Publisher's Note: This article originally appeared in the Beaufort Observer.
The impressions of our youth are indelibly branded in our hearts and minds. As I think of June 6, 1944 (D Day) it always seems that it was my war. I was nine years old. My world had been one of listening to the radio since the news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor broke into "Jack Armstrong, The All American Boy" as I sat in my daddy's chair with my pajamas on. I could not fully understand at that moment how big this was but I have never forgotten the feeling and the very moment that I heard the announcement.
Our family owned a general store in Blount's Creek that sold everything from groceries to horse collars. The Army asked to put an Air Plane Observation Post in our front yard and my Dad without hesitation said, yes.
From then on I played Army instead of Cowboys and learned to identify airplanes by their silhouette. Soldiers came on a regular basis and I thought I was enlisted.
Sugar, Gas, Tires, Shoes and Lard were rationed and you needed a coupon to buy them. Products came in bulk and my job in the store was to weigh beans and paddle lard into smaller containers. We got up early and stayed open late.
Some people did not have transportation and because of rationing travel was difficult. My Granddaddy came up with idea of going house to house with groceries and supplies in a covered truck. It became "Latham's Store at Your Door" which turned out to be a blessing for many older people and families left behind. I guess he learned to improvise before the Marines did.
My buddies and I bought ten cent saving stamps and saved tin-foil for the war effort. Our news came in the movies from news-reels and the Red Cross would pass around a box for donations after the showing. Once they showed scenes from the Bataan Death March. I had saved seventeen dollars. It was all the money that I had. It went into the box.
We had one of the few telephones for about a 10 mile radius because of the observation post. Many of the boys from our community gave that phone number when they filled out their personal information. If they were reported missing in action or dead my mother would get the phone call from Western Union in Washington ahead of the paper copy the next day. She would go to the families and deliver the message. Sometimes she stayed with them all night.
I watched young men leave for war that I had seen come into our store and saw some of the fellows that worked for us drafted into service. Some did not come back. Some came back leaving part of their bodies in battle.
I hated the enemy.
We did not have anti war demonstrations in Blounts Creek. We wrote letters, sent Christmas Cards, sold war bonds, mailed care packages, conserved our resources, went to church and prayed for those in harm's way. We were all Americans and we were at war.
I grieve for those lost but I thank God for the patriotism that this experience instilled into my very being.