An Old Newspaper

Rummaging through excess accumulated personal and bookstore papers with culling in mind, I found a New Orleans States newspaper dated August 14, 1945. Does the date ring a bell? The headline is a single 5-letter word in 9-inch type: PEACE. On that date, the Japanese, accepting defeat, surrendered unconditionally. World War II was over.

My memories of the celebration are still very vivid: in the late afternoon, my father driving the family—my mother, very young sister and brother, and me—downtown in our 1934 Chevrolet sedan. We joined a caravan of pre-war automobiles circling a divided Canal Street, horns honking and blaring without cease. People jammed the sidewalks and spilled into the streets and the area between where the electric streetcars (trolleys) ran. They were singing and dancing to music coming from everywhere. Gone at last the years of dread and war worries; in their place, a glorious and unbounded happiness. Their loved ones will be coming home.

Amid the crowd, newsboys were shouting “Extra! Extra! The Japanese have surrendered, read more about it.” I asked my father for a nickel to buy the copy that resurfaced a few weeks ago.

For me, the War began very early in the morning on December 4, 1941, the day before my 9th birthday. My mother’s 20-year-old brother, a favorite uncle, who lived with us and shared a bedroom with me, was leaving for the army induction center. When he hugged me goodbye with teary eyes, I cried. He assured me he would be home again for my 10th birthday. I believed him. A patriotic song with the refrain “Goodbye, dear, I’ll be back in a year, ‘cause the army needs me now” played often on the radio.

Three days later, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on a portion of our Pacific fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. When the war ended, three years, eight months and seven days later, my uncle was en route to Okinawa, an island a few hundred miles from Japan.

So an 83 year old man will keep the 13 year old boy’s newspaper a bit longer and will not forget the noisy, victorious day, 70 years ago, that he bought it.

Joe DeSalvo