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.