The Home Front: Oakmont, Pa During WW2

you Oh from everybody our program this evening is the home front and we’re going to talk about world war two I’m sure we’ve all read books and seen movies of world war two and and everything that went on in Europe and the Pacific but we don’t always know what happened here at home during the war and I think you’ll be surprised as to how things were here at the time today you know I’m sure we’ve all lived through the Vietnamese War Desert Storm Afghanistan and it’s there but during World War two it pretty much consumed everyone’s life whether you were in the military or you were a civilian and so as I research things I was really surprised by what went on here in oakmont but the first week of December 1941 was much like any other week here in oakmont the oakmont high school football team had their football banquet scheduled for friday evening at the United Presbyterian Church the oakmont yacht club had its annual Commodores ball on december six eatin funeral home took delivery of a brand-new Buick ambulance and an editorial in the advanced leader urged oakmont residents to support the local merchants during the upcoming Christmas season they wanted you to spend your money here in oakmont rather than go to the department stores in the city so it was a average weekend like every other weekend in town on sunday december 7th a number of Oakmont residents tuned in to Sammy Kay’s Sunday serenade on the NBC radio network at 229 p.m. the program was interrupted with a news bulletin the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor from that moment oakmont along with the rest of the world would never be the same President Roosevelt called it a day that will live in infamy and anyone who was alive at the time I’m sure you can tell me what you were doing and where you were when you heard the news shocked outrage and fear quickly gave way to a strong sense of patriotism Lenny Anderson the editor of the events leader wrote in an editorial on December twelfth it is war now not half war not sugar-coated not lend lease business not kid gloves stuff but war stern and total war and we are all in it to the finish and they were all in it to the finish not just the military not just the government but the entire population would become involved in the war effort the residents of Oakmont went into action just days after the attack on the evening of wednesday december 10th a meeting was held at the American Legion and they formed the civil defense organization of Oakmont the group’s mission was to work with the army the state and the county to defend oakmont in the event of attack community volunteers were urged to sign up an all-out victory was the rallying cry of the organization during that first week armed guards appeared on the halton bridge the bessemer high level bridge at edgewater scafe woodings and engels ironworks and these guards for the most part were veterans from World War one and they came out and volunteered to guard these facilities against sabotage also during that week all Japanese merchandise was removed from the shelves at GC Murphy company in oakmont the Women’s Club of Oakmont also went into action they established a Red Cross auxiliary to secure blood donors and they sponsored first aid classes here in the basement of the library the club set up a sewing and knitting Center at the st. Thomas parish house and they made clothing and blankets for the war victims in Europe on December nineteenth the oakmont siviglia defense organization met again and Jack Kaufman was appointed chairman of the

group members of the Boy Scouts the rotary the Lions the fire department the American Legion businessmen and residents offered their services to the organization’s one of the first things they did is they sent questionnaires home with the students to find out what type of services the people of Oakmont could offer to help defend the community state senator john walker who was a resident of Oakmont told the group that he would obtain an air raid listening post for oakmont so we would know if they were coming to bomb us all truck owners were required to register their trucks with the oakmont civilian defense organization for emergency use in case of an attack so they wanted to know who had trucks and who could help out if we were attacked not naturalized citizens and alien residents were ordered to turn in all their guns their cameras in the shortwave transmitters to Chief Charles he’ll wake at the oakmont police station the advanced leader urged residents not to hoard food and at the end of December the federal government banned the sale of automobile tires due to the shortage of rubber on january second nearly one month after the attack mr. mrs. WR campbell of Oakmont received the telegram from their son robert robert was stationed at Pearl Harbor he survived the attack and was safe but for nearly a month they had no idea whether he was alive or not the week of January fourth was designated as a week of prayer here in oakmont and church services were held each evening throughout the community the Women’s Club reported that during the month of December they recruited 87 blood donors and 350 people signed up for their first aid class the oakmont library began drive to collect books for the soldiers