Sandy was seated on the porch, wearing an apron, folding clothes from a giant basket. She was a certified laundry fairy for three unkempt children. It was an average Tuesday, 1945.
There was a chicken boiling on the stove inside, freshly plucked. She’d made a mulberry pie with berries from the backyard tree.
A radio atop the pie safe was playing KFBI 1050 AM out of Wichita. Red Foley was singing “Smoke on the Water.”
Sandy had spent the whole day hanging clothes and bedsheets on a clothesline. She always washed linens on Tuesdays. Her mother had always washed linens on Tuesdays. It was what laundry fairies did.
Although, sometimes she wondered why she went to so much trouble keeping house when her husband, William, was still a few thousand miles away, fighting a cussed World War. He hadn’t been home in a year.
Sandy’s children asked her every day—every SINGLE day—“When’s daddy coming home, Mama?” And each time she answered, she would look into their little eyes and say, “I don’t know, sweetheart.”
War had been a part of their lives for so long, she couldn’t remember existence without fighting. War was in their drinking water. War was in every newspaper headline. Every radio advertisement. Every magazine ad.
“BRING HIM HOME SOONER—BUY WAR BONDS!”
“WAR BONDS—SAVE A BOY IF YOU HAVE A CONSCIENCE!”
“ENLIST TODAY—WORK FOR THE NAVY!”
“MEN, BEWARE OF LOOSE WOMEN—THEY MIGHT BE SPIES!”
“UNCLE SAM SAYS DON’T WASTE FOOD—TRY 14 RECIPES TO MAKE STALE BREAD TASTE DELICIOUS!”
Sandy folded a tiny pair of underwear belonging to her 4-year-old son and a shudder went through her. What if Daddy never did come home? Throngs of good men were dying overseas every day.
Just last week, her next door neighbor, Gladys, received a visit from the Western Union man who delivered news of her 19-year-old boy’s end. Another lady in church just lost her husband and brother on the same day.
Everyone in town was dreading a visit from the Western Union Messenger of Death.
And although Sandy never admitted it, she held her breath every time her phone rang or someone knocked on her door. You just never knew.
The sun was setting over Sedgwick County, Kansas, like an orange billiard ball. She was about to quit folding and call her kids for supper when…
She heard something.
It was shouting. In the distance. First, a woman’s voice, cheering. Then, more voices. Pretty soon, the whole neighborhood was filled with commotion. Screen doors slapped shut. People were chattering. Some were cheering, weeping, shouting, laughing, applauding.
Sandy’s phone rang. It was a neighbor. “Turn on your radio, Sandy!” the neighbor said. “Now!”
Sandy cranked up the volume.
The announcer spoke. “…This is Morgan Beatty in the NBC newsroom, in Washington, with important news. We are announcing that, as of thirty-one minutes ago, it is V-E Day in Europe and in America…”
The sounds of cheering outside got louder. There were the sounds of banging pots and pans, ringing in the distance. Faraway shotguns were sounding the report of victory.
Sandy began to cry. Not a small cry, either, but a big one. One of her children entered the kitchen and tried to speak to her, but all Sandy could do was mutter, “Oh, thank God,” between sobs. “Thank God.”
The radio announcer said:
“…Prime Minister Winston Churchill says, all German military forces will cease fighting at midnight tonight. No more men will die by the hands of German troops…”
She collapsed and wept.
Outside, someone was shooting fireworks across the neighborhood. Bells were clanging. Automotive horns were honking. Neighbors were doing the Foxtrot right in the street.
“My mother held us all close that night,” said Sandy’s daughter, Olivia, who still remembers the day vividly. “Mama told us, ‘Daddy’s coming home. Daddy’s coming home, sweetie.’”
Victory in Europe was by no means the end of the war. It would be four months until Japan surrendered to the Allies in Tokyo Bay. But it was a beginning. The beginning. It was the biggest day in many people’s lives.
V-E Day was observed yesterday. But you heard so little about it that you might have missed it. I did. People rarely talk about it anymore. It’s not mentioned on newscasts or in papers. Not many school kids know what happened 77 years ago, and the nation’s 24 V-E-Day memorials report fewer visitors each year. It’s just another date on the calendar.
But not all have forgotten, says Olivia. “I haven’t. It was the day I found out my daddy was coming home. I’ll never forget, not as long as I live.”
No. I don’t guess she will.
Greyn - May 10, 2022 11:15 am
Great and valuable reminder. Like the man said, “ those who ignore history…” and I fear we do.
