Last time: From 1930-39, America was in a rather depressed mood, but we pulled ourselves out of the funk … just in time for war.
Chapter 23: Global Warfare and a New Peace - 1940-1949
In March, 2001, the Afghan Taliban trained powerful cannons—distant kin to the ancient scimitar, a primary symbol of Islam—and fired on two huge 3rd and 5th century AD statues, reducing them to rubble. Buddha, of course, is the icon of a genuinely peaceful religion. The civilized world was incensed, yet this was hardly the first time for such sacrilege. In November, 1940, during the Battle of Britain, another terrorist regime bombed Coventry Cathedral (photo), the 14th century shrine 100 miles north of London. Left in smoldering ruins, today it’s a gutted shell that stands as a reminder of the madness of Nazi Germany. The residents of Cambridge, NY, received the news within days through the airwaves of WGY and their humming, watt-consuming tabletop Philco radios and the pages of The New York Times. Furthermore, in the early 1940s the life of the Cambridge District was recorded in the weekly Washington County Post, and the prewar year was revisited by Dave Thornton in his 1997 booklet "Christmas, 1940, In The Cambridge Valley".
Within a year America could no longer waffle on the sidelines. The phrases December 7, 1941 and Pearl Harbor became synonyms for ambush and murder, though conspiracy theorists note the U.S. carriers being at sea and other intelligence as suspicion of an impending attack kept quiet to launch us into war. The "date which will live in infamy", at a distant mid-Pacific port, triggered the call to Just War Theory. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress on December 8th to declare War on Japan, Tokyo’s ally Berlin returned the favor. A "sleeping giant filled with a terrible resolve" was roused out of the bunk and charged on the wings of angels, if you will, through the gates of Hell. The Honor Roll for the heroes of the Cambridge District during 1941-45 is found in the Cambridge Memorial Park, forged for posterity on tablets installed over the years. The hallowed story is also bound in Old Cambridge 1788-1988; the section "Sacrifice" features two chapters, "WWII: The Home Front" and "WWII: The Boys at War." The Girls, of course, also played key roles, not only in keeping the home fires glowing, and by sending letters and packages overseas and serving as hometown air raid wardens, but they also filled factories from Maine to Maui with the labor force vital for victory. Women, in fact, ferried aircraft high over the Atlantic and Pacific to airfields awaiting our fighter and bomber pilots.
In Cambridge in 1943, the Withholding/Victory Tax required 5% of all earnings over $12 per week be deducted from wages of Village employees. In 1945 the mayor’s office was turned over by Bill Robertson to Sam Weller who’d serve until 1947. Early in ‘45 the war’s outcome was unknown, of course, and battle planning by the War Department extended beyond 1946. The Village took out Public Liability Insurance in 1945 for $25,000/$50,000. The Cambridge fathers were evidently covering the event of an enemy attack that might lead to village property crashing down on private residences and businesses not to mention citizens. An attack? By Germany? Here? In America? In Cambridge? We’d learn later, though, that not only did wolf packs of U-boats extensively prowl our waters—scores lie on the bottom of the Atlantic gratis the U.S. Navy—but Hitler’s henchmen even came ashore for covert operations. More regionally, it’s said that Axis
sympathizers running Vermont resorts laid out ski runs and landscaping in the fashion of large arrows pointing toward New York City. Constant vigilance was the word of the day in Cambridge in the mid ‘40s. To wit, the folks were handed large cards of aircraft silhouettes to distinguish Mustangs from Messerschmitts. Nighttime air raid drills—blackouts—were common, with all blinds drawn, all lights out, no candles, no cigarette lighters! "Everybody, quiet!" "Shhhh!" Until the all-clear.
Details of Cambridge clans sending their boys off to war, whether at the front or in support, are found in "Christmas, 1940", including the families Austin, Brownell, Cullinan, Decker, Graves, Henry, Herrington, Holmes, Keyes, Luke, Madison, Moscrip, Mullen, Parrish, Robinson, Severson, Starbuck. At 120 West Main Street, retired Army Engineer Col. Robert R. Raymond (USMA 1893) and wife Blossom were proud yet anxious that their three sons and four eldest grandsons were on active duty, most of them in harm’s way. Field Artillery (FA) Major Robert R. Raymond Jr. (USMA 1919) went ashore at Normandy in 1944 to help drive the "Krauts" (the day’s accepted jargon) from France. Infantry Lt. Richard Raymond served in Brooklyn with the British Purchasing Agency. The three batteries (12 guns) of 155mm howitzers of FA Major Charles W. Raymond II (USMA 1931) helped chase Rommel’s troops across North Africa, and he soon directed fire power up the spine of Italy.
The Burlingame grandsons were young adults when their father Cris (USMA 1912) passed away in late 1940. Though not West Point grads, this band of brothers discovered "Duty, Honor, Country" in the blood. John was 22 when he enlisted in his father’s Coast Artillery Corps, then qualified for flight training and received his wings as bomber pilot. In late ‘44, leaving the Albany Airport, Lt. John Burlingame flew his B-25 Mitchell over Cambridge and his waving family on the ground, en route to the European Theatre. His squadron engaged in the Battle of Monte Cassino where he served two rotations, 50 high-hazard missions, as the Allies thrust the Nazis from Italy (he retired in 1949 as Lt. Colonel, USAF.) Alfred, a 20 year old sports writer when the War broke out, enlisted in the Army and rose to sergeant. Afterward he wrote for church athletics journals which led to Holy Orders; his grandfather (who died at the height of the War in early ‘44) would have been pleased that a grandson became an Episcopal priest. Edwin was 18 when he enlisted in the 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion assigned at the time to the 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles. This combat engineer group was activated August ‘42, so Robert was familiar with the unit and mission. The 326th/101st deployed to Europe, but Col. Raymond didn’t live to learn of the historic beachhead and airborne assault into Normandy in June of ’44.
