December 7 and WWII

“December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” My mama was twenty years old and heard President Roosevelt say this on the radio. On this date the United States was brought into World War II.

If it weren’t for the war, a lot of things wouldn’t be here. Like me. And Silly Putty. The shiny pink silicone plastic went public about the same time I arrived at City Hospital in Cleveland, Mississippi.

Silly Putty wouldn’t be here because it was created by accident during wartime research for rubber substitutes. When Japan cut off our rubber supply, we needed a new product to make gas masks, soldier boots, and Jeep tires. Silly Putty failed as a rubber replacement, but in 1949 it found its way into the hands of a toy store owner, who saw those fun balls of plastic bouncing all the way to the bank.

I wouldn’t be here because the two people who created me wouldn’t have gotten together. Dad grew up down South on a farm in the Hill Country, near Philadelphia, Mississippi. His ancestors moved there after the Dancing Rabbit Creek Treaty took the land from the Indians and after the stars fell on Alabama. His daddy grew cotton. Dad graduated from high school the same year as Pearl Harbor, he got drafted into the Army, and he went to Georgia for training.

Mama lived up north in Cincinnati. Her great-great-grandfather was a soldier and spy during the Revolution and got a land grant in Ohio. Mama grew up on the banks of the Ohio River in a house that had served as a station on the Underground Railroad, hiding slaves who were moving north toward freedom.

Mama had her fortune told by a gypsy in 1937, when she was sixteen, and it came true.

“You will travel over many waters—not the ocean, but rivers. You will be in uniform. You will marry a man in uniform. You will have two daughters.”

Mama said she just laughed at that prediction because why in the world would she have on a uniform? Two years later, World War II broke out. Two years after that, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and bang, the United States was in the war. Two years after that, Mama joined the Army and traveled over many rivers to Georgia, where she met Dad who was a Tenth Armored Tiger and married him six days before he shipped out to the front lines with the Third Army and General George Patton, and then ten years after that she had her second daughter, my sister.

I am one of many post-war babies…one of many now holding her deceased soldier/veteran/father’s medals and veteran caps and flags…and…and stories about the war.

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