Heroes at Home

 

"...we learned that a P-47 had crashed near my friends' farm. He found the pilot hanging from his parachute in a tree. The plane was not faraway - completely demolished..."

image of american flag

 Joe Reine

  • Branch of Service: Home Town Hero
  • Unit: Civilian - Student
  • Dates: 1941 - 1945
  • Location: Baton Rouge, LA
  • Rank: Student
  • Birth Year: 1930
  • Location of Birth: Baton Rouge, LA

 

 

John Reine

11 Year Old Student
at time of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941,
He resided in Baker, East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana

 

     The following accounts are some observations as viewed through the eyes of a young boy, growing up in the uncertain times of this war-torn era America. He lived through the "great depression years" -- only to be thrust into an even more turbulent era. His account is simple, straightforward and eloquent -- bringing to light what a young boy saw, felt and experienced during the time of some of his most impressionable years. Many events depected below, we have read about in our history books. Joe Reine lived them.

 

 

I Remember World War II

     "My name is Joe Reine, and I was born on April 27, 1930 [during the "Great Depression"]. When Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941 [a Sunday], I was 11 years, 7 months old.

     My family and I were in St. Amant, Louisiana, at my Grandmaother's. My Dad was building my Grandmother a new house. We were working on the roof about mid afternoon when my Mother came to tell us that -- Pearl Harbor, Hawaii had been bombed by a Japanese sneak attack.

     The next day I listened to President Franklin Roosevelt declare war on the Japanese Empire - Sunday Dec. 7 was a "day of infamy".

     The radio was set up in the study hall of old Baker High School, Baker, Louisiana. Practically the whole school was gathered around to listen to this important broadcast.

     Roosevelt also, declared war on Germany and Italy. These were know as the Axis powers.

     From this point I'll just list things that were unique to this period and to the war effort.

 

There was great fear in the people that more attacks might be forthcoming.

Immediately the military began drafting men.

Industry was converted to war production.

Military bases were built (army camps, airports, naval facilities).

A great number of men volunteered.

Rationing began (I guess in early 1942). Including things like food, gasoline, shoes, nylons, clothing.

Automobile production for civilians was stopped and did not resume until 1945. Even then you had to "get on a list" with a car dealer in order to get a new car.

 

War events of a personal nature that occured to me.

At Baker school we would have "scrap" drives -- a tremendous amount was collected and stacked on the school grounds.

At the school we also planted a "Victory Garden" -- This was quite successful. A great number of vegetables were raised. I don't know who ate them. We had no school cafeteria.

My Dad worked at the Standard Oil Co. (now Exxon-Mobil). One of his jobs was loading tankers for oil shipment to plants up the east coast. One day he came in and said a tanker he had loaded the night before had been torpedoed by a German submarine in the Gulf of Mexico -- just off the mouth of the Mississippi River.

We practiced "blackouts" at various times throughout the period. It was fun to see how dark everything would be -- all lights out.

We lived on Lancy Lane and Plank Road which is just north of Harding Field (now Baton Rouge Municipal Airport).

This was a training airport facility for the P-47 Thunderbolt and some P-51's, later Mustangs. One night we heard a loud explosion. The next day (throught my friend) we learned that a P-47 had crashed near my friends' farm. He found the pilot hanging from his parachute in a tree. The plane was not faraway - completely demolished. The military police had roped it off. We couldn't get near it.

In the spring of 1944 my basketball team wanted to go to the district tournament in Hammond, La. (about 50 miles away), but no gas. My Dad gave me a gas rationing stamp for the team to use - the coach allowed me one quarter of playing time because of this - even though I was on the 2nd team.

 

As you might imagine the war was on everyone's mind.

I followed all the action even though I was too young for service.

I remember my dad getting mail from friends and relatives in the war zone - it would be all cut up by the military censors.

Another event was the death of Franklin Roosevelt on April 12, 1945.

Harry Truman takes office.

Germany surrenders in May 1945.

Atomic bombs dropped on Japan's Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August 1945.

Japan surrenders on August 15, 1945.

When we heard the news of Japan's surrender - we attended a Special Mass. It's over -- and that's my story.

     P.S. Where was I on D-Day June 6, 1944?

     I had just turned 14 years old. School was out and I was spending time with my Grandmother in St. Amant again.

 

By: Joe Reine -- July 31, 2001

Story originally submitted on: 31 July 2001
Story modified on 2 August 2001