Home Front Pittsburgh.John "Jack" Thomas, Nancy (Kielszek) Mann and Cecilia "Cil" Kielszek
interviewed by Kenneth D. Mann.
The following interviews were conducted by Kenneth D. Mann, a graduate student in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program at Duquesne University. The interviews were conducted as part of the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Colloquium – 2000 course. I interviewed Nancy Mann and Cecilia Kielszek of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 3, 2000. The interview with John Thomas of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was conducted on June 4, 2000. The interviews were on their experiences during World War II on the home front in Pittsburgh.
One of the greatest effects that war has on the people involved is the change that war brings. During times of war, change occurs, not only in global or national collective cognizance, but also in many of the individuals involved during times of war. Not everyone who participated in the war effort stood on the front line with the risk of being wounded or killed, however, everyday people on the home front were all willing to lend their support in the battle to defend the American way of life. One of the most incredible changes within the United States that occurred during World War II was change in identity. The war effort allowed people to learn about each other and themselves. People of different backgrounds, ages, and genders experienced tremendous changes in their lives. Changes that would continue in their hearts long after the war's end. This was the birth of many new American identities.
Many Americans' identities were forever changed due to the Depression years. World War II was about to change the identities of Americans even more. The subjects of the interviews that were conducted for the purposes of this chapter were no exception. Nancy (Kielszek) Mann, Cecilia "Cil" Kielszek, and John (Jack) Thomas are native Pittsburghers who experienced World War II on the home front in Pittsburgh. Their memories of this historic time are shared from the perspective of working and attending school during wartime Pittsburgh.
John "Jack" Thomas.
Jack Thomas' perspective on the war is from the viewpoint of a teenager during this difficult time. Mr. Thomas was a thirteen-year-old eighth grader growing up in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh when the United States entered World War II. He lived at home with his parents and grandmother on Chatsworth Street. Jack's father, John, worked for the Union Railroad as a locomotive engineer. During the war, Jack's dad drove trains into Pittsburgh area steel producing plants, such as U. S. Steel's Homestead works, to deliver the raw materials necessary to manufacture the steel required for the war effort. Jack's mom, Pearl, was employed during the war as a cake-baker for the Colonnade Bakery in the Union Trust Building in downtown Pittsburgh. Up to the beginning of the war, Jack's life was pretty typical of most post-Depression teenagers in Pittsburgh.
With the war brewing in Europe and the Far East, Jack said that he was really not aware of the events leading up to the United States' involvement in World War II. As a young teenager, being aware of world events and political turmoil were not a priority for Jack. Political ideas were not really expressed within Jack's home to any great degree. "With the country coming out of the Depression era, the main thing that was on the mind of my family was Pop getting back to work and starting to establish the standard of living better." Jack said his father knew about Adolph Hitler but really does not recall discussing politics about Hitler. Jack said his father was well read on Hitler's doings, but he did not really discuss what was going on. He said that if his father were around today, he would tell you his opinions and feelings on what was going on. However, feelings and attitudes towards Franklin Roosevelt as President of the United States were very favorable. As Jack stated, "my whole life as a kid, all I knew was Roosevelt as President." Not knowing what was happening in Europe prior to the war did not have an effect on Jack's feelings towards America's involvement in the war. "Once the war started, we were one-hundred percent in favor of taking action. The mentality of the time was that a foreign country attacked the USA, so you were going to go get them." As Jack stated, "once Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, all we thought about during that time was we were going to get the Japs because they attacked our country."
The feelings of Jack's family were that they did not want the United States to get involved in Europe's war, but once Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, "they were one-hundred percent behind Roosevelt in declaring war on Germany, Italy, and Japan." Over the years, Franklin Roosevelt was accused of maneuvering the United States into World War II. But Jack remembers at that time, nobody questioned the president and what needed to be done. "This point was not brought out until long after the war was over. You have too many people trying to rewrite history today. You have people trying to put twists on history that were not even around then." There was no thought that Roosevelt maneuvered us into the war. Jack's thoughts were that a foreign country attacked us and it was our right to correct the wrong that Japan had done to the United States.