and the Boy Scouts here in oakmont established a radio club to learn radio codes so they could transmit and receive messages should oakmont be attacked flyers were passed out with sketches of enemy planes so that if residents could identify a plane flying overhead they would know whether it was a German plane or not so during the early days of World War two there was a genuine fear that German bombers were going to attack the East Coast and Japanese were going to attack the west coast Ross Loeffler was a chairman of the Allegheny Council of Defense and he said in a speech in early nineteen forty-two he said it is known Hitler has bombers which can fly from the coast of France to Pittsburgh and back again the weather is now unfavorable for flying from the east to the west and the danger of air attacks on the United States will increase as the spring season arrives so they thought that German bombers would be here so what they did they instituted a system of air raid wardens and the plan was if they came to bomb they would sound the air raid siren when you heard the siren you were supposed to turn off all the lights in your house and take cover they appointed air raid wardens who were responsible for enforcing the blackout and so what they had in assigned territory in town they would go around make sure everybody had their lights off there were 26 air raid wardens here in oakmont and you may know some of the names of the air raid wardens William Bryson Arthur fesem ire Vance goble Parker Grubbs Joe Grubbs Charles king durban curv al Lorch art McGivern Paul Nicholas Harry Reid george c and jack smith so any time that the air raid siren would go off they had helmets and they had flashlights and out they would go to make sure all the lights were off the wardens swore in the lead an oath of allegiance to the government and underwent training at the tenth Street School and after that they set up a command center in the basement of the borough building dr. Leigh Gilmore was the superintendent of the Oakland school district and he devised an evacuation plan for the schools which he presented to the civil defense organization in the plan called for complete evacuation of the schools in the event of an attack because they felt that the students would be safer scattered out in homes around the school rather than being congregated in one building should the Bombers come residents were instructed

to remove all flammable materials from their attics which would reduce the chance of fire if their house was bombed they were also told to have sand and a shovel ready to extinguish any fires that might be caused by instant incendiary bombs you may remember OS grubs and son the insurance agency they began to offer award damaged policies where you could buy an insurance policy and if your house was bombed by the Germans it would pay you pay you for repairs they set up an air raid watch station on the hill a top valley heights golf course and volunteers would go up there with binoculars and just scan the skies looking for German planes and a good number of those volunteers were women on march sixth 1942 a defensive rally was held at the high school auditorium the program included a film of the German bombing of Nottingham England and over 500 residents of Oakmont attended the program the speaker was a man by the name of Adolf Schmidt and he was the Allegheny County Chief air raid warden and mr. Schmidt warned the people of Oakmont of air raids in the spring he said the danger is real and the necessity for protection is urgent the first air raid drill was held on may 29th 1942 the sirens were sounded and residents took cover and turned off all their lights oakmont continued to prepare for an attack the Oakland Police Department enrolled in a war traffic school which was sponsored by the FBI and this class instructed policemen on how to move traffic through a war zone should there be a battle here they also established the Oakland auxiliary police force and they were established to help assist with civil defense here in Oakland there was a construction company by the name of mccrady Rogers I don’t know if you remember that but they were assigned to repair any infrastructure in town that would be damaged by enemy bombing or sabotage immediately after the attack as we all know volunteers flocked the recruiting stations however the first draft was held on january 23rd 1942 and 11 men from oakmont were drafted into the service a second draft took place on april third and 12 more men were drafted from open wine and what they did each week the names of the draftees and the volunteers were printed up on the front page of the advanced leader so everyone knew who was going off to war the mayor at the time was a gentleman by the name of race stoop and mayor stoop appointed Fred favo senior to form a committee and work with the American Legion to plan send-off parties for the men who were going off to war and what they would do is they would hold a parade and the high school band the police the fire department any organization in town would march in the parade and they were all marched to grubs hall which was located in Grubbs arcade on the second floor and then they would have a big party for the men who were leaving the residents and merchants would donate gifts