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Remembering When All America Went To War

The United States is not at war. Our Armed Forces and their families and friends are at war. If all Americans had been included in the ill-conceived invasion of Iraq there would be possibly a meatless Tuesday, sugar and flour rationing books. We would have been challenged to pay more taxes rather than cut taxes. In World War II all Americans went to war.

Football and baseball major leaguers (Bob Feller, Ted Williams and many more) signed up with the military. Movie stars (Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, Charles Bronson, George C. Scott, Tyrone Power, and others) joined the services. Movie actresses Carol Lombard, Bette Davis, and Greer Garson sold bonds and made tours of the military camps. John Wayne did his part by making war movies.

Dorothy Lamour, famous for her sarong, was credited with personally selling over $350 million in bonds. Football and baseball owners did their share, special games were held in which a war bond was the price of admission. Beautiful Hungarian movie star Hedy Lamarr gave kisses to buyers of $25,000 bonds. According to millitaryhistory.com, one man became extremely excited and fainted before he could collect.

When I was popping corn for the former Lyric Theater on Center Avenue, part of my weekly salary went for war bond stamps. They were 10 cents a stamp and when the little book of stamps was filled ($18.75) I could cash it for $25 after the war. The yield on the bonds was 2.9 percent. In 1943 I only made about $2 a week so it took a lot of dimes to help the war effort. The median income in 1942 was about $2,000 a year. I contributed more when I was promoted to full-time usher.

Rita Hayworth sacrificed the bumpers from her car for the duration or World War II. Besides setting an example by turning in unessential metal car parts, everybody I knew was collecting less-famous bits of metal for the war effort. (The last time I saw Rita was on the rear end of a train leaving the Santa Fe Depot–she and others were entertaining the solders at Camp Bowie.)

Everybody became involved in the war effort. Those drafted or enlisted were in for the “duration.” From the sports world an unusual baseball game was played in New York City. I never heard of such before or since–a three-way game between the New York Yankees, the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Each team went to bat six times in the same nine-inning game against rotating opponents. The final score was Dodgers 5, Yankees 1 and Giants 0. The event brought in $56.5 million in war bond sales.

The most successful single event for raising funds for the war was a 16-hour marathon radio broadcast on CBS that featured singer Kate Smith, who was already famous for her moving rendition of God Bless America. Nearly $40 million worth of War Bonds were sold. Even the Madison Avenue people donated $23.4 million in advertising. The radio marathon total was almost 19 million dollars.

On Jan. 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his message to Congress, spoke of a world founded on four essential human freedoms: “We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms: The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–Everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want…everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear … anywhere in the world.”

Britt Towery, a retired Baptist missionary, writes for the Brownwood Bulletin in Brownwood, Texas. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />