Editor's Note: Kingsburg resident and local history buff Michael Dunn is writing a series of articles about the experiences of military veterans from the Kingsburg and Selma area. The series will continue through Veterans Day, November 10.

Immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, America enacted wartime policies that required considerable sacrifice from its civilian population. Basic commodities like sugar, gas, automobile tires, and almost every food commodity was rationed. Women volunteered to make bandages for the Red Cross and school children collected tin cans and scrap metal to do their part in the war effort.

Families proudly grew “Victory Gardens” to reduce their own demand on food supplies needed for the troops. For the next three years a non-stop press for communities, civic organizations, churches and individuals to commit all available resources toward the purchase of war bonds. It was a long and arduous war that required stamina at home and abroad. The hometown support helped to encourage the troops in their own struggle to persevere. Toward the end of the war, Kingsburg, like so many struggling communities, found it increasingly difficult to meet their assigned quotas.

In 1945 one soldier, Corporal Richard P. Thompson, could sense the depth of weariness and even complacency that had begun to affect those in Hometown America. Like a seasoned football coach, searching to find a way to rally his players at half-time, Corporal Thompson penned the following poem which was printed in the May 10, 1945 edition of the Kingsburg Recorder.

Corporal Thompson was a nephew of Oliver N. Thompson of Kingsburg and cousin of Oliver N. Thompson, Jr., who lost his leg in Italy at the battle of Anzio.

That’s What We Thought, Mister

Kingsburg Recorder May 10, 1945

So, you’re tired of working, Mister

And you think you’ll rest a bit

You’ve been working pretty steady

And you’re getting sick of it

You think the war is ending

And you’re slowing down the pace

That’s what you think, Mister

But you bet it ain’t the case

What would you think, sir

If we should quit now too?

We’re flesh and blood and human

And we’re just as tired as you

Did you ever dig a hole,sir

And crawl down deep inside

And wish it went to China

So you’d have some place to hide?

We’ve dug a million, Mister

And used them for our bed

They come in hand, Mister

When there’s flying lead

There are buzzards with motors in them

Circling all around our head

And spray the earth around us

With hot exploding lead

Did you ever dig out, Mister,

From about a ton of dirt,

And feel yourself all over

To see if you were hurt?

You find you couldn’t move,

Though you weren’t hurt at all

You feel so darned relieved

You have to sit and bawl.

Yes; Were you ever hungry, Mister,

Not the kind that food soon stops

But a gnawing, cutting hunger

That bites deep into your guts?

It’s a home sick hunger, Mister,

And it digs around inside.

Its got you in its clutches

And there ain’t no place to hide.

Did you ever feel the cold, Sir

Not just the ordinary kind

But the biting, stinging, freezing

That almost makes you blind?

Were you ever weary, Mister,

I mean dog-tired, you know,

When your feet don’t have no feeling

And you can’t hardly make them go?

But we keep on going, Mister,

You bet your life we do,

And let me close my story with

We expect the same from you.

----------------- By ----------------------

CPL. Richard P. Thompson

Prisoner of War

A tear of admiration and sincere adoration began to slip from the corner of my eye as I read his salutation. Here was a man who was, at that very moment, held captive in a German prisoner of war camp, subject to untold austerity and abuse; unsure if or when he would ever see home again. Yet he thought only about rallying America to press on toward victory. I don't think I could ever have done what these boys did. As pessimistic as it may sound, I also doubt America today could muster the same level of patriotic focus and support today. Truly, this was the Greatest Generation, and Kingsburg did its part to win.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2429 or jluiz@hanfordsentinel.com

Load comments