to the soldiers to the recruits things like tablets pencils combs razors anything that they might need when they went off to war so each time that a group of soldiers went off to war mr. favo and his committee made sure they had a proper send-off as we know all young men were recurrent were required to register for the draft however I was surprised to learn that on April seventeenth the War Department ordered that all men between the ages of 45 and 67 had to register for the draft and be ready if called up at that time the government began rationing a number of consumer goods and I’m sure anybody who lived during the Second World War remembers that rubber anything like that were rationed each resident received a ration book with coupons and you were only allowed to buy what you were allocated also any retail stores weren’t allowed to raise any prices for the duration of the war unless they had the approval of the government the nation’s industries converted to full military production the car companies quit making cars they made tanks and jeeps and ships and anything needed for the war effort we had four major factories here in

Oakland at the time and they all joined the war effort Ingles ironworks made armor plating for tanks and ships woodings Tool Works made tools for the Army Navy and Air Corps Scafe converted their production from water tanks to bomb casings and edgewater of course made train wheels but they also made ring springs which were used in machine guns and airplane landing gear at the beginning of the war Edgewater had a workforce of about eleven hundred men during the course of the war 497 of those men went off to fight so as a result they had a severe labor shortage and the women of Oakmont were hired in to replace those men who went off to fight and they came in and they did all the jobs that the men did crane operators inspectors labourers they stepped right in and did everything the term I’m sure you probably heard Rosie the Riveter became a popular icon at the time and they even had a song Rosie the Riveter and this was in reference to all the women who went to work in the factories what’s interesting is when the war ended they all left they gave the jobs back to the returning veterans gentleman by the name of Frank Bell was the owner and president of edgewater steel company he resigned his position and went to Washington DC to serve as the chief of ordnance in charge of securing industrial supplies for the army so what his job was if the army needed train wheels he would find train wheels for them if the army needed metal whatever they needed it was his job to locate so he had a very important position with the army the citizens were asked to finance the war through the purchase of war bonds and an organization was set up to sell war bonds in oakmont and these bonds were sold at schools at businesses and at the stores you could purchase them one of two ways you could go out and just buy a bond or if you couldn’t afford one you would buy stamps and you would fill up a little book and when you had your book filled you could buy a war bond the stamp books were very popular with students and on the first day of stamp sales the Oakland school children purchased five hundred dollars worth of stamps in just one day bond rallies were held in oakmont throughout the war and these rallies consisted of patriotic songs and speeches and things like that and a lot of the celebrities from the time movie stars they traveled the country and they would attend these bond rallies and urge people to purchase war bonds on September 11th 1942 a victory parade was a victory bond parade was held here in oakmont it featured marching bands from oakmont Verona Penn Hills Boy Scouts the firemen the Lions the rotary the Kiwanis every group participated the rally was sponsored by the theaters here in oakmont the oaks the liberty and the Olympic in Verona and that rally one rally generated fifteen thousand dollars in bond sales so it shows how the people supported the war during the week of December 11th 1942 approximately one year after Pearl Harbor the oaks theater sponsored remember Pearl Harbor week and they offered free admission to the movie to anyone who would purchase a war bond in the lobby and although the residents you know they were sacrificing for the war effort they realized that their sacrifices were really nothing to the men who were on the front line and they felt that these people who were fighting should be recognized in some way now mr Grubbs had a poster in his window of his office and he listed all the men from oakmont who were fighting in the war well the residents decided that they needed an honor roll for the men and women who were fighting so they raised money and they had a community on a roll built and it was located on allegheny river boulevard next to the oaks theater if you know where the yogurt places before that that was a vacant lot at the time and they put a huge honor roll in there with the list of all the men and women from oakland who were fighting in the war there were four hundred and fifty people listed on that honor roll and when they dedicated it over 1,000 people from the town came out for the

