1941, for most Americans began as any average Sunday.  People awoke, had breakfast, and went about their normal Sunday routines.  Many, as usual, attended their regular religious services.  Others relaxed while some went to their place of employment or milked cows and fed their farm animals.  But at approximately 8 o’clock in the morning in Hawaii—1 p.m. Central Time (Waupun, Wisconsin, time) and 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (Washington, D.C., time)—Japanese carrier launched naval fighters, dive bombers, and torpedo planes were attacking United States military installations and naval ships at Pearl Harbor.  This attack, as well as attacks on other Allied outposts in the Western Pacific, took the United States by storm . . . and shock. 

The news of these attacks spread quickly, especially for a time before television, cell phones, and the internet, when radio, telegram, newspapers, and, when installed, telephones were the quickest means of communication.  Because of this, however, although many people were to learn of the attacks the afternoon of the same day they occurred, many did not hear about them until the next day, 8 December. 

“I was in the barracks,” recalled Army Private Charles Vellema: 

It was on Sunday about four o’clock in the afternoon, North Carolina time.  We had an old radio. . . .  The plastic cover was all off [of it], we just had the tubes.  And most everybody was gone on Sunday.  I remember being in there, and then news came over that Pearl Harbor had been attacked . . . it was hard to believe that something like that could happen.

In Wisconsin, upon hearing the news, Nova Wagner was “Scared!  I just knew it would mean more young men would be called on, and I had brother-in-laws, my sisters were married.”  She had also been dating Charles Vellema, and she knew full well he was already in the Army.

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The first of the year saw Gladys Jolly in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, going through an army entrance exam and physical.  Upon arriving in Milwaukee and departing the train, she met another young lady that was also heading to the Army, so the two of them walked together to the induction center, taking in the sights along the way.  In recalling of her actual induction process, Gladys stated: 

So her and I went into this building, and they started processing us, you know.  We were there all day.

Went through physicals, went through interviews . . . you know, everything.  And then they posted us around about, oh, I think it was about 4 o’clock or 5 in the afternoon, who was to be accepted.  Well, naturally you are scared.  Well, geez, if I don’t join I have to go back home to the needle works or something.  But I was accepted.  And so was my girlfriend, Eddie.  So we were at that time good old privates. 

            Gladys was then shipped back home to Ripon, Wisconsin, to await her entrance date.  As she stated concerning her homecoming: 

Well, I had to call dad because they were going to send us back on our trains; well, dad because the trains came into Ripon.  But on the way back it came into Fond du Lac [Wisconsin].  It seemed that was the stopping place, so dad had to come over to Fond du Lac and get [me].  He wasn’t too happy with me.  But yet he said, “If that’s what you choose out of life, then I’ll except it.”  But he said, “It . . . was hard to lose you and your brother.”  He said, “We were proud of you.

Gladys’ brother had also joined the Army; therefore, both of Arthur and Rose Jolly’s children would go to war.


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Concerning the rationing books and rationing, Charlotte Mehlbrech, only about ten years old as the time, remembered that

[E]veryone in the family got one . . . every child, every person. . . .  But it was for shoes, for gas, and anything . . . I often thought it must have been butter, also.  And I know it was sugar because I went to a church camp and I had to have five pounds of sugar.  And my mother was very upset because I had to have money [also], of course, for the camp.  And it was camp Winmore is the name of it.  And I had to take that five pounds of sugar. 

And ladies had to can without sugar, they would can without sugar because they thought they could maybe have enough stamps for to buy and put the sugar in later when we took it from the sealer, you know.  But it was very hard on the people. 

As an eight year old at the time, Bessie Douma also remembered that everyone, even children, were issued ration cards.  Interestingly, she still had a ration booklet when interviewed, which she brought along.  It had been issued to her when she was eight years old.  On the front cover it contained her name, height, and weight, along with the Rural Route 2, Randolph, Wisconsin, address where she lived at the time.  As she stated, “I was eight years old when I was given this book, and I was four feet and three inches tall and weighed fifty pounds.”  She then read a statement contained on the back cover of the ration card:

This book is the property of the United States Government.  It is unlawful to sell it to any other person or to us it or permit anyone else to use it, except to obtain rationed goods in accordance with regulations to the Office of Price Administration.  Any person who finds a lost war ration book must return it to the War Price and Rationing Board which issued it.  Persons who violate rationing regulations are subject to $10,000 fine or imprisonment or both.

When finished reading from the booklet, Bessie stated, “Did they not mean business, huh?” relating to the $10,000 fine.

 

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The beginning of 1943 saw nineteen year old Walter Riel begin his military training.  “My basic training was [in] Atlantic City [New Jersey],” he recalled.  “That was an Air Force training camp.  Then they sent me to Camp Crowder, Missouri.  That was a Signal Corps [school].”  It was at Camp Crowder where Walter realized that he was no longer in the Army Air Corps.   As he explained, “That’s where I said, ‘What am I doing here?’  Because I enlisted in the Air Force to be a mechanic.  They says, ‘Quit your bitchin’,’ and handed me a wrench and a telephone poll.  But that’s the way it happened at that time, see.”  Although he tried to get back into the Air Corps, he would have difficulty doing so. 

Also entering the military, having recently turned nineteen and receiving his draft notice, was Emil Hopp.  After saying goodbye to his job at Shaler’s National Rivet and Manufacturing Company, he entered the Army on 27 January.  Like the State of Wisconsin had done for Robert Daniels, Shaler’s also made the promise to hold Emil’s job for him until his return.  Emil would then spend the next several months at Camp Howze in Texas in training, after which he was assigned as a medic to A Company, 311 Medical Battalion, which was attached to the 86th Infantry Division.

 

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Last updated on 19 Jul 2014 .   

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