Thursday, June 1, 2017
During the 1940s (a decade we older people refer to as “The War Years”) German submarines lurked in the Atlantic Ocean waters just off the east coast of the United States. Today one of them, U -576, lies underseas 35 miles or so off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. When that sub was discovered in 2014 it came as news to many that World War Two was fought so close to our own shores. Not all of us were surprised however. Walking the New Jersey beaches as kids during the 40s we had to use a can of turpentine placed near the bottom step of the boardwalk to remove “tar” from our feet. That black mess had ominously floated ashore from ships torpedoed by enemy submarines.
If you were in grammar or high school during those years you were lucky. Too young for military service yet old enough to take advantage of home front freedom, grassy green though we were. There was an additional benefit to living in New Jersey or right next door in Pennsylvania.
By and large censorship kept the general public in the dark about the war. There were propaganda films and selected film footage shown in weekend “newsreels” at local movie theaters. Most citizens were believers in “a slip of the lip can sink a ship.” Try that one on today where “leaks” are a way of life with the media.
As opposed to earlier generations, youngsters ages 12 to 16 were given previously unknown freedom during the 1940s. It was possible to pile a large gang into an old car – much like the clowns did in the soon-to-be-late Barnum & Bailey Circus – or hitchhike south to the Jersey shore some 65 miles away. Coast Guard sailors patrolled the Jersey sands on lookout for Nazi saboteurs. In fact, German landing parties actually made it to New York and Florida, although they were all apprehended. Rumors of potential enemy presence held a great promise of excitement for youngsters. We hid out in the sand dunes to avoid the Coast Guardsmen (more accurately their dogs.)
Happily, none of us were ever discovered. No Nazi made it into Somers Point or Ocean City. Plus, we won World War Two.
End of story.