Of course, I don’t remember it. I was only about eight months old and my priorities were age appropriate: Feed me, change me, let me sleep, don’t bug me. You know. What babies do. I didn’t read or listen to the radio (no television back then) and my mom and dad were pretty much my world.
If only I had known! Just four weeks earlier, on December 7th, the Japanese Navy had bombed Pearl Harbor and we were suddenly at war. Within days America’s war had expanded to include Germany and Fascist Italy. The outlook for a child born in that time frame was pretty bleak. My dad was facing being drafted and my mom was worried about what would we do then for money to live on.
We lived in Chicago, in the dead of winter, so there was that to contend with. My grandpa took care of pretty much everything we needed my parents couldn’t provide. I had an aunt who was a teenager then and she helped baby sit me. Life was pretty good for me, not so good for everyone else.
I don’t have much memory of what went on for another few years and what I remember was the war being blamed for everything bad. No coffee at the grocery store? It was the war. No gas for the car? It was the war. Streetcar was late? You name it. If it was bad it was the war.
Then, suddenly one day the war was over. I definitely remember that. World War II was in the history books. As it turned out my dad got the expected draft notice but failed his physical due to an illness, and instead of military service he went to a hospital.
Most of what I know about the war I learned from reading or movies and I can only imagine what that first New Year’s Day was like. My family had to have felt fear. Since our family’s roots were in Germany and Poland there had to be concern about those relatives left behind.
But me? As long as I was well fed and clean I was happy, and my life was pretty simple.
We worry about what the future holds for us and for the world, but I doubt if many of us face a situation as bleak as those around me felt back in January of 1942. Things got better–I think things have a way of working out as long as good people are doing what they can to make them better, but let’s face it: This world is still a pretty scary place.
My advice to Americans and others in this scary world of ours: Do your best to make this world a better place. Don’t hate. Work for the things you want and need. Love your family members and friends, and—if you have a baby—try to make the world a better place for that child, like my family did for me.
And do have a happy 2018!
WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.