Along with the majority of Americans, Jack and his family were shocked at Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. "No one had the slightest inkling that Japan was going to mount a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor." Those that were from Jack's parents' generation, felt that eventually the United States would be pulled into war. But from Jack's perspective as a young person, the reaction to Pearl Harbor was to "get the dirty Japs." Naturally, from then on the propaganda and movies portrayed the Japanese as vicious villains. Jack only remembers the focus on Japan and not much on Germany at the time because not much was known about Germany, at least the way Jack recalls the times. As time went on, and more things came out about the Germans, the realization that the Germans were vicious came into cognition. But Jack also realizes now, through a friend who grew up in Germany at the time, that most German citizens did what they had to do. "The average German did not have it easy and they weren't all villains and they did what they had to do as well."
As a young person when the war started, Jack did not have any feelings of fear about the war. At his age, Jack felt that the United States was invincible and that we would just have to fight the war and beat the enemy. There was never any doubt in his mind that the United States would win the war. Jack never thought that the war would ever come to America's shores. He felt that there was too much ocean that separated the continents. "There was never any thought that Japan would land in California or Germany landing in New York, that never entered my mind. I never gave that a thought."
While attending school at Gladstone in the eighth grade and Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh during the war, Jack remembered the drives to collect metal cans. Jack remembered that his family would save metal and he would take it to school and just drop off the material in large drums. In activities during school, Jack could recall that they would have a gathering in the gym, and march around to records of songs like "I Remember Pearl Harbor" to get you built up to be patriotic as well as propaganda to be against Japan and Germany in the war. Jack's recollection of teachers in school was that there was no "beating the war effort into you." He recalls that for the most part, they mainly concentrated on regular studies except for maybe current topics on the war that were relevant to history classes.
Additional volunteer war efforts that Jack recalls is when his mother, Pearl, donated blood at the blood bank on several occasions during the war. This was not a drive through her employer, but Jack remembers that she did this on her own. He said she felt she it was a patriotic gesture on her part and was her contribution toward the war effort. Jack's mother and father bought War Bonds primarily through payroll deductions. He does not recall them being pressured to purchase War Bonds at work. Payroll deductions would be taken out in a quarter or a third of the $18.75 value of the War Bond. When you accumulated enough for a War Bond, then his mother and father would be issued the bond at work. "There were always bond drives going on, and you just considered it a patriotic response to buy them, but it was only on a voluntary basis." In school, they also sold War Bonds through a program called "Defense Stamps." "For kids at school, they would sell stamps for a quarter and you would put the stamps in a stamp book and fill the book up. When you would fill the book, you would take the book back to school and you would then receive a War Bond." One day a week during school, the stamps would be sold. The students would take the money in to the teacher, and you would be issued stamps relative to the amount you purchased. When the book was filled, you brought it into school and you would then be issued a War Bond. "This was a big thing during the heart of the war. This was how school-kids did their part by buying Defense Stamps."
During World War II, the media outlets had much influence over how the war in Europe and the South Pacific was perceived on the home front. "In retrospect," Jack recalls, "we took anything we were told as gospel. But at the time, the papers would only report light casualties, but in reality, maybe almost all the planes on a bombing mission were shot down. We had our propaganda just like the enemy did. We didn't really know how many planes were shot down, or how many ships were sunk, or even how many men were killed. Common sense would tell you though that we didn't want to divulge that, as even the enemy had spies in this country and they could pick up that information." Movies and newsreels were probably the biggest form of promotion for the war effort. "Movies were the big propaganda. Germans and the Japanese were always made to look bad," remembered Jack. Jack said that the newsreels would always show the United States in a positive role. Jack pointed out that he grew up in a time when you took whatever the government told you as gospel, they could do no wrong, everything they did was right and you did not question anything. He said that it isn't like it is today with the media causing so much confusion.
Radio programs were the biggest form of entertainment during the war. Jack listened to comedians like Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and Red Skelton. Mysteries and westerns like the Lone Ranger were popular during the war years. Jack likened the radio shows to television in your own mind. "With radio, it was television in your mind. The radio programs and stories would paint mental pictures in your mind. You imagined all these things that were going on in these programs." News programs were also big. Local news on radio was really not prevalent. Mostly it was network news with reporters like Lowell Thomas. Franklin Roosevelt's fireside chats on radio were a national event, Jack recalls. "When Roosevelt was going to speak, the whole country would tune in. It was a big thing." Jack offered that the feeling towards Roosevelt was "pretty close to godlike status at that time. People held him in high reverence."
Jack recollects a lot of goods being rationed during the war years. Things like gasoline, tires, sugar, meats, and butter. Jack's family did not have a car during this time, so the gasoline rationing did not have any effect. The major hardship on rationing according to Jack was how his Mom would have to plan meals. She would have to plan around what products were available and what rationing stamps they had for particular food products. Another problem with rationing that Jack remembers is that you also had to hit the grocery store at the right time for things like meat and butter. Rationed products were not always available, even if you had the rationing stamps. The rationing stamps, Jack recalls, is that certain stamps were for meats, another for butter, and certain ones for sugar and other products. One particular thing Jack remembers is going to Bard's Dairyland for ice cream. Due to rationing you could not get a full half-gallon or full pint of ice cream. They would sell half the container with ice cream and the other half sherbet. Jack said that ice cream wasn't rationed, but this was the way they were providing it.
Even though the war was going on, Jack still did typical things an American teenager would do for entertainment. He played baseball and softball at Gladstone field, or played ball in the alleys near his Hazelwood home. Movies were the main source of entertainment. Jack remembers The Three Stooges comedy shorts as being more popular than some of the movies of the time. A lot of people were more interested in seeing the new Three Stooges comedies than the main feature, he recalls. "If you didn't go to the movies, you stayed home and listened to the radio. If the weather was nice, you went out and played ball or rode your bike." Jack enjoyed going to Pirate baseball games during the war years. "Pirate games were more enjoyable back then. Of course during the war, you had a bunch of guys who were 4F's or rejects. The good players were all drafted into the war." Most of these players were older players or were rejected from military service for one reason or another. Jack said the games were pretty well attended at Forbes Field and he remembers them fondly just like most things from the perspective of youth.
During the war, college football was also decimated by the military draft. Jack recalls that with the University of Pittsburgh, their football team also consisted of many 4F's. Back then, freshmen were not allowed to play varsity, but because of the lack of players, freshmen were allowed to play on the varsity teams. However, Jack noted that usually after the player's freshman year, they were inducted into military service. Jack said the exceptions were the military academies, Army and Navy. A lot of players for Army and Navy were in the academies pre-flight programs, so they were getting the best players. "Army and Navy were never known as national football powers, but during the war years they were getting the cream of the crop." Army and Navy would usually slaughter teams like Notre Dame who only had 4F's while Army and Navy would have all the good players because of the training programs they were in.
Automobile travel at the time was very restricted due to gas rationing. Travel in Pittsburgh was accomplished mainly by riding streetcars. "Automobile traffic was a limited thing at the time," recalls Jack. "Most people were just coming out of the Depression, so they couldn't afford a car. And the one's that could afford a car, couldn't get their hands on one because of the war effort."
