Daddy's Gone to War: The Second World War in the Lives of America's Children

By William M. Tuttle Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7 School-age Children Fight the War

"ABOVE ALL, as a child I felt invincible," recalled Susan Yarin, a homefront girl. "I felt that nothing would ever happen to me because I was American ...." America's school-age children were certain not only that their nation's cause was just, but that the United States would prevail. "God was on our side ...." explained Beirne Keefer, a homefront boy. 1 This was a war between good and evil; there were no shades of grey, no nuances, especially for America's school-age children. Ranging in age from five or six to puberty, these girls and boys learned well the lesson of their country's righteousness before all nations, imbibing it in their schools, churches, and theaters. Indeed, although feelings of invincibility and moral certainty were two qualities widely shared by the school-age children, another was a sense of personal self-worth, motivated by participation in the war effort. "Our pride in our country," noted a homefront girl, "made us proud of ourselves." Boys and girls collected scrap materials for recycling, and they bought War Bonds and knitted afghans. George Curtis, born in 1935, remembered that even helping his parents perform household tasks made him feel he was making "a genuine contribution" and was "a part of the overall team." Whether helping with the dishes or the farm chores, George saw the war years "as a time for children such as me to feel of greater human worth or value; to be more respected by adults, because we had the opportunity to... contribute." 2

Nell Thomas, whose eighth birthday fell on December 7, 1941, announced that the day was a bust for her. In fact, no one was interested in her birthday "at all, only this thing at a place called Pearl Harbor." It did not take Nell long to realize that the war would quickly become the all-consuming concern of everyone in her hometown of Greensburg, Pennsylvania. "During this whole period of my life," she remembered, "everything was focused on one thing, winning the war. Every American citizen was part of it, whether they were in the service, or an adult or a child. We were all able to contribute in some way. We were constantly

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