By Cindy Jo Ayers
You may not have heard much about it in the news, but the United States of America officially entered World War II 80 years ago on December 11, 1941. The country was swift to enter the war that was already in progress in other parts of the world when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
The following is an account of the war from stories that were printed in the Gilchrist County Journal on December 11, 1941 when the President announced the United States had entered the war. There is also a story entitled “America in War” which was interesting. Then a couple of stories that were printed in a February 22, 1945 issue of the Journal. Both letters were mailed to J. Min Ayers, the late editor of the Gilchrist County Journal and were published in the newspaper. These letters were published so their friends and family would know the latest news. One letter is from Pvt. Joe Deen and another was from Merrill Trammell of Trenton. It seems by reading some of the issues as soon as the local families learned where their sons were stationed, Mr. Ayers was informed so the information could then be published in the Journal so that everyone on the home front was up to date on the latest information. You have to remember in 1940 Gilchrist County had only 4,250 citizens and most families were either related or knew each other well. Back then local phone numbers were only 4 digits and few families had phones. The majority of citizens lived on farms scattered throughout the county. The Journal was the best way to keep everyone informed. This one issue in 1945 gave a lot of interesting information about where Gilchrist County young men were stationed at around the globe. The WWII monument at the courthouse list the 12 Gilchrist County servicemen who were killed in that war.
Maybe by looking back 80 years, we can appreciate the sacrifices made by local young men on our country’s behalf. It should also make us remember that we as a nation and a people have enjoyed 80 years of freedom because of the outcome of World War II.
The Gilchrist County Journal looks back on World War II on this 80th anniversary of our entry into the war.
One note of caution in 1941 or 1945 no one had heard of politically correct speech. These accounts are not edited or changed, they are just as printed in 1941 and 1945.
The headline on the December 7, 1941, Gilchrist County Journal read
“U.S. and Japan at War” -- “America Will Win”
The subhead stated
“Declaration of War Follows Japan’s Attack On Islands in the Pacific”
Nation Backs Its President
The United States of America is at war with the Empire of Japan. Congress having, upon the request of President Roosevelt, passed the Act in joint session declaring this Republic at war with Japan.
The reason for this act was the fact that Japan’s navy and air forces had struck and greatly damaged Hawaii early Sunday morning while President Roosevelt and others at the Nation’s Capital were discussing proposals for continued peace between the nations with special representatives sent to Washington by the Japanese government.
The President called for a special joint session of both Houses and Congress for 12:00 Monday and in person delivered what is perhaps the most forceful speech of all times to the body, declaring the attack of the Japanese on our people and property a most “dastardly attack” and that the United States would so fully whip Japan that never again would such infamous conduct be meted to any nation again by the Japs.
He also said that this would be a long, a hard war, but that we would fight until we had won-because right was with us.
The President signed the declaration of war at 4:10 Monday afternoon, December 8.
Reports declare that about 150 American soldiers were killed in Hawaii Sunday and it was admitted that one warship was sunk by the attack there.
Later advices are to the effect that Japan is attacking Manilla, in the Philippine Islands and other strategic points nearby.
Los Angeles was said to have been visited by enemy planes on Monday morning, but no bombs were dropped.
New York and Boston had an air raid alarm Tuesday, but it was found to be without any enemy planes in that part of the world.
The whole of the United States is now on a war-time basis and will continue so “for the duration.”
AMERICA IN WAR
Sunday... The radio interrupts our Sunday reading of a peace time yarn with the startling news that JAPAN OPENS ATTACK ON USA ... WAR IS ON! So, for the second time within this first half of this Twentieth Century, the United States of America is engaged in active warfare! Exactly twenty-three years after the close of that War to End War in the ‘teens our Nation is once more going out to meet the same foes for the same cause.
