An important event took place on Saturday, April 6 at the local American Legion, Post 30, on
North Aspen Street. I refer to a celebratory luncheon given there in honor of local WWII veterans.
There were approximately 45 veterans present, along with their guests, for the noontime meeting. Also in attendance was Lincolnton Mayor John Gilleland as well as out of town speakers and post dignitaries.
Each veteran was awarded a commendation medal with a ribbon, to be worn around the neck.
Legionnaire Dale Punch acted as master of ceremonies and kept the meeting moving right along.
The guest speaker spoke of some of the events of WWII such as the attack on Pearl Harbor, where much of our Pacific fleet was destroyed and many lives were lost. He also reminisced about rationing and exhibited a ration book that was issued to the civilian population during the war. He talked about many of the items that were limited during that time, such as coffee, sugar, soap and butter. Items that could only be obtained with coupons from the ration book, and then only in small quantities. Other items mentioned included tires as well as gasoline, which was generally rationed out at just a few gallons per person. However, ministers of the gospel and necessary governmental workers were allowed more of these items.
Local blackouts were put into effect to douse all outside lights so as to prevent possible enemy air attacks. It was a time when everyone was on edge. The speaker also alluded to the local civilian home security forces who served to enforce these regulations.
As the draft was put into effect military camps and facilities were either built new or greatly expanded to handle the large influx of men being called up, both volunteers and draftees. The entire country was involved in the war effort, from soldiers to workers in shipbuilding and armaments. In our area there was the “shell plant” in Charlotte. Also, many people from this area went to work for Martin Aircraft in Baltimore.
The speaker also mentioned some of the songs written or popularized during the wartime. Songs such as “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” a song he reminded us was born of the attack on Pearl Harbor. These words were first uttered by our men when trying to fight off the attacking Japanese bombers.
This also brought to mind “Coming in On A Wing and A Prayer,” which related to a plane that had been shot up by the enemy and was hoping against odds to make it back to base safely.
Of course there was the one about “Rosie the Riveter,” an airplane factory worker. And who could forget the service songs: “Anchors Away” for the Navy, the “Halls of Montezuma” for the Marines, “Off We Go, Into the Wild Blue Yonder” for the Air Corps and the army foot soldiers singing “Over hills, over dales as the caissons go rolling along.” It was sound off, sound off as we marched along down memory lane.
As I said earlier there were 45 WWII veterans there, and as I looked around a few were walking with canes, some were a little stooped over, but most were still navigating pretty well considering our age.
It was an excellent time to eat, meet and greet amongst longtime friends, and I know I speak for all in thanking the American Legion and all those involved for a most enjoyable occasion.
There were around eighteen million servicemen and women involved in WWII. I wonder how many are still living here in Lincoln County. I would guess a precious few. May God bless ‘em.
Charles Eurey is a Lincoln Times-News guest columnist. You can reach him at 704-735-6535.