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My Role in the Allied Victory in the Pacific 1941-1945

John R. Wieder, M.D.

As I approach my 63rd birthday on March 8, 2005, I reflect on my life. I wonder -" Who am I? What has shaped me into who I am? What has formed me and my belief system? My loves and hates, my interests and all of my relationships?" Though 63 years of living one single event seems to stand alone above all others. It is the Second World War. I have many memories of those years, even though I was only three years old when the war ended. But they are as fresh as if they were only last week.

I was born three months and one day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. During that period of conflict everyone saved their tin cans to be collected as scrap for the war effort. The cans had to be stomped flat and placed in sacks or boxes and left on the front porch for the collecting people. We kids would lay the can on the kitchen floor and give one great stomp with each foot on to a can. This caused the can to bend around our shoe soles and clip on to the shoes, and then we would clomp around the house clanking cans, and finally Mom would yell or Grandma Ina would yell to "Stop that noise! Put those cans on the porch!" That was one of our contributions to the war effort. I remember very distinctly hearing the names of Hitler and Tojo, but I was not sure who they were except they were bad men, and they were the enemy. I remember my mother and grandmothers crouched up around the old Zenith floor model radio listening to the war news, hushing us up when we talked or whispered, and as God is my witness I remember an evening when all the lights in the house were turned out, the blinds were pulled down and everyone got quiet. It was a blackout. I was told it was to keep our house invisible to enemy airplanes so they would not bomb us. Those were the only times I really felt scared.

But my own single great contribution to the allied victory was a very personal one. My father, then Lt. John M. Wieder, US Army, would be home on rare occasions. We three kids, Libby, Steve and I, shadowed him everywhere during the last year of the war in 1945. Steve was still a baby and crawled everywhere, but Libby and I were Dad's constant companions. We always delighted in watching him shave. To this day the smell of Palmolive soap brings back memories of that era. Dad would light up a Camel cigarette and place it on the ashtray next to the marble basin in my grandmother's bathroom at 1507 Spring Street in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Every so often he took a break in the shaving and took a puff on that cigarette, and then he would cast the butt into the commode. He wore a mustache at that time and one day came downstairs without it. Libby and I jumped up and ran to him. Libby asked where was his mustache. He told us that he left it on the sink upstairs. We clambered up the stairs to find it. She and I searched all over that bathroom for it and wondered where it could have gone. Libby finally caught on. I never did.

But how about those butts in the commode? At the age of three with the commode lid and seat up, I could stand on my tiptoes and just get my "bird", as I called my penis at that age, just over the edge of the toilet. There floating before me would be two or three Camel cigarette butts drifting around in the commode water. When I peed I would pee right at them. When one would burst and spread its tobacco out into the water I imagined myself sinking a Japanese war ship. Thus in my child-like mind I made a personnel contribution to the allied victory in World War II.

My richest memory was in August 1945. Mom, Grandpa Cap and Grandma Ina were jubilant. The war was over; there was a parade coming. Everyone was crying, hugging, even jumping up and down. We were at my grandmother's house on Market Street across from St. Paul's Methodist Church. The streets and sidewalks were jammed with cheering crowds. I remember soldiers in Smoky Bear hats and leggings everywhere. I later learned that every World War I veteran with a uniform dressed up and joined the parade. My grandmother then lifted me up and placed my feet between the two loops of the wrought iron fence enclosing the yard. I leaned back against her. My mother stood beside me, and she held a handkerchief to her face wiping away tears. Libby was holding on to the fence jumping up and down. Steve was in Grandpa Cap's arms, still a baby. Then the band went by, smart red and white uniforms with fringed tassels on the caps flopping in the breeze, huge brass horns gleaming in the August sun. I was somewhat disturbed by all this commotion until I remember Mom saying that Daddy would be coming home to stay and I, in my child-like way, had hastened that victory by sinking those Japanese ships in my grandmother's commode.