Since the Fall of ‘39 there has been fighting and desperate struggle for existence in neighboring countries. Americans have watched the conflict, and have prepared themselves for the inevitable entrance of their own country into that struggle, but-even so-the War has remained “something ‘over there.’” The bombing of towns and cities, the sinking of ships and destroyers, the wailing of sirens and the outright destruction of humanity have remained a distant thing-seen only in newsreels and read of in papers. Now, this Sunday afternoon, the distant ahs become the near. With Japan’s sudden attack on the States the war has become an actual, gigantic reality. Americans have been killed in Hawaii, American property has been destroyed, and Japanese forces are swinging into full stride in their attack against our Democracy. It is expected that Germany will follow Japan’s lead with an outright declaration of war against the United States.
Americans are a peace loving people. They like to follow their own desires, and to allow their neighbor to follow his. No one, in America, kills for the love of killing, and no one kills to gain. Only when her own is threatened does America strike, for she is like a great mother who sits among the folds of her ruffled skirt-she will fight to protect her own, but she never goes out at dawn to seek new battles.
To those of you who knew the last war, this conflict will not be so horrifyingly new. You know that only through national unity can such struggles be won. Everyone must think alike, work alike, and hope alike. Cooperation in our community here assures us of our part in the unity of the Nation. You know this, and you also know that though this is a grave situation, Americans need have no fear, for ours is a great Nation!
Published in February 22, 1945
PVT. Joe Deen Writes From Some Place In France
Some Place in France
Sunday, January 21, 1945
Just a line to say hello and how are things in and around the home town? Boy it’s plenty cold over here. We had a right nice snow this week and there is still plenty of it now. Min, I had a couple copies of the Journal this week and sure did enjoy them. It was most like being at home. Was sure sorry to hear about Lemuel Crocker’s death.
Was glad to learn that Asa is back home, he was having lots of trouble with his knee and leg the last time I saw him in Texas, and boy here is another Florida Cracker that will be glad to feel some more of that good old Florida sand.
I have seen Liverpool, London, Paris and was in Belgium and Germany, but non of it looks as good to me as good old Trenton and boy once I get back there I know two men that are not going to leave there - that’s me and the guy that comes after me.
I am in a darn good outfit that deals with Prisoners of War and I have the occasion to see a lot of the So and Sos and judging from their looks, Hitler must be running out of his Supermen, for I have seen kids of thirteen and men of 60 in Prisoner of War Camps.
The Russians are really going to town now and of course our boys are not asleep on the job so things look good to me now.
Tell all the folks to drop me a line if they feel like it, for boy mail from folks sure peps a fellow up.
Well I must stop and go to work, so I’ll say so long and luck to all.
Just an old friend,
Merrill Trammell Tells of Work the Seabees are Doing
Merrill W. Trammell, EM2-C, in the Seabees, and stationed in the South Pacific writes the following letter giving a good account of the work the Seabees are doing. He writes:
First lets make the title “Seabees make Sixty Baby Cribs Somewhere In the Marianas.” Impossible tasks are sometime difficult for the Seabees, but they get them done and on time. This battalion recently was busy chopping a grade A airfield out of the jungle in about 100 days when a few extra hurry-up jobs were wished onto its personnel.
Navy doctors needed 60 baby cribs for the civilian hospital. The order was turned over to a young carpenter at the carpentry shop and the cribs were delivered in less than a week.
“You can tell the father of a good size family designed and built that crib,” said the senior surgeon when the cribs were delivered. But they were built by a 21 year old youngster who hasn’t even a girl friend.
A revolving air beacon light up to CAA specifications was needed. Seriously, there was no hope of getting it from the States for weeks, and it was needed immediately. This Seabbe battalion turned it out in less than a week from salvaged Japanese junk and some Pyrex from a destroyer. This was the only material that would survive the intense heat of the light beam.
Some got the idea that some nice fresh vegetables were needed for the tens of thousands of men on the island, living mostly on C-rations. Two Federal Economics Administration Supervisors appeared on the scene (namely Lt. Harry E. Wood, formerly of Trenton High School) and 90 men were detached from the battalion to hack farms out of the jungle and produce vegetables.