During the war, there were many air-raid drills and blackouts to help prepare for the possibility of an enemy invasion. Jack said they would run "bogus" air-raid drills. Jack recalls sirens being run as a signal to turn your lights off in your house. If you didn't turn them off or pull the window shades or blinds, the air-raid warden for your block would come around and tell you to turn your lights off. You would then wait, until the siren or whistle from the air-raid warden would give the signal that the drill was over. Jack said these drills would last about a half-hour. Jack feels that the purpose of the drills was to get the people accustomed to knowing how to behave if the need ever arose in the event of an attack. However, Jack never had any fear of Pittsburgh being bombed. "I was old enough to know that with the limitations at that time, it would be pretty hard for Germany to fly a plane across the Atlantic to start bombing. And that Japan wouldn't have anything to reach Pittsburgh." It is worth noting that Jack did feel that due to Pittsburgh being a steel center, Pittsburgh would be a target. But as Jack said, "the only way that Germany would have been able to do any bombing, is if they could maybe get a foothold in Newfoundland. I never felt this was a threat."
We all know as adults what World War II was about and why the United States became involved. How did a teenager at the time feel about the war? Was the war for a good cause according to Jack? "Really, I didn't know what the true causes were. But I knew we were fighting to save democracy, and to save the world from aggression and tyranny. As far as all the underlying political motivations, at that age, you never gave a thought to that. It was for saving our country, preserving our way of life, and trying to save Europe and the Far East from dictatorship." Although Jack was too young to serve in the war, he graduated from high school in 1945, he knew that if the war had dragged on, he would have been a prime candidate to be drafted into it. The only person that he knew that was affected by serving in the war was his cousin Billy, who was in the marines. Jack's cousin was two years older than Jack, and was wounded in the South Pacific. Jack feels that the war contributed to Billy's early death in his 40's due to the trauma he suffered in the war.
Jack believes that the war changed Pittsburgh in that it made the people here conscious of what was happening in the world and how these events affected everyone. He feels that the war bound people closer together, gave them a common bond to help each other. He says, "this is something we haven't seen since then. With the way the world is going today, it's never going to be that way again. Everyone today has a me-first-attitude." Jack said that there was closeness between people during the war, in that people wanted to help each other. Jack feels that the war brought about changes to Pittsburgh that would not have happened otherwise. "It brought about a revolution, with servicemen coming back with a different perspective on life due to their experiences. Due to the GI Bill, many people received an education that they would not have otherwise received. Jack feels that with the opportunities for women to work during the war, this was the beginning of the evolution of women into the work force. Jack feels that World War II created a revolution for women that is still going on. It also allowed people to realize their potential for a better way of life than the way things were prior to the war.
Looking back on the war years, how did World War II affect Jack's life? "I've become more knowledgeable on the war in the years since the war, than during the war. A lot of things have come out about World War II, that a lot of things weren't the way you visualized when the war was going on. We weren't always the good guys, and we had as much propaganda as the enemy did, but you do things in war that you wouldn't normally do. It also makes you aware of the tremendous tragedy the whole thing was. When you stop to think of all the young men whose lives were snuffed out, and if they would have all led normal lives and what a different effect this would have had on the world. What gets me now is people who weren't even around then and try to rewrite history and tell you this didn't happen and that didn't happen and what history should be, and not have any idea of the sacrifice made by people, and they put the knock on it. The World War II generation would be hard to duplicate, especially today. Back then, you had young men who did not question anything when their country called upon them, they put their life on the line, some didn't come back, and some were scarred for life. But could you say today if there would be another Pearl Harbor, how many young people would be equipped to go and handle war like that generation did?"
Nancy (Kielszek) Mann & Cecilia
Nancy (Kielszek) Mann and Cecilia "Cil" Kielszek were in their early twenties when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought America into World War II. Nancy and Cil were born and raised on Pittsburgh's South Side Slopes. Their family consisted of seven children in all, along with their twice-widowed mother, Mary. Nancy and Cil's brothers were Walt, Frank, John, and Joe, with the other sister named Ann. Although they had a large family, the only sibling to serve in the war was John, who was drafted into the army. John served in the infantry and fortunately returned home at the end of the war unscathed. Cil noted that John never wanted to talk about the war when he returned home. The other brothers because of being married and having families were exempt from military service.
