War and Its Aftermath
The fall of 1943 found the United States, as indeed much of the
civilized world, deeply and grimly involved in World War II, to
which there was as yet no foreseeable end. Daily the headlines and
the radio spoke of battle in Italy and Russia, of naval engagements
in the South Pacific, of tropical islands won an inch at a time and at
a terrible cost of blood. Americans ate their breakfast with an ear
tuned to Edward R. Murrow in London or an eye to the dispatches
of Ernie Pyle. Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House and
Winston Churchill was already familiar as a dogged, rasping voice.
His two fingers spread to the "V" for victory had become an Allied
symbol. Joseph Stalin, his name synonymous with that of a heroic
city, was an enigma. Benito Mussolini had been deposed in July. On
September 3 Allied troops landed on the Italian mainland, and five
days later Italy surrendered. That was a relatively meaningless ges-
ture, because Adolf Hitler's Wehrmacht became an occupying force
and fought a punishing retreat.
On the home front the war impinged daily on American life with
rationed food and gasoline, shoes in short supply, travel restricted,
and families heartbroken as the casualty lists grew. Work was tuned
to the needs of war, and on the North Carolina coast the night skies
were sometimes aglow with the flame of doomed ships. The movie
sensation of the year, Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid
Bergman, was an idealistic spinoff of the conflict in progress, and
the songs of the time were of parted lovers and patriotism. War
bonds and the USO were rallying points, and the posters told
everyone that "a slip of the lip could sink a ship." Letters were
censored, and sometimes they came back.
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