en English
en Englishes Spanishpt Portuguesear Arabicht Haitian Creolezh-TW Chinese (Traditional)


Your Local Online News Source for Over 3 Decades


“The Old Sachem,” Bill Stewart
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

  It probably started with the Danes, who took over seaside territory across the northeastern hemisphere. The next large territory aggressor would be the Romans, who secured much of Europe, including the British Isles. Europe faced many small wars, mostly between bordering nations, until Bonaparte was the next aggressor. After that Europe was without a large war until World War I, when Germany started going westward to France. England took on the Germans in France but failed to stop Germany until the United States intervened. Large assessments were piled on Germany after the war, which led to unrest that eventually brought the Germans to Hitler. Germany was successful in grabbing first Poland, then eventually nearly all of Europe. Meanwhile Russia was in internal revolution and Mussolini took over in Italy. Most of the world wasn’t concerned that Japan was marching through Asia, and nobody except those conquered cared. In Europe England tried to turn the tables in the spring of 1940 at Dunkirk but were unsuccessful. Americans wanted no part of hostilities. FDR found no need to interfere other than sending armaments to England.

  That all changed in December 1941. Japan emerged from their concentration of Asian lands and small islands. They attacked Hawaii on December 7 and the United States joined the fray. But the United States had a problem. It would be difficult to battle in two parts of the world so we concentrated on Europe while playing minor warfare in the Pacific.

  Now the United States was sending military materials to England, then started sending troops. The D-Day operation of June 6, 1944, brought together the land, air and sea forces of the allied armies in what became known as the largest invasion force in human history. The operation – given the codename OVERLORD – delivered five naval assault divisions to the beaches of Normandy, France. The United States continued the operation with assistance of the British and European forces that had fled to England. My uncle was 18 years old at the time and was drafted and dispatched to Europe to fight in “the Battle of the Bulge,” where the Germans were pushed back and slowly the combined forces drove Germany to surrender. Now we could battle fiercely in the Pacific, ultimately springing the atom bomb, which resolved our position, but decimated a part of Japan, which then followed Germany in surrender.

  World War II would be “the war to end all wars,” but the world didn’t work out that way. We had to go to Korea to stop Chinese aggression, then Indo China to stop communism. The United States had a relatively peaceful period until the Mideast erupted – and first Iraq then Afghanistan – to put away our peaceful period. Let us hope that this calm lasts for a long time, but eventually we must come to terms with China.

  Very few Americans know what world war is really like. I was seven years old at the time that World War II started, and I remember that it took a large bevy of products from shelves of stores to send the necessary products into war zones. Gasoline was heavily rationed with stamps, and autos were somewhat sidelined to support the war. Food was rationed and we had stamps that allowed us – along with cash – to buy a minor amount of food, especially meats that were required for the military. Metal was almost impossible to get, and we children brought coins to school to purchase war bonds. Adults also invested in war bonds on a large scale to provide for the war effort. Travel was mostly prohibitive and seeing relatives was usually out of the question. That was a world that was seen through the eyes of a lad under 12 in an area that saw no battles.

  Adults in safe areas were aware of the death and destruction of a world conflict. They read the papers and listened to the latest reports on the radio. They knew of the millions killed and billions who suffered. Those in the war zones, however, knew death and rampant destruction.

  People under 80 years old today don’t know what a world war requires, and I and your other elders hope that you never have to find out.

(Editor’s Note: Bill Stewart, better known to Saugus Advocate readers as “The Old Sachem,” writes a weekly column about sports – and sometimes he opines on current or historical events or famous people.)

Contact Advocate Newspapers