ceremony and again everybody had a connection to the war every family had a son a grandson a daughter a granddaughter a nephew everybody had somebody in the war so there was a personal connection with all these people in the war one of the families you may know them their name was Kurt I mr. mrs. frank Kurt I and they had four sons serving in the war Frank jr. was in the Marines jewels in the Navy Lewis in the Coast Guard and Victor in the Army Air Corps so as you can see everybody and I’m sure anybody that was alive at the time remembers that there was somebody from their family in the war sadly the war came home to oakmont on April thirtieth 1943 when the first service men died in the war John Knicely of Archie Street was killed when his airplane crashed in the Pacific Ocean after returning from a bombing mission not long after that another oakmont resident by the name of John McCanless age 20 was taken prisoner by the Japanese he was held in a poww camp near Tokyo and he was captured during the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands McCandless survived the war in the camp and returned when the war was over in 1943 the memorial day services back then before it was a monday holiday it was held on May 31st well they the factories were under such demand to produce that they couldn’t give people a day off to observe Memorial Day so what they decided to do is they moved it to a Sunday just so the people could come to the parade and go to the ceremony and you know that just shows how how they had to fill those production requirements from from the Army that same year the oakland verona kennywood picnic was scheduled for july twenty ninth but they cancelled it because of gasoline restrictions because at the time gasoline was rationed and people couldn’t take unnecessary trips so people couldn’t have the gasoline to get to kennywood well the community leaders thought about it and they said these people are working hard and things that they have to do so they decided that they would reschedule the kennywood picnic and they scheduled it for August nineteenth and then what they did was the Chamber of Commerce provided bus transportation to welkins burg where they switched over to trolleys and rode trolleys over to kennywood all free of charge and they also provided tickets to the children of Oak want Verona just to give the people a break from everything that was going on on a brighter note a new Liberty Ship was named for oakmont resident Robert L van now mr. van was the publisher of publisher of the Pittsburgh courier and he lived here in oakmont and so he had passed away in 1940 and the Navy named one of the liberty ships after mr. van if you know if you study world war 2 it were the liberty ships that transported all the cargo from North America over to Europe and they were the ships that were the targets of Hitler’s u-boats they we lost a lot of those ships to Hitler’s u-boats do we have any members of the Garden Club here this evening nobody made it well in the spring of nineteen forty-three the oakmont garden club formed the victory garden committee and the purpose was to help residents plant Victory Gardens what the government had done had had asked people to try to grow some food on your own so that more food would be available for the soldiers who were fighting so the Garden Club asked that residents not plant flowers this summer and plant vegetables instead and they sought out vacant land here in oakmont for these Victory Gardens and mr. phones Henry phones donated a large plot up on Wade lane and then edgewater and scaife provided land for victory gardens and the purpose of a victory garden if someone lived in an apartment or maybe had a small yard they weren’t able to plant a garden they could go to this community guard and they were given a plot and they were able to plant their garden the garden club also published in

the advanced leader diagrams of how to plant their gardens and what the plant so many rows of being so many of corn and things like that and also what they did is they sponsored canning classes so that the housewives could take that stuff that they grew and preserve it and so they had canning classes for that the oakmont American Legion participate participated in a drive to send cigarettes the soldiers their goal was to send 40 million cigarettes to the men and women fighting in the war so the residents donated money and back then cigarettes cost 55 cents a pack were able to buy a number of cigarettes they also announced plans to build a soldier’s recreation center in their building over on his abella street and the purpose of the center would be for any soldiers who were home on leave they could go there and meet with other soldiers and then what they had hoped was after the war it would become a Veterans Center by mid nineteen forty-three the tide had started to turn a little bit and the fear of an attack on the homeland started to dissipate they weren’t as worried now that they were coming to Obama’s but they still knew that it was a hard fight ahead and again financing the war was a huge cost and so war bond sales continued at a rapid pace the First National Bank of Oakmont offered anyone who would buy a war bond at the bank free tickets to The Hollywood cavalcade show at Forbes Field and it starred Mickey Rooney Judy Garland and Hedy Lamarr at the same time the oakmont fire department