Nancy and Cil recalled when they heard about the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor. They remember hearing the news on the radio and the subsequent announcement of the United States entry into the war. What they remember in particular is that with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war, it was a very sad time, especially since it was right before Christmas. Prior to America's involvement in the war, Nancy and Cil said that they do recall some of the events of Hitler's Germany because of this being so newsworthy. They both said that they knew that the United States was preparing for years to get involved in the war because of what Hitler was doing. However, they did not feel that President Roosevelt was responsible for involving the United States in World War II. "Most people respected Roosevelt's decisions because he was such a good president."
Nancy and Cil expressed concern at the time that with the way things were going, they felt there was a possibility of the war coming to America. "That's why there were so many alerts at the time," according to Cil, in reference to the air-raid drills and blackouts. "Factories were operating at full capacity and with the steel mills in Pittsburgh, we worried that Pittsburgh would be a target to be bombed." At the time, nobody was really sure what the capabilities of Germany were, so there was a sense of fear that the war would hit the American home front by many people.
Women also were enlisting in the military as Nancy and Cil recalled. Nancy and Cil both had female friends who enlisted into the Women Auxiliary Corp (WAC). However, they never considered joining the WAC. They felt that women did not belong in war. Nancy and Cil preferred to stay in Pittsburgh and take care of their mother and to help support her.
The personal feelings of Nancy and Cil about the coming of the war was that they knew that it was inevitable, but it still did not take away the devastation they felt when America entered World War II. Their family did not want war, but knew that the United States would eventually end up involved. They both expressed feelings of being scared, and remembered many sleepless nights because of being worried about being attacked. They were aware of pro-Nazi groups in the United States and this added to their fear of the war spreading into America. The tensions of the time can be illustrated with the Kielszek's landlady. The landlady was of German extraction, and was pro-Nazi. The landlady had a German lady-friend, who was from Germany, and anytime they would get together, they would speak in German. Nancy and Cil thought that this was very rude and ignorant. They recalled that their landlady would constantly speak about how great and brilliant she considered Hitler. This situation was not a very comfortable one for Nancy and Cil's family, especially when they considered Hitler to be insane.
Although America's entry into World War II was not a surprise, Cil and Nancy said that everyone was stunned about Pearl Harbor. They remember sandbags being placed outside government buildings in downtown Pittsburgh in case of attack. Once the war came, they expressed that the outlook was gloomy for the future. "You could not plan on anything, you were afraid to go anywhere, and you were afraid to be caught out in the darkness whenever the blackouts would occur. It was a very scary time."
As far as volunteer efforts, Nancy and Cil did not recall a whole lot about this. What Cil remembered was that at work, they had asked for volunteers to give blood. Cil signed up for it but she ended up passing out while donating blood because she was anemic. After that she didn't volunteer to donate anymore blood. War Bond drives were big at work but they said there was no pressure to buy them. They would buy War Bonds for $18.75 and they matured at twenty-five dollars. Sometimes if money was short, they would cash them in before they matured.
Cil and Nancy both worked at Donahoe's in downtown before the war with Cil continuing on for a short period after the war started. Cil remembers that at that time "you could get a job anywhere." Cil said that when she worked at Donahoe's, she earned $11.85 for a six-day workweek. She left Donahoe's to join Isaly's ice cream plant on the Boulevard of Allies in Oakland. There she earned thirty-dollars per week. Nancy worked at Reick's Ice Cream, another dairy plant that was located on Forbes Avenue right below Duquesne University.
