What I Remember About World War II
By Emmeline Kay Bittle Stockseth
I had graduated from high school in 1934 and was having fun going to dances and dating boys. What did I care about what was going on in the world? I was, however, aware of a new leader in Germany in 1935, Adolph Hitler. Germany was across the Atlantic Ocean . What happened there didn’t affect me, I thought.
I met Stephen Stockseth in 1939. Stephen and I married in 1940. His parents had come to the United States from Norway . They always had loving feelings for the land they had left. When I first met Steve’s mother she was quite upset and crying because Hitler’s army had invaded Norway . That was the first time I realized the war across the ocean was closer now and the Stockseth family had concern and fear, but it didn’t concern me until one Sunday morning on December 7th, 1941, the radio news was that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. So America was in the war. Steve’s four brothers Rudy, Harold, Joe and Vern were drafted into the war. Steve’s sister’s husbands, Russ and Vere were drafted also and all went overseas to fight. Steve was not sent to war because of his health problem, Narcolepsy, and also he had to work and support me and our two girls, two year old Jean and baby Carol.
Life was changing. There were food shortages and so many government regulations. We received ration stamps (government papers that allowed us to get only limited amounts of sugar, flour, meat, shoes, gasoline and other commodities.) Clothing factories changed to making parachutes and army clothes for the fighting men. Automobile companies began to make fighting machines.
Our little family was fortunate. Stephen worked at a food market and we always had enough to eat. I could not buy yardage and clothing. We made underwear out of cloth flour bags if we could get them. I cut up a tablecloth and made two little dresses for my little girls. We saved tin foil, wound string into balls for future use, and collected bottles and newspapers.
Almost all countries were in the war. Even women joined the armed forces and put on uniforms. We wrote to Steve’s brothers on one page of paper called V letters. Rudy fought in Guadalcanal, Harold was a paratrooper in Europe, Joe served in Alaska , Vern was in the United States Navy. They all came back safely and none were wounded.
I remember the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and that ended the war. A lot was kept secret and so I had no idea of all the damage done: 92,000 people killed on August 6th in that bombing, people tortured in prison camps, starvation, etc. I was just pleased to know the war was ended and on that day we celebrated with out neighbors. Auto horns were honking and people were dancing in the streets.
While reading about my grandmother’s experiences, Luke and Isabel were amazed at the idea that things like string and foil had to be saved and rationed. I explained that to this day “great-grandma Kay” STILL saves and rations…(a little too much.) Isabel commented that she sure wouldn’t want Adam to drop his bomb on her. Luke and I had to explain the whole atom Adam thing to her. I would love to see what those cute tablecloth dresses looked like.
This account from my grandmother is such proof to me that history text books don’t work. They are very cold, unfeeling and forgettable. Biographies, autobiographies, and even historical fiction are far better at helping you be there.