Edit: I wrote the following article a few years ago for a family history class. Grandpa (Charlie) Hughes (Rex's Dad) and Kenny Hughes (Rex's Brother) (the main characters in this story) were residents of Milford Twp for a number of years and in the thirties lived along the east border of our township. After some consideration, it was decided to include it in this history because embedded within it is an abbreviated account of the atmosphere and some of the conditions of the homefront at the time of the Second World War as seen through the eyes of a seven year old youngster. Dale Hughes `55.
The war was fun and games to me. I studied the Christmas `44 maps and pictures which showed the big adventure to me every evening after school on the living room floor. The Des Moines newspaper was spread out all over the floor and I would study it while resting on my elbows and knees with my seat in the air. I felt as though no other "general" ever studied the war with more serious purpose and more intent interest.
It was late '44 and everyone, even a seven-year old second grader, could see things were going America's way in both theaters of the war. Still, there was much effort and sacrifice to be made on the home front. Mom knew she just didn't buy the most desired breakfast cereal- she bought the one that had the best and thickest box because from that she would be cutting a new pair of insert soles for our worn-out, holey shoes in an effort to keep the sandburs from our feet. Scrap-metal drives and paper drives collected mounds of stuff and occasionally really annoyed me because they took away things and pictures that I wasn't through with yet. Bags of milkweed pods hung outside from classroom windows at the School in a big contest to see which homeroom could collect the most of this valuable product which was used to make life vests or jackets for the Navy and Coast Guard. All the fellows in school, which was shut down two weeks each fall for fall harvest, were anxious to participate in the fall harvests because we had been told and we believed that "food would win the war".
Yet, despite all the good news and efforts, trips around the area showed increasing numbers of gold stars on the family service flags that hung in windows of many homes. We all knew in our minds that it wasn't only the Japs and Nazis that were doing all the bleeding and dying. But still, in my heart, I could not imagine my Uncle Kenny (Dad's younger brother and only brother) becoming a statistic on some casualty list even though he was an army combat infantry sergeant in the South Pacific. Becoming a casualty was something that only happened to others- those who were unfortunate enough to be selected by some sub-god of destiny. Besides, only old people died and they had to be sick for a long time and suffer and all their friends and relations had to come to see them and hear about their affliction. There had to be an evaporation and disappearance of hope; so, for any scenario such as this to happen to a young man, my healthy uncle, was impossible.
We played war games, even though it was next to impossible to get playmates to play the part of the enemy soldiers. Almost anything served as an imaginary firearm and when you were "shot and killed" you had to fall down (and dramatically roll to the bottom of the hay stack) and count to fifty and then you could get up and continue the battle that would win the war. We went to movies for a dime about the war and of course, western movies where week after week and time after time we'd see the same actor get "blown away" and there he'd be again in the next movie.
Christmas '44 approached and plans were made for our annual family Christmas supper and gift exchange. Gifts were always rather simple and not of any great economic value. Most items were scarce and, I think we, and others, felt we were helping the home front effort by not being extravagant with gifts-besides there were war bonds and stamps to buy with our money.
One of my most anticipated gifts came from Santa at the church Christmas social and program-one Hershey bar with one big red Delicious Apple and best of all, this didn't have to be shared with anyone because each youngster got his own delicious treasure. (Years later, I learned that Santa got help from a member of the church who just happened to be one of the town's grocers.)
It was exciting anticipating Christmas because some thought the War might be over by Christmas. In late November, new, big, beautiful B-29s were adding a new dimension to the war with their first raids from new bases on Saipan against the evil Japs. Conquering American Armies had the sinister Nazis backpedaling across Europe on their way back to their "Fatherland". Films showed the B-17s and B-24s bombing the bad people while the puffs of antiaircraft flak seemed always to be ineffectively out of range. B-25s and B-26s made low level raids that were thrilling to see and it didn't seem possible they could escape, but they always did. I liked to watch gun camera films from P-47s, P- 38s, and P-51s as they swept down shooting up enemy trains which almost always exploded in a big ball of