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By Linda Emley
After two weeks of reading the Richmond Missourian newspaper from World War II, I have a better appreciation of Ray County during those trying times. Reading history books about the war is totally different than seeing how much it affected our community.
When I ran across the following story, I could see everyone running outside to stand on the sidewalk or in their yard as they watched the planes fly overhead.
The June 21, 1945 newspaper noted that “Eisenhower Flew Over Richmond Today Noon. At noon today, a number of planes flew over Richmond. Approximately 15 minutes later, Gen. Dwight. D. Eisenhower and his escorts arrived at the Kansas City airport. The C-64 transport plane in which the General was traveling circled Columbia, then came northward toward Lexington, where it was met by the remainder of its escort. The planes flew over this city in several groups and nearly every citizen had a quick imaginary glimpse of the five-star General.”
Ike was a man that everyone could look up to and it was obvious that everyone in Richmond felt the same way.
Buying War Bonds was another way that the folks back home could feel like they were helping the war effort. On May 21 of that year, the Missourian said this: “Free Bond Show ,’I Dood It’ Will Be Shown Wednesday. The management at the Farris Theater announces that the picture they have chosen for the free bond show is ‘I Dood It,’ to be shown Wednesday. Admission will be by bond only, and bonds can be purchased at the ticket window. If you have purchased a bond in the 7th war loan bond drive you are entitled to a free ticket to this show.”
During World War II, 85 million Americans purchased war bonds totaling around $185.7 billion. Many Hollywood movie stars helped promote war bonds. Ad for the bonds could even be found on comic book covers, on sheet music, in the newspaper and many other places.
The Farris Theater also made the front page of the May 14, 1945 Missourian when a familiar face was seen on the big screen.”Movie Goers Glimpse a Familiar Figure. In the newsreel shown at the Farris Theater Sunday and tonight, which showed the brutal atrocaties on prisoners of war in Germany many movie-goers caught a glimpse of Bill Dye. Bill, who was a prisoner of war of the Germans for some months, has now been returned to the states and expects to be home shortly.” A newsreel about the war was always shown with the feature film. This was the only way for people to see the war because they did not have TVs yet or the evening news.
There were many stories of POWs in the newspaper. The Missourian had this on June 1, 1944: “The strange parallel of coincidences that has been running through the war careers of two Lafayette County fliers, Lt. George Stier of Lexington and Lt. Darold Jenkins of Higginsville, who were close friends throughout their training period and afterward in England, is holding, according to word received by the parents of the two young men. Both are known in Richmond. Mr. and Mrs. E.T. Stier received official notification of the location of their son, and Mr. and Mrs. Tom Jenkins received like notice of their son’s location, and it developed that the boys are in the same prison camp in Germany and their numbers are said to be close together. Their bombers went down over Germany the same day.”
Another story was published on May 21, 1945: “Sgt. Ralph Kalberloh Liberated In Germany. Word was received at Red Cross headquarters here Friday of the liberation of Sgt. Ralph Kalberloh, who has been interned in a German prison camp for some time.The message left Red Cross headquarters overseas on May 16. Sgt. Kalberloh is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Albert H. Kalberloh of near Richmond.”
In the Sept 13, 1945 newspaper, I found another story about Ralph. “Miss Joan Fry, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Fry of Lexington, and Sgt. Ralph Kalberloh, son of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Kalberloh of Hardin, were married Tuesday afternoon in Kansas City, Kan. The couple left Tuesday night to spend several days in Kansas City. Mrs. Kalberloh attended Lexington High School, and Sgt. Kalberloh, who was a prisoner of the Germans for eight months, will report to San Antonio, Texas on Sept.17 for reassignment. He has been in the army for two years and was overseas four months before taken a prisoner.”
This this on May 31, 1945: “Sgt. Herbert Hamann Writes of Liberation By Russian Army. Mr and Mrs W.G. Hamann on Monday received two letters from their son, Sgt. Herbert Hamann. Sgt Hamann was reported missing in action over Germany on March 18 and this is the first that has been heard from him personally since that time. He wrote that he was taken a prisoner of the Germans on March 18 and sent to Stalag No. 1 concentration camp. He remained a prisoner of that camp until May 1, when the Russians liberated the prisoners of that camp. The Russians held him for 16 days. His first letter was dated May 21. At the time of writing, he was in France waiting for a ship on which to come home.”
There was another side of the POW story that made the Richmond newspaper. This was published on Aug. 6, 1945: “German Prisoners Mistaken: Sergeant Was a Good Jew. German prisoners had put in a full hard day changing tires for the 945th Ordnance Company now active in preparing Ordnance vehicles for shipment to the Far East. At the end of the day according to Lt. Colonel J.S. Hudgens, commanding officer of the Lake City Ordinance Plant, the ordnance sergeant in charge was notified of a rush order. Speaking fluent German, he ordered six of the prisoners to be back after chow. The six weren’t too happy about their extra duty, but they worked hard and completed the job in good time.
“The sergeant then took the prisoners around to the GI mess hall where he scrounged up the leftovers from the evening meal. The prisoners ate heartily. Back to the shop they went to put away their tools. Again speaking in German the Ordnance sergeant suggested that they use some water in a tank for showers. They jumped at the idea.
“Bellies full and bodies clean, the German prisoners felt good. One of them turned to the sergeant and said, ‘You know you are a good German.’
“ ‘No,’ said S. Sgt. Sam Sobel of Brooklyn, N.Y., ‘Just a good Jew.’ ”
I found this interesting story about German POWs working in Missouri because I was looking for a much bigger story in the local paper.
Aug. 6, 1945 was the day that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Three days later, the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Oddly, the Missourian never mentioned either of the bombings. On Aug. 16, the paper finally mentioned plans were being made for V-J Day.
On page 8 of the Aug. 13 paper, there was an article that added another chapter to this story: “Miss Jeanne Smoot of Polo Had Part in Atomic Bomb. At last, friends of Miss Jeanne Smoot may know where she has been stationed. She has been and still is working in the testing labetory of the hospital at Las Alamos, N.M. near Santa Fe, where the famous atomic bomb was created. Sworn to deep secrecy even her parents did not know the nature of her work. She was a member of other graduates of Washington University in St. Louis who were chosen by the army to help in the work. Miss Smoot has indeed been highly honored to be in on such a history-making invention. She has had the opportunity of seeing and meeting many famous people of both Europe and America. Polo News-Herald.”
A story about the Missouri State Fair was in the Missourian on Aug. 9, the same day the second bomb was dropped. “A fully equipped Japanese Zero combat fighter plane shot down during a recent aerial attack in the South Pacific will be on exhibition at the 1945 Missouri State Fair. Still carrying two 7.7 mm machine guns mounted in its nose and a 22-mm cannon in each wing, and with its propeller blades twisted grotesquely, this war prize technically known as the Mitsubishi 00 will appear at the Fair in the interest of Marine welfare for the duration of the fair.”
So now we know that a Japanese Zero airplane and German POWs were both on Missouri soil in 1945. Coming next is a story that hits really close to home because it’s about Ray County’s own World War II POW camp.
Contact Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org or see her at Ray County Museum.