When Farmers Were Spotters: Farming the Homefront During World War II
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Although the AWS may have had a certain feeling of make-believe in western Pennsylvania, most of the observers seem to have taken their duties seriously, at least at first. It was even more important on the West Coast and in Hawaii, where there was real threat from Japanese planes.
Actually, even in the West, there were very few enemy air raids against the U.S.: Enemy planes just didn’t have the range necessary to reach our shores. In October 1943, the GOC and the filter centers were taken off 24-hour basis and put into reserve, being activated after that only occasionally for tests and training, and completely deactivated on the continent in 1944 (I believe they continued on the Hawaiian islands until V-J Day).
The GOC had a song based on the Army Song, but all I remember of it is the line: “For it’s one bi high, and another we will spy, and call in our numbers loud and strong. …” There was a prayer, as well, that went: “Oh Lord, give us the ears to hear, the eyes to see, that Zero if he tries to hide among the clouds. And if he does come, give us the heart to forgive the poor misguided soul who holds the phone for insignificant gossip while we try in vain to get the warning through. Forgive the man whose time is all absorbed with pleasure, who can not find time to help us keep the watch, who sleeps complacently in the wee small hours of the morn while we must stand in the icy wind and rain on guard that he may sleep. Please find a way to give us just one more cup of coffee, just a little piece of meat or just another gallon of gas, but if there isn’t enough to go around, then give it all to our fighting men and just pass us the beans. We, too, can take it.”
The GOC was a good example of how nearly everyone was involved in the war effort in some way during World War II. My father was an air raid warden, and we kids collected tin foil and scrap metal and, in the fall, milkweed pods for kapok life jackets, and nearly everyone bought War Savings Bonds or Stamps. FC
Sam Moore grew up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. He now lives in Salem, Ohio, and collects antique tractors, implements and related items. Contact Sam by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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