Life on the Home Front-Aileen Bos

July 1, 2015

 

My parents, four brothers, sister and I lived in the Riverbend area just three and one-half miles southwest of Kingsburg, California. I was thirteen, and Gerald was fifteen on that fateful day of Sunday, December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

 

We were riding horses at my Uncle Davis' place in the country. As we returned to the barn, parked in the yard, was a car with radio blaring full blast. Family members were gathered around, listening intently to the excited voice of the speaker. Their faces were grim, and some looking incredulous. It was the following day when the full impact settled in as we heard President Franklin D. Roosevelt announce, "We are at war, this is a date that will live in infamy." Our family meals were usually filled with conversation and laughter, but now my parents sat stoned-faced, and we all listened for the noise of aircraft overhead. My father was adamant about protecting his family, and volunteered after long working hours in the fields, to act as an air warden on watch at the makeshift lookout in the evenings. Sometimes, he took my brothers and me along, and we all studied the charts, noting the outlines of American and enemy aircraft.

On January 14th, President Roosevelt authorized the transfer of more than 10,000 Japanese-Americans living in the coastal Pacific to internment camps in various inland areas, resulting in many losing their homes and property. Several of the farmers in the Riverbend area watched after their Japanese neighbors' farms for the duration. My two best school friends were Pearl Kubota and Michiko Shiine. We waved a tearful farewell to them at the Kingsburg Legion Hall as they boarded the buses with their families to go we knew not where.

 

Concern to help the cause, plus the nagging fear of his four sons being drawn into the war, were prime factors in my parents' decision to move to Carmichael outside of Sacramento. They began work in the Sacramento Air Depot at McClellan Field. Dad worked with the crew who cleaned motors and parts of aircraft by dropping them into large vats of cleaning solvent. Mom was a "Rosie the Riveter" actually working on the fuselage and outer surfaces of the planes. They worked the swing shift. Therefore, being the oldest girl, I was responsible for getting everyone up and ready for school

My brother, and I belonged to a teenage church group in Carmichael. We pooled our resources, and luckily, one member was of age to drive us in his car to a Turkey Hatchery nearby where we worked in the evenings candling eggs. Occasionally, we had an evening at the roller rink in North Sacramento. The war was always on our minds, as we observed the rationing of gasoline, butter, Crisco, and nylons, saving the green stamps and walking to spare the driving when possible. Stark realism to our teenage world occurred when members of our group left for service. Then, we learned about V-mails.

 

On February 7, 1943, shoe rationing began limiting civilians to three pairs of leather shoes per year, and meat rationing allowing 28 ounces per week, then fats, canned goods, and cheese were rationed. We shared fresh tomatoes and vegetables with our neighbors from our "Victory garden" and took advantage of leftover harvest in the fields, gleaning the fruit for canning. The May 29, 1943, cover of the Saturday Evening Post featured Norman Rockwell's interpretation of "Rosie the Riveter" as an American icon. Anti-black race riots broke out in Detroit, then later in Harlem and New York City. Gold star banners began to appear in windows, noting the lives of loved ones lost in the battles.

One day Mom returned home from work alone, announcing that Dad was in the hospital. The fumes from the cleaning vats had overcome him, and his already weak lungs could not handle the pressure. His job was through.

We moved back to the Central Valley to Reedley. Dad hoped that a farm venture might delay Gerald's entry into the service. We were juniors at Reedley High in 1943-44. Zealous Reedley High students met weekly for bond rallies. Only 2 or 3 young men attended Reedley College meeting on the high school campus, for most of the eligible young men had gone to war.

 

In the summer of 1944, brother Gerald was drafted into the Army, leaving for training at Camp Roberts, then assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for artillery training.

 

In April 1945 my brother's unit gathered at Fort Ord in California to ship out. Shortly after his nineteenth birthday in July, Gerald boarded the USS C.G. Morton troop ship with his 222nd Field Artillery Battalion, 40th Division. It took a month zigzagging across the water to avoid submarine attacks. They unloaded prisoners overnight in New Guinea, and then proceeded to Panay in the Philippines. Because he knew how to type, he was assigned to the Clerk's office. Not liking the desk job, he volunteered for bodyguard duty. He recalls the maneuver with the Marine Division for a diversionary invasion four or five days before the actual scheduled invasion of Japan. They were told eighty-percent casualties of American troops were expected. He was dressed in full gear climbing down the nets to the LST to head for the shore, when they received word Japan had surrendered.

 

On August 14, 1945, after Japan surrendered, shrill whistles blew, horns honked and voices filled the air with shouts. We wept with joy. President Truman declared August 14th V-J Day.

 

Besides my brother Gerald, my younger brothers each served in three separate branches of the military: Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard. My first husband was a navy man, and our eldest son served with the Air Force 72nd Air Refueling Squadron in Desert Storm. My husband, Gene Bos, was a navy man. He was discharged as an Electricians Mate, Third Class on October 6, 1947.

 

 

 

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