With his arm around me

Anne Thurston-Brandley tells the story of D-Day on the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor

H. Anne Thurston-Brandley
Beautiful Boyne”

I was eighteen, a freshman on the Ohio State University campus, living in Mac Hall and dating an OSU senior. He was from Maumee, Ohio; the small town I had lived in during my elementary years. Our parents knew each other quite well and we all attended the same church. Despite this we were more or less unknown to each other because of the age difference – our meeting on the huge campus had been thanks to our mother’s planning. Somehow all we required was one look and it was love at first sight.

So it was, one night on our return from a coke date, we entered the parlor of my dormitory to see a small huddle of others intensely hanging over its small radio. Only five feet away we had no trouble hearing the voice of our president, Franklin D. Roosevelt as he announced Japan’s Pearl Harbor attack. Ed’s arm around my shoulder tightened and we stood, unmoving. There were no words to share. It was December 7, 1941. America was in its pre-Christmas holiday spirit. Japan was nothing but a tiny island thousands of miles away. It was ‘D’ Day.

Three years my senior Ed harbored a far deeper understanding of that night than I. With the European situation he had prepared himself for the world’s future by earning the rank of a second lieutenant in the US Army through the university’s ROTC program; although I am certain the shock of Japan’s attack was not within any of his expectations. Not even President Roosevelt had given such action any credence. The incredibility of ‘D’ Day, its staggering shock and disappointment about another country remains deeper than any other in our country’s history.

The 911 tragedy in all its disbelief and intensity was but a fraction of that back in ’41. There was not a family in the United States which did not directly suffer during the following few years. It wasn’t about one city or one area it was country wide as our men responded to the call to serve in saving our land and the women who stepped forward to fill the necessary work vacated by the men. Some even joined the various branches of the service.

Those on the home front accepted the use of food stamps, shoe rationing and so on. It was the least they could do. Gasoline rationing affected all. Communication within families was difficult. No cell phones or computers enhanced the mail system and weeks, even months passed without news from those on the fighting fronts. Yet we in the States couldn’t forget the turmoil falling on the families in Europe, Hawaii, the Philippines, Africa and even Japan. We knew ourselves more fortunate.

We try to bury those memories of such terrible times. The happenings were way beyond any of our individual doings so we found no explanations and placed our fright produced hatred on world leaders, forgiving all others for the horrors they were forced to take part in. It is those we knew, respected, loved and admired who failed to return home I have found impossible to bury.

Robert, my good friend and playground playmate in the fourth grade in Maumee, was my arch competitor in marbles. Every day the sun shown we were at it. Then came the day he pulled a pearl necklace out of his pants pocket to fasten around my neck. I couldn’t wait to get home and show them to Mother. She asked me how I happened to have them and after hearing my story she went to the telephone. Holding the ear piece to her ear and dialing the numbers into the phone base she called Robert’s mother. After confirming her suspicions she instructed me to give her the beads. She placed them in a small bag and told me I was to return them to Robert the next day. Seems he had ‘borrowed’ them from his mother’s dresser. Robert was in the US Army Air Force and did not return from Europe.

Connie and Stan were classmates of mine in Burnham High School, Sylvania, Ohio. Our senior year we were three of the cast for the Senior Play presented in the spring of ’41 before graduation. Because of my height I always landed the ‘old lady’ roll in the plays — never the romantic lead! In that particular play I was once again an ‘older’ lady and Stan was cast as my son. He was also tall – we stood almost eye-to-eye. During the last night’s rehearsal for some silly reason Stan and I could not get our lines we spoke to each other out of our mouths without cracking up –speechless. Well, our director, Miss Lawrence, got her fill of us and gave us one last chance or we were out of the play. That worked like magic and we made it through the rehearsal and the following night’s performance.

Connie and Stan married after graduation. He went into the service and never returned. She remained a widow the rest of her long life. Stan simply couldn’t be replaced.

Each ‘D’ Day for all these years it has been my prayer that mankind will come to understand it is only by giving away our love to others not through the use of arms will our world become a place for all of us to call home.

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