World War II,
Memories of William Warren
The following was written by William Warren, of Broadalbin, NY. It is transcribed here with permission. Donated by Broadalbin Historian, Gordon Cornell.
As luck would have it our one and only radio was out of commission that Sunday evening in December. A family friend who stopped by mentioned reports of some hostile military action in the Hawaiian Islands. The only way to satisfy my curiosity was to sneak into my father’s unoccupied and darkened automobile radio repair shop and hear for myself about the disaster at Pearl Harbor. To a 10 year old, it represented something new and exciting to talk about in school the next morning. I could sense that it was serious business and was more than a bit scared at first.
It might have been different had I had a big brother or close family relative of draft age to really bring home the war. As it was, I could only get involved by bringing dimes to school to buy a $25 war bond, spending some rainy fall afternoons picking milkweed pods for navy life preservers, or occasionally accompanying the adults to our local Civil Defense observation tower to watch for enemy airplanes. But would they ever be able to find our small village, and why would they really want to anyway?
About the only way to derive a sustained if vicarious thrill from it all was to daily move around the colored pins on the giant world battlefield map that I had sent for. I imagined that our den resembled the war rooms in Washington. The radio was the best way to keep the map current, so I joined the family’s nightly ritual of loyal listenership. Since our local NBC affiliate emitted the strongest signal it became a steady diet of the likes of H. V. Kaltenborn who always sounded so very serious, John W. Vandercook whose use of short wave reports from around the world was always punctuated with all those static pops and crackles, and Lowell Thomas who usually managed to make my father laugh before signing off.
Such devotion to the broadcast news really paid off when my father and I took the train to New York on Thanksgiving Day 1943 and I prevailed on him to include the NBC Studio tour at Rockefeller Center. When not a single adult could identify Vandercook’s bearded countenance, I had the temerity to show them up. Even if I was little reddened by their rather embarrassed laughter, I was sure that my father must have been proud of his precocious son, by then a teenage news junkie.
Fleshing out all the mental images of the war that the radio provided me were those riveting photos in each week’s Life magazine, even if my folks weren’t positive I should be looking at them all. I even traded some of my bubble gum cards for an extra copy if I needed both sides of the page for my burgeoning vertical file collection.
America’s hero in the early days of the war might well have been General MacArthur but for me it was Life correspondent Carl Mydans who was covering the fallback on Bataan and siege of Corregidor. I felt compelled to write him to say how much I admired his work and his courage, and to tell him of my long-since deflected ambition to be a foreign correspondent. I can’t really recall his written response, but the personally signed acknowledgement was worthy enough to be kept in my box labeled World War II momentos. Presently I have searched the attic for the note, but like so much of our youthful naivete, idealism and enthusiasm for the war, it seems to have disappeared in the space of nearly fifty years.
Still and all, it was an exciting time to be growing up.
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Copyright ©2001, William Warren
Copyright ©2001, Allyn Hess Perry, Jeanette Shiel
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Last updated Tuesday, 13-May-2008 13:37:13 PDT