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WW2 in Belmont, Massachusetts

I was 8 years old in 1940. My brother 10 yrs old. Our father was hospitalized by the VA, mental breakdown, probably from the recessions of the late 30's. Our family and friends were avid news followers. We lived in Belmont Mass, a diversified income level suburbia.

We never feared a Japanese invasion. We knew enough, my brother was a geography expert, to know logistically it was out of the question.

A cousin of our mother and aunt (they were twins) was a Boston priest and had the Janes Fighting Ships 1941-44 books. We learned a lot from them and him. He was a chaplain of the Boston Fire Department during WW2.

On the east coast, we scoffed at fear mongering of a German invasion. My ex father--in-law, did volunteer wharf guard duty for the Coast Guard. Another cousin of our mother, in the FBI discovered 2-4 German military in a rubber boat landing on I believe the NJ shore.

I helped in my mother's air raid warden duties with aircraft recognition. Our test air raid drills were largely considered neighborhood fun conversations. As a kid I heavily doubted "this Hitler" person had any interest in attempting to take" or invade the US. The anti aircraft batteries on Belmont Hill were considered excessive.

Yet my later home for 18 yrs, Freistatt, a German Lutheran village in Southwest Missouri was harassed and under suspicion because it was German. There were many there who spoke German who were second generation US citizens. The local American Legion post there was nearly all WW2 draftees, taken very late in the war due to farming exemptions.

Everyone was involved in the war effort even before Pearl Harbor. Our town had volunteers go to Canada to get into the RAF. A friend's dad was a Colonel in coast artillery which was activated in Massachusetts. His mother knitted scarfs for the RAF. I made balsa wood models of WW2 era ships and planes. We listened to Gabriel Heater, Walter Winchell, etc. Our aunt who lived with us painted our cellar windows black for refuge during expected air raids. We stocked up on canned goods. We had a '37 Plymouth sedan with an A ration sticker.

I recall the shock of the Pearl Harbor report on the radio, the conversations that day with my brother and sister. I helped in organized scrap drives. We lived a short distance from the main RR line into Boston from the west. We saw passenger cars filled with troops, likely from Fort Devens, flat cars loaded with tanks, military vehicles.

We listened to FDR and Churchill. My mother had great instincts. She did not fully trust FDR, despite his sons presence running a department store we visited. I cut lawns and did other odd jobs in Belmont so I had was neighborhood aware of who went off to war. Volunteering was very common. After the draft started taking more men, all able men drew suspicion as to their status.
We had relatives a bit too old for service so one became a Marine recruiting sergeant, another headed Boston area Red Cross activities. My mother took a job at Raytheon, getting there by car pool. We sold our '37 Plymouth. We very close to the Boston bus service and our aunt took the train to her downtown Boston insurance company employment.
Due to its proximity to Boston, Belmont famlies hosted servicemen, mostly from the UK.They were in our local drugstores and would kid me when I went there to buy some of the five daily newspapers we absorbed. The town set up a structure on a lawn next the town hall displaying the servicemen KIA. I rode my bike there frequently. The lawn had cannons from the Civil War and WW1. I also was familiar with the names of WW1 KIA on a stone memorial in a nearby mini park. I was fascinated by parades more than anyone in my family. My mother took me to bond drive concerts on Boston Common.

We all wanted the war over so life could return to normal. My brother and I were very disappointed that did not happen. Sociological, financial and political changes were vast. Our extended family did not lose anyone in WW2. One relation came home crippled from having to crash land his bomber, but he lived a long life. My mother related to us her conversations with other mothers who did lose sons in WW2. I knew many of them. The worst shock was a neighbor, drafted, killed after a few months in the Battle of the Bulge. Outstanding athlete. His father was never the same. Belmont people were not as addicted to the auto then so I observed many walking to public transportation. We had many MIT and Harvard faculty families in Belmont active in war efforts.


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