Ginger Smith - May 10, 2022 11:48 am
Mom worked at Western Union near Fort Benning during WWII. I found out years later about the dred people had about seeing WU come to a house. I did hear her say that if no one else was home when they brought the death notice, they got a neighbor over before they left. It does take a village.
Ruth+Ann - May 10, 2022 12:14 pm
Thank you for the reminder Sean, We must never forget.
Marianne Bryan - May 10, 2022 12:22 pm
I remember, too. I was 8 years old!!🎉🎉🎉
Sean of the South: Victory | The Trussville Tribune - May 10, 2022 12:30 pm
[…] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]
Sissy Lingle - May 10, 2022 12:43 pm
Thank you for our daily “Sean”! And yes, I remember it well, I was a little girl, but I remember our neighborhood going to a picnic on the beach. We sat around a fire, and a mother of one of my friends sang a song. I am sure there was more but that is what I remember. None of our dads were in the service, they were older, and our brothers were too young, but I remember the rationing and the stamps we put in little books. I was 5 years old.
S - May 10, 2022 12:50 pm
I was five years old, but I remember. Our neighborhood was on St. Simon’s Island, GA and we had a picnic on the beach. We sat around a fire, and a mother of one of my friends sang a song. Our dads were older and our brothers, younger, so none of them were in the service. I remember the rationing and the little books we put stamps in at school. My brother went with my mom to look for planes, and we had blackouts at night. A German U boat shot at our island, and blimps flew over our houses looking for enemy submarines. We pray every day for the awful war in the Ukraine.
Jan - May 10, 2022 1:07 pm
I wasn’t born yet but I know my Mother celebrated and that event meant I would be born in 2 years and my brothers and sister would soon be born.
Lewis - May 10, 2022 1:35 pm
Thank you for reminding us, Sean. There is a lot of important history our enemy would rather not have us be cognizant of.
Suellen - May 10, 2022 1:51 pm
It took awhile longer for my Dad to come home. He was in a Prisoner of War camp in Germany and liberated by the Russians. They walked all the way back to Russia and went through what my Dad called an indoctrination process. My Dad always maintained that some of the men decided to stay in Russia when they were released to find a boat home.
Dale Koch34 - May 10, 2022 2:17 pm
Sorry we did not hear and know. My dad came home. Then died in 1950 from a drunk driver, right after I was born to n a1949. But he had sacrificed for my mom, brother and me. Will see him one day. Thanks WW2 and all war servers. God Bless
Melanie - May 10, 2022 2:31 pm
Thank you Sean. Never forget. Always remember everyone who endured, served, sacrificed and gave for us. 🇺🇸
Jimmie Simmons - May 10, 2022 2:36 pm
My Uncle was killed July 8, 1944 in France. I was born in 1948 and never met him but I think of him often. I will always remember his sacrifice.
Susan Ragan - May 10, 2022 3:02 pm
My Aunt and Uncle rejoiced with the news, not yet knowing that their son, my first cousin, had died in Austria on VE Day, a First Lieutenant in the Army. What a cruel twist of fate.
Patricia Gibson - May 10, 2022 3:24 pm
I wasn’t born then but I do not forget. My Dad fought. My Uncles fought and my 21 year old Uncle Irwin died in a foxhole at Guadalcanal. That is why I respect my flag and the National anthem and around me everyone better. I can’t imagine how hard that was. No fast communication in those days. God bless all veterans that fight for our freedom 🙏❤️
Naomi Becker Storey. - May 10, 2022 3:59 pm
That was the year that I was born into an Orthodox Jewish family. My father was born in Poland, and my mother was born in Belarus when it was under the Russian empire and run by the Tsars. They immigrated to America about the same time that Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks. It wasn’t until I was a grown woman and knew anything about the Holocaust. It wasn’t until we got the internet that I was able to find out how many of my ancestors died during the Holocaust. I also located two cousins who survived the Holocaust–one in Stockholm, Sweden and one in Tel Aviv, Israel. I got to meet both of them in person. I have been trying to locate any relatives that might have in the Ukraine. My grandparent’s name was Grossman; my father’s was Becker.
Willson and Bana Roberts - May 10, 2022 4:09 pm
I remember the day vividly. People from miles around were descending on the little “downtown” area of Chipley, FL.
Both brothers were in the Pacific at places far awayl Maybe they would come home (and did). We all got into our 38 Chevrolet and started toward town. I remember people in their front yards, cheering, praying with hands outstretched toward heaven. Lots of crying you could hear from a good distance. I was seven years old and I remember it as if it were yesterday Thanks, Sean. I am now 84 and have weathered a few more years of war, some of which I participated in myself, but the memory of that day never fades and I’m now sobbing, thinking of it. Thanks for the memory.
Steve McCaleb - May 10, 2022 4:38 pm
You’re right…it’s far from just another day. I can’t begin to tell you how ashamed I am that I let it go by without notice. It’s because of those 19 year olds ( and all the others) that we’re not working in forced labor camps and speaking German. I would like to think that we would all answer the call again if needed…..but being perfectly honest, I just don’t know. Sad. They’re not called the “Greatest Generation” for nothing. God Bless those few who are left.
Sheri K - May 10, 2022 4:58 pm
Thank you Sean for this reminder. I must admit, if it weren’t for Russia’s celebration, I would not have remembered either. My dad never made it out of stateside but he served none the less, working with those coming home to get back to their loved ones. He never felt worthy of being called a veteran because he never fought. He’s gone now but before he passed, the Hospice house he was in had a recognition ceremony for him and he spoke briefly about it. Thank you to all those to served (and still serve) our wonderful country! May we always be the “land of the free and the home of the brave”! God Bless!!
Nancy Kirby - May 10, 2022 5:31 pm
I don’t forget because I was born May 8, 1945 in Gainesville, GA. They tell me there was much celebration.
John Myers - May 10, 2022 5:59 pm
Beautiful. Our next door neighbour had three sons in the war. One was part of the Band of Brothers was killed in Luxemburg
Maggie Priestaf - May 10, 2022 6:10 pm
Thank you, Sean, for reminding me.
Ruth Winter - May 10, 2022 6:14 pm
I wasn’t born yet, but my uncles served. I always loved hearing about stateside family in their little farm town of Hemlock, Michigan having a big bonfire where everyone danced, banged pots and pans and probably got about as crazy as anyone ever had.
Mary Ann - May 10, 2022 6:29 pm
Thank you, Sean, for helping us remember , as well. May we never forget our vets and their families.
Dale Parsons - May 10, 2022 6:30 pm
Thanks for reminding us.
AlaRedClayGirl - May 10, 2022 7:53 pm
Both of my grandfathers served in WWI, my dad & uncle in WWII, brother & cousin in Vietnam, cousin in Desert Storm, and ancestors in Revolutionary War and the War Between the States. Thank you to all our veterans, whether they faced an enemy or not. “All gave some, some gave all.”
Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - May 10, 2022 8:08 pm
My sister was a child during WWII and has told me about our Daddy being in the Navy in Europe. They had to use rations to buy groceries and other items. It was so different from how we do war now. They were all in.
Mary Grider - May 10, 2022 8:52 pm
I was four years old I believe! I was with my cousin whose dad was in service! I remember that we danced around shouting. “The war is over, the war is over”!
Linda Moon - May 10, 2022 10:25 pm
“When’s daddy coming home?” What a beautiful question from a child. I’m glad Sandy turned her radio on and heard the news of victory. And I feel like I’ve heard the good beginning of a wartime novel here in Daddy’s return!
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - May 11, 2022 1:01 pm
David - May 12, 2022 1:44 am
My wife’s father & his four brothers fought in WW II. My Mother’s 3 brothers fought in WW II
I’m now 71 years old and still remember their fears & faith of having all coming home. But mostly how
It affected there life afterwards. Some of them never recovered from the horror’s of war.
Ann - May 14, 2022 12:29 am
I was very young..you just sparked a memory…when I recall people outside in my neighborhood yelling and screaming “.THE WAR IS OVER”…. It was momentous!
JC - May 14, 2022 1:23 pm
My maternal grandmother had trained my Uncle “Boots” dog Charlie to bough” his head each night before supper to prayer for Boots to come home safe. My Uncle Ed who’d served stateside was home. V-E Day had come and gone.It’s was a relief but sad too in a way, Cousin Bobby would not return -working as a medic he’d dived on grenade to save others.
My moms people, were all sitting on the porch waiting for the last of their boys to come home, however , they didn’t know when- they had no telephone…My Uncle “Boots” was walking up the road still a good piece from them, they didn’t know it but he’d whistled for his faithful fist dog . When little Charlie jumped up and ran grandma screamed knowing he was running to his master! They all jumped and ran shouting with welcomed relief , He’s home! He’s home!
Carolyn - May 18, 2022 3:23 am
We were vacationing in Honolulu one summer. I couldnt understand why my mom was crying on the Pearl Harbor tour. Ladies enduring war times without their husbands must have been wrenching every single day. Now I know..