Originally created 06/04/99

1942: A look at the 20th Century



Bloodshed from war and the Holocaust, the birth of two future rock legends and living with scarcity are among memories of many who lived in 1942 -- a tumultuous year in American history.

It was the fourth year of World War II, although U.S. involvement only began in December 1941.

And though today many books, Web sites and cable music channel documentaries are dedicated to their lives, nobody knew in 1942 to care that Jimi Hendrix and Jerry Garcia -- who became rock stars of later decades in the 20th century -- were born.

The new movie, Casablanca, glorified the country's war effort.

And Mrs. Miniver, also a war film, won six Academy Awards and helped many Americans understand the country's involvement with the war in Europe without showing a single battle scene.

Jazz aficionados praised composer Duke Ellington for completing what many call the most creative 12-year stint of his career.

His compositions included Mood Indigo, Sophisticated Lady, In a Sentimental Mood and I Don't Get Around Much Anymore.

In Augusta, Goldberg's on Broad Street sold wool dresses for $7 each, and new dishes and pottery cost 5 cents.

Many Americans first learned in 1942 how to "spring forward or fall back" after a national daylight-saving time bill was signed in January by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Nearly every community was heavily affected by the war, which raged on until 1945.

World War II split most of the world's nations between the Allies and Axis powers. U.S. forces over time teamed up with Great Britain and the Soviet Union, forming the bulk of Allied military power. The Allies fought the Axis powers -- Germany, Japan and Italy.

Families were growing numb to losing their 19-year-old men to the U.S. military draft. Having learned from World War I, the country's families and troops saw their contributions more as work than duty.

The spirited World War I song Over There was replaced by songs of homesickness and longing, including Irving Berlin's White Christmas -- one of the most popular songs of 1942.

Augusta, like most U.S. cities, watched its social fabric change because of the war. Women took over men's jobs in service stations, banks and as skilled laborers.

Residents experienced shortages of food, including sugar, and a scarcity of metals led to a ban of new automobile sales. Tires were rationed by counties. Zoot suits were considered unpatriotic because making them required too much fabric.

In California, thousands of Japanese-Americans were forced to evacuate cities and military installations they were suspected of disloyalty.

Removed from their jobs as clerks, nurses and stenographers, the Japanese were sent in droves from their neighborhoods -- often recognized as Little Tokyo and Japan Town -- into internment camps the government created to hold them away from U.S. military installation.

And while black scholar W.E.B. DuBois, who was sociology department chairman at Atlanta University, wrote and published essays examining American racism, segregation thrived through yet another pivotal period in history and divided U.S. infantry troops.

Derry Hanton, an Augustan who was a U.S. Army sergeant, recalled how the country's grip on segregation led to the black-only Buffalo Soldiers division, which was headed by white officers.

Mr. Hanton -- who enlisted in the military in 1942 -- was one of thousands who served in the Buffalo Soldiers' 92nd Division in World War II.

Mr. Hanton, now 76, recalls serving as a rifleman in Italy following two years of military training.

"We went into Naples Harbor, and all we saw were sunken ships and blown-out buildings," he said recently.

"We could smell the dead. And there were no trucks and no transportation. We had to carry our bags three miles. ... Nobody met us. And I was thinking, `Why in the hell didn't they meet us?"'

In the Buffalo Soldiers' 370th Infantry, Mr. Hanton -- a Philadelphia native who retired in Augusta -- fought in at least two lines, he said, before a leg injury landed him in an Italian hospital.

"On Oct. 16, 1944, my brother was killed in the Pacific. He was in the Navy. He was five years older than me," he said.

By 1942 in the Pacific, Japan had conquered the Philippine Islands and Southeast Asia. Mr. Hanton's brother fought with U.S. forces that eventually implemented an island-hopping strategy that won back the region by bypassing some Japanese-held islands deemed to have little or no strategic military value to the Allies.

Meanwhile, the world learned of other sieges.

Though the mass murder of European Jews began in June at Auschwitz, it wasn't until November 1942 that American newspapers published a story about the Holocaust.

Rabbi Steven Wise, at the time a prominent Jewish leader in the United States, held a news conference revealing Germany's mass murder plan. The New York Times relegated the story to Page 10 of the next day's newspaper.

Unsure of whether the story was valid, the newspaper was tentative in its coverage because The Times had published reports of German atrocities during World War I that turned out to be false.

The world learned later, as Allied armies liberated German concentration camps three years later, that the Holocaust was only too real.

Time line

Jan. 1:

The Georgia Bulldogs whip UCLA in the California school's own back yard to take the 1943 Rose Bowl by a 9-0 score.

Jan. 5:

George Washington Carver dies in Tuskegee, Ala., where during his tenure on the faculty at Tuskegee Institute of Technology he developed groundbreaking industrial applications for agricultural products and championed crop rotation for better yields.

Jan. 14:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill begin their Casablanca conference in Morroco, where Roosevelt announces that the only way World War II can end is with Germany's unconditional surrender.

Jan. 27:

American flyers make their first bombing runs over Germany at Wilhelmshaven.

Feb. 2:

German troops surrender to Soviet forces at Stalingrad in Adolf Hitler's first major defeat of World War II.

March 1: The musical Oklahoma! opens its long run on the Broadway stage.

May 16:

Adolf Hitler's SS troops complete a monthlong attack on Jewish resistance forces in the Warsaw ghetto in Poland. The German commander reported to his superiors that the fight, begun on the Jewish feast of Passover, was won when the Warsaw synagogue was blown up. His troops had massacred 56,065.

June 14:

In Taylor v. Mississippi, the U.S. Supreme Court reverses a 1940 decision and rules that children need not salute the U.S. flag in school if it is against their religion to do so.

July 27:

Allied air raids begin over Hamburg, Germany, which would end up consumed by a firestorm.

Oct. 11:

Bill Dickey hits a two-run home run in the sixth inning at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis, providing all the offense in the New York Yankees' win in the deciding game of the World Series. The Cardinals were dismissed, 4 games to 1.

Nov. 28:

President Roosevelt, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill convene a conference in Tehran, Iran, to discuss the Allied position in World War II.

Clarissa J. Walker can be reached at (706) 828-3851 or cjwalker@augustachronicle.com.