Paris was soon liberated as documented by the Army Signal Corp (see photo, by Captain W. F. Woodward, the author’s maternal uncle.) The Screaming Eagles drove into Holland and the gallant stand that frozen Christmas of ‘44 at Bastogne was the turning point in Europe; the Battle of the Bulge stopped Hitler’s army from taking Antwerp in a vain attempt to slice the Allies in two. For its part, Ed’s battalion was twice awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and presented the French Croix de Guerre, the Netherlands’ Orange Lanyard,
and the Belgian Fourragere. The youngest Burlingame, Robert, was 16 when he lost his father, and he joined the Navy in 1941 for a six year hitch. Bob served in the Pacific as Signalman 2nd Class aboard freighters ferrying munitions to the U.S. Fleet, and later in the North Atlantic running interference against the U-boats. The family believes that only though the grace of God was he transferred from a ship that sailed from Long Beach only to go down in the Western Pacific with many hands lost. After the War, Bob served aboard the cruiser USS New Orleans (CA32) out of Philadelphia, where he visited his mother Katherine (Mrs. Charles Jackson) at home on Academy Street on weekend passes, until mustering out in 1947.
By early 1945, All-American sisters Margie and Rosie were riveted with the news that their sweat was paying off in Europe, with their tanks and artillery on the ground, their planes in the skies (photo). Hitler put a bullet through his brain in April as Dwight Eisenhower’s Army rolled into Berlin and uncovered the horrors of the Holocaust. Ike had his photogs take extensive portfolios of the stalags and gas chambers because, in his words, "Some day some sons-of-bitches are going to deny this ever happened." How prophetic. Toward the setting sun the endgame was repeated. No truth to the rumor our gals were asked to "Name Those Bombs", and when "Fat Woman" and "Little Lady" were suggested they said, "Nah, go with the guy thing", in deference to fathers and husbands, brothers and sons. History validates President Harry Truman as making the right call with "Fat Man" and "Little Boy"; the reeling Japanese government was exhorting its people to stand on their beaches with pitch forks in hand, no less, to face a U.S. invasion. The Pacific island of Tinian and the USS Indianapolis (CA35) are legendary, though the cruiser suffered its own tragic episode of Jaws. Soon the USS Missouri (BB63), sister of the sunken USS Arizona (BB39), pulled into Tokyo harbor and, with squadrons of Army Air Corps warplanes in formation overhead, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, with Gen. Jonathan Wainwright at his side on the foredeck, ordered the "Jap" top-dogs to ink the Surrender. Recall that the emaciated Wainwright had led the Allied forces in the infamous Bataan "Death March", a slaughter and imprisonment that violated any measure of human rights and international law.
Peace spread from East to West by late summer of 1945. America liberated hundreds of millions; we did not "occupy" them, did not "dictate" to them (the gibberish of liberal academics and the like); rather we provisionally guided emerging lawful governments until they got on their feet. At home iconic photos of sailors kissing nurses reflected years of pent up emotions, also released by dancing in the streets, including in Cambridge for the first time in ‘47 on Broad Street next to the Hotel. Public sports were also now permitted on Sunday afternoons. The year before, the first police car was purchased, a Chevy for $1140, and the Cambridge PD was assigned to protect school property—oops, the old school on West Main went up in flames in August ’47, suspiciously one early AM. Wasn’t long before plans were on the board for the new CCS on South Park. Vets were given deductions on property assessments, and a new GI Bill kicked in for home purchase and college. The decade ended with the Village buying the Newcomb land down Pearl St. for $500 for a garbage dump—who knew then it was a "sanitary land fill"? But a great place to shoot rats with your 0.22 gauge!
With war’s end, President Truman, and soon President Eisenhower, knew: a) the wisdom of helping the vanquished rebuild, and b) to draw lines in the sand for creeping world Communism. In late 1945, 200 miles down Route 22 from Cambridge, the USA welcomed the new United Nations—replacing the failed League of Nations—not only in spirit but in presence on our shores. We gave each member full sovereignty for its own little piece of America on the lower East Side, doves and snakes alike. But with the Soviets’ design on Europe, by 1948 the Marshall Plan was airborne to keep them at bay by giving West Berlin and Western Europe a new lease on life. Dittos for Japan. As the decade faded, America’s fighters came home to rebuild family lives, many booming with babies in Levittowns popping up around the nation. But others felt disenfranchised after the horrors witnessed and coalesced into hot rod clubs using abandoned military airstrips, if not motorcycle gangs living on the edge of the law. The era of U.S. Senate sanctioned war was apparently over as the new world powers would begin to invoke proxy war "brush fires", the first such UN police action in Korea just around the corner. The Cold War was born.
Next time: Chapter 24, The Baby Boomers, 1950-1960.
Sources: Christmas, 1940, In The Cambridge Valley, D. Thornton (1997); Old Cambridge 1788-1988 (R. Clay, et al, 1988); Cambridge Village Archives; the biography Col. Robert R. Raymond (1871-1944), Thomas M. Raymond © 2010
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