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World War II and Gloucester County
in the 1940s

by Roger C. Davis


World War II (1939-1945) had a significant impact on the lives of nearly every citizen.  Many of us living today are the products of war stories that should be recorded for our descendants.  These experiences need not be earth shattering, but rather, revealing events of the forties and how those war years impacted individual lives.

Roger C. Davis, WWII

Some 292,131 U. S. military personnel lost their lives and a chance to produce descendents for their family surnames or see their children grow.  Another 671,278 Americans were wounded and many of these were left with life long disabilities.  Over 105,000 Americans were captured and held prisoners of war.  For their sacrifices the average enlisted man received a base pay of $71.33 per month and an officer $203.50.  On the home front there was food, gasoline, and clothing rationing.  Large numbers of women went into the industrial work force and took on jobs in the public sector.  Travel was restricted and the sense of community grew as the shared sorrows and hardships brought neighbors closer together.

In the rural county of Gloucester, Virginia, the country store was still a social/commercial institution used by the people of Gloucester in 1940.  Many stores housed the area Post Office or had it adjacent to the store.  This provided a central place for people to get groceries, gasoline, often clothing, and their mail.  The “pot bellied stove” was a popular place to gather and “sit a spell” and socialize while they gathered and shared the war and local news of the day.

World War II began September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland.  It was not until December 8, 1941, that the United States declared war on Japan and entered the conflict after the surprise bombing at Pearl Harbor.

“WWII killed more people, destroyed more property, disrupted more lives, and probably had more far-reaching consequences than any other war in history.”  World wide “the exact number of people killed because of the war will never be known. Military deaths probably totaled about 17 million.  Civilian deaths were even greater as a result of starvation, bombing raids, massacres, epidemics, and other war-related causes.” It is estimated about 70 million people served in the armed forces of all the Allied and Axis nations.

Your Editor was an eighteen-year-old youngster fresh out of George Washington High School at Danville, Virginia.  In June 1943, he and 80% of the boys in his class shipped off to military training centers.  The next year in October 1944 he crossed the Atlantic and landed at Marseilles, France.  There was a lot of growing up that next year as he served with the 14th Armored Division in Italy, France and Germany.  His duties required a lot of driving, in fact, in the course of time he put over 50,000 miles on his trusty jeep that bore his wife’s name, Flo!


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Last Updated  Friday, 30 January 2004 06:20 PM