Sunday, February 15, 2015

War Baby

Ambrose Dachtera, Mary Catherine Dachtera, Emily Ganas Dachtera 1944

I first heard the term “war baby” as a high school freshman when our class was greeted as the first class of war babies – born in the first year of the United States’ participation in World War II.  The US had resisted involvement until the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. That attack set into motion a full scale national response that affected every citizen in some way.

Seemingly overnight, factories became dedicated to supplying materials for the war effort.  The military needed everything – food, clothing, arms and ammunition, vehicles of all kinds.  This intense focus on wartime military requirements resulted in shortages of goods and materials available to civilians. 

Rationing was the system put in place to make sure that everyone had access to the necessities of life – even if quantities were limited..  Everyone was issued ration books – I had one in my name when I was only 7 weeks old. Children were issued ration books to insure that families had access to adequate goods. When it came to rationed goods, a person was allowed to purchase only a certain amount at any given time.  The books contained stamps that were collected by retailers at the time of purchase.  Rationed items included, rubber, leather, sugar, meat, fats and oils, and gasoline among other things. More information about rationing can be found here

My dad enlisted in the army February 29, 1944. I don’t know why he was not drafted earlier. Maybe his employer, International Harvester was involved in producing military vehicles.  Maybe it was because hie eyesight was so poor. He was accepted as an enlistee 2 years into the war.. Fortunately for me and Mom, he was never sent into battle – he stayed stateside for the duration.

I remember only 2 things from the war years.  I remember Mom flattening empty cans for recycling because steel was so scarce. She’d remove the paper labels rinse thoroughly, then step on them. For some reason I liked the sound when she did that.

Portions of a train trip also remain. Mom and I went to Little Rock, Arkansas once while Dad was stationed there.  We took an overnight train from St. Paul. We had a Pullman berth. The train made many stops along the way and I remember the chugging of the steam engine as it started rolling again after each stop. I remember the rhythmic click-clack of the wheels.  But I have no other memories of that trip.

Two of Mom’s brothers also served in the war. Both were sent overseas. Uncle Bud (Frank) Ganas was captured by German troops and spent time in a Stalag. Uncle Ches (Chester) Ganas served in the 81st Airborne.

The war ended in 1946. Dad was discharged from the army. Companies were required to give jobs to returning former employees who had served in the war.  International Harvester, Dad’s former employer, had purchased a Buick factory in Melrose Park, Illinois – one of Chicago’s western suburbs - and converted it to farm equipment.  That’s where they gave him a job. With so many thousands of service men returning to civilian life, a job offer was precious.

So we moved from St. Paul. Ambrose and Emily bought a house in Northlake, just west of Melrose Park, 400 miles from everything and everyone they loved and began a new life.

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