Role in the Allied Victory in the Pacific 1941-1945
R. Wieder, M.D.
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.