Fields of mush melons, watermelons, cukes, string beans, onions and others have come into reality on land that was jungle a few months ago. Bulldozers took out the coconut trees by the roots, but the three and four inch bamboo poles were saved to build barns and warehouses. One dozer chased a couple of Jap snipes into a cave. The kid operator piled a few tons of dirt onto the entrance to the cave, then continued to prepare his jungle field for planting.
About 500 acres are under cultivation now. The program calls for a 1500 acre farm, and it will be ready soon. The watermelons already are as big as basketballs and the tomatoes are in blossom. Cukes, Chinese cabbage and radishes are being furnished to various messes in limited quantities.
Adjoining this huge truck farm, another 250 acre area is being cleared. This is a dairy farm. Within a few months this farm will be serving fresh milk produced by the Seabees under F.E.A. supervision.
This battalion has a good pictorial record of its accomplishments here since D-Day. Hundreds of pictures make up the record. Such unofficial jobs as building the Dengue Band, the largest movie on the island, and running a hobby-lobby shop used by more than half of the men in the battalion, are not counted in the records. This work, together with beautifying the camp, all is done in spare time. Seabees also have a reputation of “feeding well”. The tricks they do with C-rations are not duplicated elsewhere.
The Recreation Department is made up of a softball league from every department, basketball, ping-pong tournaments and a very highly rated baseball team.
Among the many Floridians in the outfit besides me are: Leon J. Strickland SF3-C of Bell; Red Crosby MM1-C of Newberry; Herbet W. Priester CM3-C of Lake Butler; Floyd Marshall MM1-C of Orlando; James Powell CM1-C of Cedar Keys and about 250 more of the gator boys from the sunshine stat of Florida.
In closing his letter Merrill said to tell everybody hello for him.
The February 22, 1945 Gilchrist County Journal gave these reports of local men.
PFC. Roman Putchaven returned Saturday to Fort Benning, Ga, after a few days visit here as guest of Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Gay. Putch is a paratrooper and expects to leave for overseas soon. He had lots of friends in Trenton.
PVT. Harold Williams now overseas in France and his brother in law PFC. Ernest Sanders is in Belgium.
PVT. Warren W. Ripley in Hospital at Thomasville. PVT. Ripley spent two years in the South Pacific. He is in the hospital with a broken arm due to an accident.
PFC. Lenton Hines returned to his post after a visit with family in Bell. He is back on duty at Ft. George G. Meade, Maryland and will leave soon for overseas.
Ray S. Barron who has been serving in the Southwest Pacific for the past eight months, has recently received the rating of Seaman First Class, being promoted from Seaman Second Class. Ray is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Fox Barron.
Festus Roberts who is in the Navy, has returned to his base after a few days visiting parents Mr. and Mrs. George Roberts near Bell. He expects to go overseas soon. He is the brother of Lt. Gilbert Roberts who is in the Army Air Force.
These reports of Gilchrist’s service members were printed.
Just days before war offically ended a story was printed about Earl Mikell’s crippled sub escaping a Jap patrol craft. The accounts went on and on about battles local men were in.
World War II came to an end on September 2, 1945, when Japan signed surrender documents.
In the August 30, 1945 Gilchrist County Journal a story ran with the headline
USS Missouri to be Scene of Historic Jap Surrend, Sun., Sept. 2nd
and another headline which stated
Missouri Enters Tokyo Bay to Accept Jap’s Surrender; Old Glory Hoisted in Japan
The following week a story ran that started with the headline
The GREATEST war in all history is over. It began in Poland in Sept. of 1939 and ended with Japan in Sept. of 1945. It was the greatest of all wars in the number of men and nations engaged, in the quantity of arms and armament used, in cost of lives and money and property, in the fact that its fighting fronts belted the globe.
On the World War II monument at the Gilchrist County Courthouse there are ----- names listed from Gilchrist County.
United States of America entered World War II 80 years ago this week
By Cindy Jo Ayers