Saturday, August 25, 2012

Loved Ones Go to War: Local Stories of World War II​

 
Some days change everything. We think of September 11, 2001. The exhibit opening in June in the Richmond Gallery of the Woolley House asks us to consider another. On December 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, destroying 20 ships and nearly 200 planes, killing more than 2,000 American sailors and soldiers, and wounding another 1,000. The country was at war, and overnight, everything changed.
 
The new exhibit, Loved Ones Go to War: Local Stories of World War II, highlights the impact of the war on a sampling of local veterans and those they left behind. The stories are taken from a global range of war experiences—from the Pacific campaign and European Theater; from the Navy, Marines, Army, and Army Air Corps; from combat and support services; from officers and enlisted men.
The exhibit draws a striking contrast to recent wars, which can seem distant and detached. It makes clear that no one—not those who fought, not their loved ones—was untouched by the challenges, sacrifices, risks, and tragedies of the world war.
 
Consider:
 
- An estimated 10 million men and women—from a U.S. population of 132 million—enlisted or were drafted into the military to fight World War II. (Contrast that to the estimated 1.5 million—from a population of 313 million—on active duty today.) In effect, every American household had a relative, friend, or neighbor in the service and in harm’s way.
 
- By the end of the war, more than 400,000 American military were dead and another 600,000, wounded.
 
- Almost overnight, the U.S. economy transformed into a war material supply line. The needs of the military came first, and basic commodities—like sugar, flour, milk, and gasoline—were in scarce supply to American families. Rationing became a way of life. Victory gardens sprang up in backyards and public spaces.
 
Women went to work in record numbers to fill jobs vacated by men at war. Civilians were trained to spot enemy aircraft, scan the horizon for German submarines, and patrol utility plants. Here in Asbury Park, blackout drapes along the boardwalk prevented enemy subs from using coastal lights to silhouette and target passing ships.
 
The new exhibit brings the story home. The veterans it highlights are the “boys next door.” Their stories are tales of patriotism, sacrifice, and danger. They are also tales of the families and communities who stayed behind—awaiting word from loved ones, coping with the fears, losses, and demands of the war. The stories inspire compassion and respect. Some are heroic, others touch us for their simple humanity. All offer fascinating insight into our national character more than a half a century ago.
 
Come see for yourself. Check the website oceanmuseum.org for details on the exhibit opening.
 
The Museum's hours are:
 
Tuesdays - 1:00 to 4:00 P.M.
Wednesdays - 1:00 to 4:00 P.M.
Thursdays - 1:00 to 4:00 P.M.
Thursdays - 7:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M.
Sundays - First and Second Sunday of the month 1:00 to 4:00

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