Millville woman recalls air raid sirens, rationing during World War II
For Doris Long, the second World War was personal. Throughout the war she had three brothers serving in the military, stationed around the world in different branches of the armed forces.
The summer before her junior year in high school, Doris worked at Girton Manufacturing, which at the time made things such as ammunition boxes and field stoves for soldiers in the war.
“I was on the line to inspect the ammunition boxes,” Doris said. “I felt as if I was helping my brothers, you know.”
“My brother Donald, who was in Japan with the second Marine Division, said that he got an ammunition box that said Girton on it and he was so tickled, because it was something from home,” she added.
On Saturdays, Doris, like many teenagers in 1941, would go with her friends from her hometown of Millville into Bloomsburg to the Capitol Theater. There, in addition to the featured movie, they could see first-hand what was going on in the world’s fight against the spread of Nazi tyranny as they watched the newsreels.
Doris, who is 93 now, recalled one Saturday as she sat in the theater watching the newsreel when her brother’s face appeared.
“All of Millville rode the bus because gas was rationed,” Doris recalled. “We would go down to the theater in Bloomsburg to see the newsreel. A whole hour ahead of the movie would be newsreel like you see on TV today, but this really showed them. And then with my brother Donald, the people from Millville all stood up and yelled, ‘Keep your head down, Don! Keep your head down!’ “
“They all knew him. I was crying and my younger brother Emmett was crying. And all of Millville kept yelling, ‘Keep your head down, Donald,’ “ Doris said.
Her older brother, Donald Avery, at the time was serving in Japan. He had enlisted in the Marines before the war began, according to Doris, because he wanted a dress Marine uniform. Donald never did get his dress uniform, because after three months of training, they shipped him out. The war had begun.
Donald’s unit eventually was sent to Nagasaki two months after the atomic bomb was dropped there.
Doris had two other older brothers who served in the war. Nolan, a member of the 101st Airborne Division, know as the “Screaming Eagles,” was dropped behind enemy lines in the Aragon Forest during the Battle of the Bulge.
According to Doris, Nolan, who never shared his experiences during that last pushback against the Allied forces by the Germans, “went through horror there.”
He did share with his brothers, who in turn told Doris, that during that battle, in order to not divulge their location to the enemy, the soldiers were not permitted to shoot the enemy. Instead they garroted them and then took some part of the dead enemy’s body to prove that they had killed them. Many took a finger as proof. Doris said that her brother couldn’t bring himself to do that, and instead took a part of an enemy soldier’s ear.
Nolan spent two months trapped in the Aragon Forest and eventually lost his toes from frostbite.
Doris’ brother Arnold served with the Seabees, a construction battalion.
Her brother Emmett, spent his time at home working in the defense factory because his hearing loss kept him from being drafted, but he was not happy about that.
Growing up as a teenager during that time, life went on as usual in some ways. Doris shared about going to square dances, where she would sing the Marine’s Hymn with the band, and about travelling with her classmates to Bloomsburg College to interact with students in the V-12 program, which ran from 1942 to 1944 training potential officers.
But, she also remembered air raids.
“They would put an air raid siren on that you could hear from Bloomsburg and Williamsport all the way here,” she said.
“We had dark, black window shades that you pulled down over your windows. Everybody had to have a blackout at night. No lights going, in case they (the Germans) came over here in their planes,” she shared.
It was a time when there were air raid drills in school, where when the sirens blew, students would hide under their desks or move to stairwells. No lights were allowed.
“I felt the Germans were coming over. I was more scared than a lot of the rest of the kids because I had three brothers over there,” she added.
And, they had all heard about “Axis Sally,” whose radio broadcasts had spewed Nazi propaganda. A product of the Gestapo, Sally would go on the radio claiming that the Germans were going to take over America without firing a single shot, but rather by using germ warfare.
Doris also remembered rationing. The main things in short supply were flour, sugar and coffee and they were rationed in addition to gasoline. Ration tickets were needed to purchase these items.
Doris shared a story about how, after the war, her brother Emmett had purchased a furniture store in Millville. While exploring the third floor of the building, they discovered a secret room where the previous owner had been stockpiling these precious commodities. Unfortunately by that point, the items were not usable.
“Some people that could afford it, hoarded flour and sugar. It was all buggy afterwards,” she said.
Being a young girl, Doris remembered there was also a shortage of silk stockings during the war.
“Oh no, you couldn’t get silk stockings at all. You’d give an arm and a leg to get a pair of silk stockings,” she said.
“They had stockings that had seams up the back. I remember putting mine on and my mother would look to make sure my seam was real, real straight. I would see them walking around with crooked seams in the back and I thought, I’d rather have a bare leg than that,” she added with a laugh.
After high school Doris continued to work for Girton’s in the office. She was there when VJ, Victory over Japan, Day was declared in August, 1945, which ended the war. She also remembered rejoicing on VE, Victory in Europe, Day in May of that year.
“VE Day was something, I’m telling you,” Doris said.
“When VE Day came after the war, we all got in cars and went up to Berwick. We thought we were really doing something. We sat on the fenders and on the hoods and everybody was blowing their horns. Oh, it was an exciting time. Cops would grab you and pull you off and give you a kiss and sit you back on the car,” she reminisced.