After Pearl Harbor
By Bill Shepard
The year 1941 ended. The world was at war again. The Armistice signed Nov. 11, 1918, had been short-lived. The world was still struggling to free itself from the ravages left when that war ended. Now the world was at it again.
The sides had been chosen. The Axis Powers, made up of Germany, Italy and Japan, were on one side and Britain, France, China and America made up the other side.
The song “Remember Pearl Harbor” had been joined with another, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.”
The two were being played over every radio station in America. The jukebox also played its part in spinning out the tunes and songs being written. It seemed that the very air one breathed was charged with the feeling of patriotism!
“Remember Pearl Harbor” and “Go On To Victory” became the battle cry along with the others. The songwriters were busy; it seemed a new song hit the airwaves every week!
On nearly every streetcorner, posters appeared with Uncle Sam pointing in every direction and words reading Uncle Sam Needs You! In every direction one turned, the finger pointed. Billboards, along highways, carried similar messages.
Young men from the Mill Village, who had enlisted earlier, began showing up at meeting places back home.
Each time that I was in the presence of one and listened to the stories they told, my desire to be in uniform grew stronger! Each time I approached my dad about letting me go, his “No” became stronger!
Doc’s Place on the corner, where Pearl Street and Washington Street intersect, and Lessie’s Place on the Lamar Road, were the two liveliest meeting places in Darlington. On weekends, they were filled with servicemen home for weekends and some on furlough. Some were joined by their sweethearts, listening to the patriotic songs and tear-jerking tunes coming from the jukebox.
Some of the songs and tunes sure to bring tears were: “There’s A Star-spangled Flag Waving Somewhere,” “I’ll Be Back in a Year,” “Goodbye Little Darling,” “I’m Leaving, Dear John,” “The Last Letter” and many more. Yes, I remember!
Feb. 18, 1942: The war that had begun Dec. 7, 1941, was heating up and hardly a week passed that I did not hear of another of my friends or acquaintances leaving to do service in the military. I had given up hope that my dad would change his mind and sign for me to go.
Poor Dad, why did I bother him so? Youth can be so cruel. It is only after time has changed boys to men that they are able to understand! Two boys already serving in the war were enough and Dad’s mind was made up!
Little did I know that the flame that burned inside of me was also burning inside others! At Doc’s Place, on the west end of Pearl Street, four young boys sat listening to the music coming from the jukebox, while munching on one of Doc’s famous hot dogs. There were none better to be found anywhere!
The names Charles, Don, Earl and Bill had never been spoken as a team in any event. The four were casual friends, all a part of those growing up in the Mill Village. I am not certain as to how the subject came up about enlisting in the military. Perhaps it was the music from the jukebox! Within a short time, the four had agreed to meet the following morning and enlist in the Army!
There was one big obstacle! We would all need our parents’ consent, as we were each underage. Also, we knew that our parents would not sign for us to go. We parted that night, after promising to meet the next morning.
Monday morning, Feb. 18, the four young men found themselves in an Army recruiting office in Florence.
After filling out the necessary papers, each requesting to be in the Air Force and remaining together, the officer assured us that our request would be granted. “Have your papers signed and notarized and return by 6 p.m. and you will be off to the Army,” the officer said.
Now this story reaches the regretful part. We agreed to forge our parents’ names. Even to this day, it hurts to relive that moment!
That action was followed by another, just as regrettable! The notary, the Clerk of Court in Darlington, pointed out that our parents needed to sign the papers in his presence. We assured him that they were at work and could not be off to come to the courthouse with us.
He believed us and put his stamp and signature on the papers. We were set to go! I have never regretted one day that I spent in the military, but I have regretted many times the way I used to get there. I feel certain that the other three did also.
The officer who recruited us was less than truthful. After a few days at Fort Jackson, we each were sent a separate way. It would be more than 50 years before the four would be together again!
Don, Charles and Earl are gone. They now serve with a new Commander.