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By Linda Emley
There are a few more stories from World War II that I want to share that are pieces of history that might be lost if they hadn’t been recorded in the local newspapers.
On Aug. 7, 1944, the Richmond Missourian ran a story from the Polo newspaper. “German Tank and Gun Went Through Polo Last Week. In her column, ‘As I was Saying’, Frances Fulton of the Polo News-Herald writes: ‘About noon Sunday a freight train paused at the station a few minutes. On it was a big German tank and anti-aircraft gun which proved of great interest to a group of people waiting for the noon train. The muzzle of the gun was split and flared out four ways, and both it and the tank had seen plenty of use. One boy had started to do a typically American trick by cutting a piece of rubber from one of the tank boggie wheels for a souvenir when the train pulled out.”
My first question was where the tank was headed, but after I read it again, I had to laugh at the comment about “a typically American trick.” How many times have we picked up a souvenir and later found it in a drawer and wondered where it came from?
Somewhere in Polo, a little boy had a piece of rubber from a German tank. We can only hope that he put it in a good place where his mother didn’t find it and throw it away thinking it was just an old piece of rubber.
I found this emotional story in the July 3, 1944 Richmond Missourian: “When the first two landing boats disgorged their human cargo on the beach of Normandy, from one of the boats came Brig. Gen. W.M. Hoge of the engineers, and from the other boat came his son, Capt. W.M. Hoge Jr. of the artillery. Neither knew of the other’s presence until they met on the landing beach. Capt .Hoge passed safely through this phase of the operation while Gen. Hoge received a slight bruise on one leg from a shrapnel fragment. This information was received by Mrs. Hoge here in Lexington – Lexington Intelligencer.”
We’ve all seen scenes like this in old movies, but since this one is real, it really made me stop and think about how emotional it must have been for this father to see his son fighting on the beach of Normandy. Did they hug or did Capt. Hoge salute Gen. Hoge and both men carry on?
Not all soldiers had life-altering experiences like the landing of Normandy, but their jobs were just as important. This is from the Missourian, also in 1944. “Monte Flett Continues Trade In The Army. The Liberty Tribune says, ‘Monte Flett, the meat cutter at Kroger’s before Uncle Sam sent him one of his greetings letters, just can’t lay that cleaver down. Monte thought he was going into the navy, but he wound up as a buck private and now, of all things, he’s slicing meat for the other G.I.’s over at Fort Leavenworth. Monte was a meat cutter at the local Kroger store before going to Liberty.”
A local weed found in Ray County even had a place in the war effort. This was in the paper on Aug. 10, 1944: “Milkweed Pods to Be Collected Here for Making Life Jackets. Plans are under way to enlist the aid of Ray County Organizations in gathering milkweed pods for the light buoyant floss needed as a substitute for kapok in making life jackets and aviator’s suits, according to information received by O.H. White, chairman, Ray County USDA War board. Milkweed floss has been tested and found to be the only immediately desirable material for the comfortable and widely used Mae-West life jacket. Kapok came from Java, which is now occupied by the enemy.
“The Commodity Credit Corporation will furnish bags free and will pay 15 cents a bag for picking. Otis Chandler, county superintendent of schools, plans to work out a very detailed program for the collection of milkweed in Ray County, seeking the aid of the rural schools, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Future Farmers of America, organizations, vocational agriculture students, 4-H clubs and woman’s extension clubs of Ray County. Since the collection of two bushel sacks of milkweed will furnish enough material for one life preserver, it is hoped that the above organizations will furnish many preservers from Ray County. A little time spent in the collecting of milkweed may mean the saving of the life of some man in the service. The picking will be done in September and October.”
I ran across another article in the Missourian on July 6, 1944. It really seemed strange that the wife of such a famous outlaw lived to see WW II: “Widow of Outlaw Frank James Died Today at Excelsior. Mrs. Anna James, 92 years old, of three miles northeast of Kearney, died at 9 o’clock this morning at the Excelsior Springs Hospital. She has been suffering from anemia for several years. She was the widow of the late Frank James, ‘notorious Missouri Outlaw’ and she was a sister-in-law of Jesse James. She spent her childhood at Independence. She is survived by one son, Robert James of the farm where she made her home.”
The first A-Bomb was dropped in Japan on Aug. 6, 1945. I find it amusing that two days later, Russia finally decided to join the war in the Pacific. I guess it’s better late than never. Richmond News, Aug. 8, 1945: “BULLETIN: Russia Declares War Against Japan. President Truman announced at 2 o’clock this afternoon that Russia has entered the War against Japan.”
Finally, on Aug. 15, 1945, the Richmond News announced the end of WW II. “THIS IS IT … CITY JOINS IN REJOICING. Band Plays, Crowds Cheer, Straw Burns, Tears and Silent Prayers. At 6 o’clock on Tuesday evening nearly everyone in this city sat with their ears literally glued to the radios eagerly listening for the sweetest words of them all.
“The first indication of public celebration came with the bells ringing at the Church of God on E. Lexington St. Shortly afterward other bells were ringing, guns fired and shouting all over the town. Someone apparently had plenty of spare straw and was willing to share it with everyone else. Piles of the straw were scattered through out the business district and eventually burned. Night watchmen and members of the fire department were on hand to keep the flames under control.”
Have a story for Linda? Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.