With the war decimating the work force, employment opportunities were available to anyone who wanted to work. Salaries were good, especially when one considers that the Depression was not long before the war and jobs were scarce. Nancy and Cil thought salaries were good at the time. Since Reick's Ice Cream and Isaly's were not considered essential businesses to the war effort, most of the men that worked there went into military service. That meant that the workforce consisted mainly of women. The men that remained at Reick's and Isaly's were either older or considered to be 4F for service. The Kielszek sisters were able to live comfortably during the war years and were able to spend money. During the war the government instituted the Withholding Tax. Nancy and Cil said that they did not like this, since they felt the government was taking part of their earnings away from them. However, they did say that it really did not affect things much since salaries were good at the time.
Many products were in short supply during the war, so rationing was mandatory and coping with shortages was a way of life. Meat, butter, coffee, and eggs were rationed during the war. However, they remember that when these products were available, they were inexpensive. Even though both Nancy and Cil worked for different dairy companies, obtaining butter was very difficult. Nancy recalled that stockings were in short supply during the war years. She said, "stockings I remember being rationed. And whenever any of the stores on Fifth Avenue would get any in, boy, we would all run over there." The rationing stamps they recall were only for food products. Clothing was available, including shoes according to Nancy and Cil. In fact, they noted that they did not have any problems obtaining shoes during the war. Nancy said that high-heels for women were always available, and that as far as work shoes, she wore nurses' oxfords while on the job.
Gasoline was rationed during the war but this did not affect the Kielszek family very much. Their brother John had a truck but since he was in the army, it was not being used. Public transportation was plentiful so most travel was done by streetcar within Pittsburgh. Trains would also be used, such as when their mother would travel to Cleveland to visit relatives. The streetcar fare was a token, at three tokens for a quarter.
Amusements were in strong demand during the war and were plentiful to those on the home front. Nancy and Cil both said that movies were the primary form of entertainment. There were many war movies, musicals, and a lot of Bob Hope comedies. Nightclubs were prevalent in Pittsburgh and featured many dance bands. The nightclubs they frequented were places like the Grotto on the North Side, Kennywood, West View, Linden Grove in Castle Shannon, Palisades in McKeesport, Ankara, Bill Green's, and the Carousel which featured a lot of big name bands. Bands like Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller played nightclubs like these during the war. "We really had great times. Kids today don't have things like we used to have. Places like these today are either supper clubs, restaurants, or are beer gardens. It was a real carnival. We had a lot of entertainment back then," Cil and Nancy said. With all the entertainment and amusements available, how did air raid and blackout drills affect the fun? "You would sort of be clued in when they would occur," said Cil. As far as what the feelings were with the good times they were having and what the servicemen overseas were going through, Nancy and Cil summed it up this way. "When the war first broke out, the feeling was gloomy. But when things became routine, people enjoyed themselves. The exception was when someone we knew got killed in the war."
Fortunately for Nancy and Cil, the people they knew that were killed in the war was not anyone really close to them. The closest this came was when Nancy's boyfriend at the time, and future husband, John, who was in the Army, was wounded twice in the Italy campaign. The one time, John was hit by shrapnel in the chest. The shrapnel deflected off of John's army pen in his shirt pocket enough to direct it away from his heart. Although his wounds were serious, he was able to recover and return to his unit. This event even made news in the local newspaper back then. Nancy still has a copy of the article and the pen that saved John's life, as well as the Purple Heart that he received. She also still has the other Purple Heart and Silver Star medals that John received in the war.
In discussing the movies that Nancy and Cil remembered from the war, they remembered that there were so many movies that the theatres would change the movies three times a week. Cil remembers going to movies with her friends, and if they went early enough, when the first movie would let out, they would then go to another theatre to see another feature. "They were good movies. There would be double features with cartoons, Three Stooges, Rin-Tin-Tin, and newsreels." Theatres were not only in downtown Pittsburgh, but on Carson Street on the South Side as well. In addition to the movies, they also would go to stage shows to see the stars of the time like Red Skelton at places like the Nixon Theatre.