supported the the war effort by sponsoring scrap metal and paper drives and residents were asked to take all the old scrap metal and paper and place it out on the curb and the firemen would come by and pick it up they held a paper drive on august twenty seventh and they collected 13,000 pounds of paper in just one day as I said the residents of Oakmont were doing their part to support the war however the brave soldiers were fighting and dying on the battlefields around the world each week the advanced leader printed the names of those who were drafted and volunteered but it also printed the names of the casualty report and that included local soldiers who were killed wounded taken prison or missing in action the newspaper reported 13 servicemen from the Oakland area were killed in action during the week of September 15 1944 two weeks later five more servicemen from the community lost their lives so we had a number as I keep saying how many people went off to war and the people from oakmont served in all levels and I just have a couple of people here and how they served in the war one of the gentlemen is a man by the name of George Elsie I don’t know if anybody knows George George graduated from oakmont high school in 1936 he attended Princeton and he joined the Naval Reserves where he became an officer while George was assigned to the communications in the map room at the White House and George’s job was to transcribe and deliver messages between President Roosevelt Chiang kai-shek Stalin and Churchill so everything that came from those world leaders came through George LC and he was a resident of Oakmont after Roosevelt passed away he continued on in that position with President Truman and it was George LC had informed Harry Truman that the bomb had been dropped on her Hiroshima so a no point resident was the person who told President Truman the bomb had been dropped George lives out in California and we’re proud to say he’s a member of the Oakland Historical Society and he corresponds with us regularly I think he’s 96 or 97 and we keep in touch with them he’s not online but we write the old-fashioned like and he he sends letters but he’s a real gentleman another one was an 8 a guy by the name of Glen monks Glen monks lived up on ninth street and he always wanted to be a pilot well he graduated in nineteen thirty nine and that’s when the war was starting over in Europe before United States was involved so he went to Canada

and he volunteered with the Canadian national the canadian royal canadian air force he was a pilot and he was in the war before America before United States was in unfortunately he was killed in a plane crash and Glenn is buried up here at the cemetery at the top of the hill and each year the Canadian government sends a Canadian flag down to the Oak Lawn Cemetery and they place it on his grave for Canadian Memorial Day so I think that’s either two weeks or before two weeks after our memorial day and for what I understand he’s buried near the building there so if he ever up there at Memorial date you know try to find his grave and and you’ll see the Canadian flag on there another gentleman was Roger Duffy I’m sure you a lot of you remember Roger Duffy he was mayor here in oakmont for a number of years and then he went on to serve in the state legislature but Roger was drafted at the age of 17 and he was assigned to the company b of the 27th armored battalion and he arrived in Europe during the Battle of the Bulge now if you remember as the Allies landed and started to advance across France and into Germany the German started to retreat and as they retreated they would blow up and destroy everything to slow down the Allies advance how many people have heard of seen the movie the bridge at Remagen which is the story of one of the bridges they forgot or for some reason they didn’t blow up well the company b of the 27th armored battalion stumbled across the bridge at Remagen and saw it still standing so they crossed the bridge while the Germans were underneath trying to set off the explosives and taking fire from Germans up on the hilltop and they were able to cross the bridge and capture the bridge and it became a major bridgehead for the advance into Germany and Roger Duffy was part of that small company that helped capture the bridge another gentleman was by the name of Charles Potter fall and Charles was in the invasion of Sicily and Italy and he was in Sicily and he received a letter from his sister Agnes berkata here in oakmont and they had cousins who were born here in oakmont and returned to Sicily so she sent him a letter and said that they’re in the little village of Chef Alou Sheffield how do I say Vince chef aloof ok and asked if Charlie could check on them so he went to the village and it was deserted and he went down the main street calling out their names and he said I’m a cousin I’m from home you know and no one was around well finally somebody popped their head out and he said I’m trying to find Jean and Sarah libertà so the man took them to their house well they were overjoyed to see him and they offered him to stay and have dinner with them although sadly when they sat down to dinner they had very little to eat and he found out that the entire village was just terrorized by the Nazis when they