WWII Through The Eyes of a Small Town Newspaper

  • Wed May 24th, 2017 10:42am
  • Life

By Christi Baron

Forks Forum Editor

During World War II most West End residents followed the news of the war through three sources: radio broadcasts, newspapers and newsreels that preceded the movies at the Olympic Theater. These sources helped connect the home front with the war front and kept Americans informed about the progress of the fighting overseas as well as its impact on the community.

Although the Forks Forum didn’t have any famous correspondents on the front lines, the community could boast that Ed Murrow, well, his parents anyway, had resided at Tyee for a time. Murrow’s father had worked as a locomotive engineer and his family had lived for a time in one of the company houses.

But for the most part, the news the local weekly paper received was from parents and relatives and sometimes a letter to home from a serviceman. But those personal reports documented in the hometown paper were no less important than the flickering newsreels or the famous voices on the radio.

As each hometown boy went off to war, his name was added to an ever growing list published each week in the paper. At one point close to 250 names filled the entire one side of a page.

As a new normal for life at home began, it was all reported in the Forks Forum with tire, sugar, gas and coffee rationing; plane observers, defense stamp sales, War Bonds, blackouts and no lighted signs. The Navy recruiting office offered hours from 6 a.m.-11 p.m. and registration for the Selective Service was reported for 18-20 year olds.

And the news of those serving, those wounded and those lost was reported as front page news:

9/10/43 George Welch Lost Life In South Pacific

The tragic news of the death of Cpl. George C. Welch, son of Thomas M. Welch Sr., was released recently from the Department of War. The telegram received by the family only stated that Cpl. Welch was killed in the line of duty somewhere in the South Pacific July 31, 1943.

Cpl. Welch is the first in our community to lose his life in World War II.

7/27/44 PFC. Frederick Cramer, 21, USMC, Killed in Action

Pfc. Cramer was killed in the Central Pacific Theater according to word received by his mother, Mrs. Zora Cramer, of Sekiu.

8/3/44 Frank Daman Jr. Killed in Action

Word was just received that Frank Daman Jr., previously reported missing in action, was killed in the Mediterranean.

11/1/44 Sgt. Wittenborn Killed in Action

Mr. and Mrs. Tim Wittenborn received the shocking news that their son, Staff Sergeant Arthur Wittenborn, had been killed while fighting in Europe.

12/14/44 George Vogel Loses Life in South Pacific

The entire communities of Forks and Bogachiel were shocked and grieved upon receiving the tragic news that Ensign George Vogel had been killed in action.

5/3/45 Lt. Walter Fletcher Killed in Germany

First Lieutenant Walter A. Fletcher was killed in action on April 15, 1945, according to a telegram received from the War Department.

And then there were those that made it through the war only to not make it home.

Lorrel L. Cassell, Army, World War II, survived combat only to be killed in a plane crash returning home from his tour of duty.

Earl K. Brandeberry, Army, World War II, survived combat but was killed after reenlistment.

Then there were those regular home town guys that did extraordinary things.

Lt. Neal Macauley was wounded three times and received the Bronze Star and Silver Star.

Herman Witherow — Philippines

May 1942 Taken prisoner in the fall of Corregidor and spent the entire war in Japanese camps in the Philippines and later Japan.

Feb. 1, 1945, Witherow’s parents shared a letter with the Forks Forum — it was the first time they had heard from him in a year.

The letter was short and came from Camp Osaka which was near Tokyo. In September 1945 Witherow was released.

On Thursday, Aug. 16, 1945, the headline on the front page of the Forks Forum

WAR ENDS-VJ Day Joyfully Heralded in Forks

The long awaited V-J Day came at 4 p.m. on Tuesday. The first heralding of victory was at 4:02 with the sounding of the fire siren. Next McGuire-Tuttle Lumber Company blew its mill whistle. Police sirens and auto horns added to the heralding of victory. A free dance was held at the Odd Fellows Hall.

Wednesday morning the OPA had announced that gas rationing, fuel oil rationing and canned fruit and vegetable rationing ended with V-J Day. Some businesses closed and logging camps shut down and no mail was delivered on Wednesday…

The war was over.