Nancy and Cil thought that the newsreels only showed the positives of how the war was going for the Allies, never any negatives. They thought that the views were somewhat distorted at times. In letters that their brother John and Nancy's future husband John would send from Europe, there was no mention of how the war was going from their viewpoint. However, it was assumed that they were instructed not to divulge any tactical information. They do remember in their letters reading about them getting drunk quite frequently whenever they were on leave.
Listening to the radio was a big form of entertainment for Nancy and Cil. They listened to the radio a lot in those days. They both enjoyed listening to soap operas, thrillers, mysteries, and game shows. They remembered shows like the $64,000 Question, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Amos and Andy, The Goldbergs, The Lone Ranger, and Name That Tune. "Listening to the news was also big because we always wanted to hear how things were progressing with the war, " said Cil. They remember listening to the radio when the news was reported that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Nancy and Cil never heard of Pearl Harbor prior to the surprise attack by the Japanese, as probably most Americans didn't at the time. Also, listening to President Roosevelt on the radio was considered to be important, as "we thought the world of him," said the two sisters.
Blackouts and air-raid drills would occur during the war. Someone would blow a whistle in the street and it would be mandatory to turn the lights off or cover the windows with a shade. "At the beginning of the war, these drills would occur frequently. But towards the middle and end of the war, these drills would occur less and less." With the air-raid drills, everyone would be required to go to a safe place like a basement. Some people they recall even built their own shelters within their yards.
Did Nancy and Cil feel that the war was for a good cause? "We hated wars, but we were forced into this war. We won things but too many lives were lost. Still though, it's our country and nobody has it as good as we do. The cause was to preserve democracy and to protect our way of life from Germany and Japan."
Did the war change Pittsburgh? "In some ways, we felt life was better before the war. We remember Pittsburgh as a nice place before the war. The mills were going strong during the war. It was smoggy all the time. But economically, it was good for the city itself. At the same time, we were hoping that nothing would happen to those in service. We did the best we could during the war, and we were happy after the war ended." As far as the effect the war had on Nancy and Cil's overall life, they felt that the war did not really have a major effect on their lives. This could be put into perspective in that they did not lose anyone close to them in the war. Their brother John, and Nancy's husband John, returned home from Europe safely and relatively unharmed. Also, the ravages of war never hit the United States as it did Europe and the Far East. Being young, having fun times, holding decent paying jobs, and being happy at home contributed to the good feelings that Nancy and Cil had during World War II.
Nancy and Cil's viewpoint on their generation, in comparison to subsequent generations, especially today's contemporaries, was that people were more involved with what was going on around them during World War II. People cared about each other and were more willing to help someone in need." According to Cil, "we were happy for what we had."
"Looking back on it now," related Nancy and Cil, "we were fairly young, and the war was sometimes happy and sometimes scary too. We were comfortable and had good times while our servicemen were fighting overseas. There were so many people that gave their lives for this country. But a lot of servicemen came home too. When it was over though, the war was over. Let's get on with our lives now."
The youths of World War II, both on the frontlines and the home front, came of age under the shadows of World War II. The war forced them to grow up prematurely. It made them far more serious about the realities of life: life, death, and values. It robbed them of some childhood, and their young adult lives. Maybe in some ways, this was a good thing. It made this generation more critical of later contemporaries who seemed to have a somewhat easier time.
Different as their personal stories are, the interviews with Jack Thomas, Nancy (Kielszek) Mann, and Cecilia Kielszek, in sharing their World War II home front experiences with the student in this oral history project, all stressed a number of commonalities. The war years, over a half a century later, still stand out clearly in their memories, of patriotic endeavor, of sacrifice, of little change despite the new tensions and controls that pressed upon them. Despite the universally expressed hatred of war, of their belief that war generally brings no good, they all saw World War II as necessary to rid the world of the plague of Nazism and Japanese imperialism, to protect American democracy and the freedoms it guarantees to all.
Entered: 11 September 2000.
Last Updated: 21 May 2001.