Photo by Mallory

Photo by Mallory


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Monday, September 4, 2017

Practice for War


"Courage is being scared to death—
and saddling up anyway."
—John Wayne

Along with war bonds, ration coupon books, and the first peacetime military draft, World War II brought dreaded air raid drills. In the early 1940s, air raid sirens pierced calm evenings with instant fear: Could this one be for real?

I’d watched my parents adapt to limitations the war thrust upon them. They bought less sugar, meat, butter, and gasoline, using priceless ration coupons to purchase such scarce items.

At the first note from warning sirens, the required black-out window shades were pulled down and all lights were turned off. We’d sit, unmoving and quiet, the sirens wailing like a singer going up and down on music scale.


The airplanes would rumble through the black sky, flying so low their noise closed the darkness tighter around us. They made crisscrossing passes over our town, their crews searching for telltale fingers of lights that might help potential enemies locate bombing targets.

Satisfied they had surveyed every inch of the area, the drone of the airplanes’ propellers would grow faint as they returned to base. Even after they flew beyond earshot, we endured more agonizing time in the dark, waiting for the all-clear short siren blasts before trying to recapture our evening as it had been.

Those air raid drills produced a claustrophobia that manifested itself when denied light. Even now I remain immobile whenever power outages hurl me into darkness.

But, just as fire tempers steel, living with World War II’s limitations helped to fine-tune character. Experiencing the war’s scares, sacrifices, and interruptions taught us about commitment, sincerity, and honesty—valuable lessons for any generation.

Some think another war looms on the horizon in light of the obvious threats from North Korea’s leader. If so, in this nuclear age we probably wouldn’t have to endure air raid practice drills—there wouldn’t be enough time for that. Obliteration would come rapidly, denying the learning of any life lessons.

P.S. Now you know why I’m uncomfortable in the dark! 

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