had control of it and people had no food so he left and he went back to his base and he got a couple of his buddies and they borrowed borrowed I think it’s called a deuce-and-a-half which is the big army truck and they backed it up to the commissary and they borrowed some more food and they drove into the village and they passed out the food to all the villagers and gave them food that that they badly needed so and and later Sarah and Jean came back to oakmont and settled here had people involved in all levels of the war and eventually the American war machine gained momentum and the tide began to turn plans were underway for the invasion of Europe and there was a naval officer Lieutenant th cable and he was of the Navy ordnance department and he came to ingalls ironworks here along plum street because they were a major supplier to the Navy and he gave a speech at the factory on April 12 1944 and he said the 0 ire of invasion of Hitler’s European fortress is near and when it comes it will be a grim win all or lose all proposition so they knew it was coming but they didn’t know if it

was going to be a success and the oak monitors anxiously awaited the invasion of Europe at 1241 am on jun 6th 1944 the NBC radio network broke with a news bulletin the invasion was underway the residents awoke the following morning with news that the Allies were storming the beaches of Normandy that evening President Roosevelt took to the airwaves and act the citizens to pray for victory and in the ensuing days the residents of Oakmont along with the rest of the country actually listened to reports of the Allied invasion the landing was a success and the drive across Europe was underway and with that life started to get back to normal here in Oakland the oakmont Chamber of Commerce resumed their meetings which had been canceled due to the war the oakmont PTA also resumed their meetings oakmont council got back to regular business and they approve zoning changes for a new home for the elderly to be built on Holton road next to the oakmont Country Club the state of Pennsylvania announced plans for an airport to be built near oakmont after the war the oakmont Lions Club inducted 14 new members and the residents were slowly returning to their normal lives but they knew it would still be a long hard fight however by May 1945 victory was imminent the residents of Oakmont were notified that if the Victory in Europe came and was announced before 6pm a special special church service sponsored by the Oakland Ministerial Association would be held at the oakmont Methodist Church if the announcement came in the evening the service would be held the following day on may eight 1945 Victory in Europe was declared the war in Europe was over the celebration in Oakland was subdued the residents were thankful that the end had come but they knew the battle was only half over the war against the Japanese war machine still raged across the Pacific Theater plans were announced for a seventh war bond drive the firemen planned another scrap drive from a 26th in May 27th young men from oakmont continue to be drafted and volunteer for service and casualty lists still filled the front page of the advanced leader the residents continued their support of the war on August six nineteen forty-five as I said George Elsie of Oakmont informed President Harry Truman that the atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and these two new weapons forced the surrender of the Japanese Armed Forces v-j day was declared victory over Japan the headline of the advanced leader proclaimed cyclone sweeps the community as news of peace is told the editor LED Anderson wrote on the front page a cyclone swept the community Tuesday night August fourteenth shortly after seven o’clock it was a cyclone of joy and unrestrained noise whistles horns and yells I’ve spontaneously gotten up automobile parades horns blaring tin cans paint cans and old garbage cans bouncing and sparking at the rear of cars of hundreds of people congregating on the streets hugging and kissing and dancing and screaming for joy but the joy was not all noise there were in there was in many hearts the emotion that brought tears to the eyes a weeping of gladness felt especially by the mothers and the father’s and the wives of the boys who four long months and dragged out years had been doing the job on land on sea and from the air and there were tears not altogether of gladness in the eyes of those whose boys won’t be coming home and those boys who did not come to home to oakmont were m AG azuli Robert Brown James Carroll Denny Clark Richard Kramer William Ecker ted hankey frank kern John Knicely John copas Robert Krause Raymond cush Edward Langley Herbert Eliot Thomas Mark Casey

Glen monks Joseph Potter fall LH per year junior tom seaver Larry Sukup Edward Walters and Russell J after four years of sacrifice the war had ended the United States emerged from the war a world power 670 men and women from oakmont fought in the Second World War what is amazing is that represents ten percent of the community went off and fought in the war one in ten went to war twenty-two men lost their lives and didn’t return those in the community who did not go off to war all did their part to support the war effort on the homefront thank you Oh