It's Over- page 42 | History | Smithsonian
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It's Over

We asked readers to tell us where they were and how they reacted to the news that World War II had ended. And what a response we got!

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At the end of WWII, I was six years old. Prior to that day, I vividly remember the air raid drills with sirens screaming and my parents hustling to cover all the windows with light proof drapes. While a bomb dropping on us would have been nothing more than "collateral damage," we being 20 miles away from the steel mills in Gary, Indiana, the air raid drills were nonetheless real and, for a very young boy, quite terrifying, which is, no doubt, why they remain so fresh in my memory now more than 60 years later.

My recollection of the end of the war is of riding around Michigan City, Indiana on a warm summer day with my parents in their 1938 Plymouth. (This car had been parked for much of the war and had a fabric top that had been thoroughly punched through by a pre-war hailstorm and then patched with globs of roofing tar). There was much honking of car horns and happy shouts from large crowds in the streets. It was, without doubt, a most happy day but, at the time, I didn't have a clue what we were happy about. That understanding would only come later.

B. William Maxey
Kalamazoo, MI

 

 


 

 

Today I am 65, but I remember it well. Two days earlier I had become a six-year-old, anticipating the first grade with the mixed emotions natural to a child. But on this day my parents' and the neighbors' excitement and sheer joy filled me with wonder. What could possibly be happening that was more important than first grade?

Then they explained it to me in words that helped me finally understand what all the rationing and deprivation had been about. That the deprivation was of course relative I came to understand later, when a growing maturity would help me see the horrors experienced by others. But that day was joyous for us, and there was a special church service, hastily called to celebrate and express our thankfulness that it was all over.

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