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Columns

August 11, 2012

A wake-up call sounded in August 1942

Many can remember living through the times of sacrifice in World War II, while others have learned about those sacrifices, all in the effort to defeat the Axis powers. Apparently getting those sacrifices under way took some extra effort, as they weren't taken too seriously at first, if newspaper accounts in August 1942 are an indicator.

"We believe the country now is more ready to make an all-out war effort than the government realizes -- that they will welcome the opportunity to sacrifice to assure a complete and speedy victory in the war," an Oneonta Star editorial stated, on Thursday, Aug. 6, 1942.

"For many months, in various ways and with several accents, this newspaper has been urging 'Wake Up America.'"

"Condemnation of the political-mindedness of our leaders has been general -- but if it is fear of losing votes that has held many necessary undertakings in abeyance until after the elections it means either that the politicians do not understand the attitude of our country or that the majority of the people still are thinking in terms of business-as-usual, of guns AND butter, that the voters do not realize the seriousness of our situation."

For this reason, the Star put a petition in the newspaper that day, directed toward President Roosevelt, voicing what was believed to be a spirit of an "awakened" America. People were urged to sign and return it, to be sent in the near future to the president.

"Is America Awake?" was the title over the next day's editorial. "A few less than a score of people called at our office," which was then found on Broad Street, "to sign a petition sheet, and a blank appearing in the paper, to which signatures might be attached was returned by only eight."

The Oneonta Star wasn't alone in trying to get the awake message across. The Oneonta Rotary Club, at its luncheon at the Oneonta Hotel on Aug. 6, was addressed by Robert Kazmeyer, a minister, business analyst and publisher.

Kazmeyer ventured an opinion that when it comes to making sacrifices, "America will not make this effort until she has been thoroughly scared.

"For three years, ever since I returned from Europe in 1939 at the outbreak of the hostilities, I have said that the American people must be awakened. Ever since Pearl Harbor I have been told they are awake. Maybe that is true. Maybe we are.

"But if we are awake, then we need something else -- maybe we need to be scared -- scared into an honest, holy fear that will move the great mass of us to action, a fear of losing this war and of losing our homes, our jobs, our schools, our churches.

"And I am also sure of this," Kazmeyer added, "There are no grounds for optimism, there are good grounds for genuine fear."

Sacrifices at home for the war effort eventually did take hold, both here and elsewhere.

Seen in the Aug. 7 edition of the Star were pictures of groups of men who had left the day before for service in the war.

At the D&H Railroad station, these men were given a farewell address by Dr. George J. Dann, superintendent of Oneonta's schools. Fear may or may not have been clearly seen by those in attendance, but it was likely on the minds of a few parents and loved ones, seeing their young men heading overseas.

"Let us have done with talk of defense," Dann told the men. "Let us learn how to say 'offense,' and do 'offense.' It is we or they. Get your man. Get him first."

"Oneonta wishes you good luck and Godspeed as you go on your great adventure. Many of us saw your fathers go on a like adventure 25 years ago. They did their duty and you will do your duty. No duty was ever more righteous.

"Our enemies are trying to enslave the world. We are trying to establish the idea that all men are created equal. Mussolini says, 'It is either we or they.' Let us accept the challenge."

On Monday: Bus drivers had plenty to remember in local travels.

City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www. oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.

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