An exhibition inspired by the 80th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor
The subject of the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society’s 2022 summer exhibition was WWII, as told through personal correspondence, photographs, G.I. standard issue equipment, commendations, medals, official documents, photographs, and mementos of family members who served.
Though a website display can never adequately represent an actual exhibition, we offer these visual and written highlights of "From the Home Front..." in an effort to at least convey a sense or memory of what this actual exhibit, its many facets, gallery-talks, and enthusiastic community participation, were all about, in the RJHS' 2022 summer season.
Bombing Japan, August 1945, and a Letter to the Home Front by Sgt. Harold S. Whitman from the Front Lines
The United States detonated two atomic bombs over
the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945, respectively. The two bombings killed between 129,000 and
226,000 people, most of whom were civilians, and remain the only use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict.
In the final year of World War II, the Allies prepared for a costly invasion of the Japanese mainland. This undertaking was preceded by a conventional and firebombing campaign that devastated 64 Japanese cities. The war in the European theatre concluded when Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945, and the Allies turned their full attention to the Pacific War. By July 1945, the Allies Manhattan Project had produced two types of atomic bombs: "Fat Man", a plutonium implosion-type nuclear weapon; and 'Little Boy", an enriched uranium gun-type fission weapon. The 509th Composite Group of the United States Army Air Forces was trained and equipped with the specialized Silverplate version of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, and
deployed to Tinian in the Mariana Islands.
The Allies called for the unconditional surrender of the Imperial Japanese armed forces in the Potsdam Declaration on 26 July 1945, the alternative being "prompt and utter destruction".
The Japanese government ignored the ultimatum.
The Lasting Legacy of Harold S. Whitman’s Letter
In 1987, Granddaughter Rachel was doing a class project and asked to speak to her grandparents about her grandfather’s experience during the war in the letter to Rachel from grandma and papa, Rachel's index card prepared for class report.
Above Rachel's index card
Prescient words from August 9th, 1945...
Excerpted from a letter home by Sergeant, Harold S. Whitman, 107th Infantry.
On loan from Trudy Whitman, Hillsdale, NY
"...Just as you and everybody else at home, this place is poppin' with excitement at the two earth shaking news items released yesterday and today: the atomic bomb and the entry of Russia into the Pacific war. The deadly, eight-pound city vaporizer is so devastating in effect and as earth shattering in possibility, it's unfathomable for the human mind, even the average scientific me, I dare say. The scope of the discovery makes Buck Rogers look like the Neanderthal man by comparison. Everybody so eager to quickly end the war, that for the present, we can only see the bomb as a boon to mankind, a thing to hasten the end of war and save American lives. For the moment, no one is interested in the ultimate in pessimism: a weapon which, if used against each other by two powerful groups of antagonistic ideologies, could result in the end of civilization, if it can still be called such. If we could retain forever it's secret, the atomic discovery could serve as the greatest weapon for peace by our dictators.
This is an impossibility, of course..."
NEW RJHS EXCLUSIVE VIDEOS!
The Diaries of Erika Löbl A Gallery Talk by Barbara Steinberger
Erika Löbl and her brother Werner were born during the mid-1920s into a prosperous Jewish family in the picturesque town of Bamberg, Germany. As with countless others, the comfortable middle-class life they enjoyed, came to an abrupt end on November 9th - 10th, 1938, when the Nazis launched their systematic attack on the Jewish population of Germany, known as Kristallnacht - The Night of Broken Glass. Starting in 1938, the teenage Erika Löbl faithfully documented her daily life and that of her family and friends. The diaries span 7 years, and detail the events that led the family on a harrowing and seemingly impossible escape from their homeland, and begin new lives as a family in the remote jungles of far-off
Ecuador, and eventually in the United States. As part of the RJHS’ Summer exhibition on WW2, for her gallery talk, Erika Löbl’s daughter Barbara Steinberger vividly recounts how she and her uncle Werner discovered their mother’s diaries, which had been packed away for decades in Erika's house. This discovery, and Werner’s tenacious efforts to transcribe, translate and widely share the diaries, ultimately paved the way for the town of Bamberg to recognize and embrace the journals’ potential as a unique teaching tool for high school students. Told in the voice of a teenager, the first-hand experiences of Erika and her family have and will continue to have a profound impact on future generations of young people. Produced/edited by P.N.Fritsch for the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society©2022
Click on image above to view video
Watch an exclusive, ten minute video Interview with
Copake's British War Bride, Dorothy Baker
Among the 70,000 British war brides to arrive in the United States during and after WWII, was Dorothy Baker, from the small village of Woodbridge, Suffolk, England. Together, shortly before the end of the war, Dorothy and her new American husband, Lewis Thomason (Tom) Baker, began a new life together in the Hamlet of Copake, N.Y. At the age of 97, Dorothy is remarkably sharp and brimming with detailed memories of the war in the UK, and her adjustment to life in the Hudson Valley hamlet of Copake. Distilled from over two hours of footage shot this past June in her Copake home, and as an important part of our WWII exhibition: “From the Home Front to the Front Lines”, the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society has produced a ten-minute video of Dorothy’s recollections of the Second
World War, experienced as a young girl living with her family in England – a mere 70 miles from London during the “Blitz.” Dorothy recounts meeting her future husband, U.S. G.I. Tom Baker, a bomb falling in Woodbridge, the anxiety of having siblings in the British armed forces, and the astonishing story of boats racing to the sea on Woodbridge’s River Deben on their way to Dunkirk in May, 1940. The interview is a testament to the courage and tenacity of the young women who left their homes, families and former lives, to begin marriage and family in foreign land. Illustrated with photos and footage. Lesley Doyel & Jane Wasnewski interviewers.
Directed by Peter N. Fritsch. RT:10 min, 48 Seconds
(Update November 2022,: Sadly, after the "From the Home Front" closed, Ms. Dorothy Baker passed away in mid-October at the age of 97)
Click on image above to view video
ALSO ON VIDEO!
Gallery Talk by Cliff Paino about his parent's experiences in WW II,
and his sister Jane Hadedorn's book of their diaries during the war.
John Paino, along with many others, picked up the challenge and enlisted in the U.S. Army on October 17, 1940, beating the draft registration under the new Selective Service Act. It was one month after Mary’s 20th birthday. John himself had just turned 21. Between the years 1940 and 1945, when John was serving overseas, he and Mary exchanged hundreds of letters. Mary did not expect to wait almost 5 years for John’s return any more than John expected to be in the third wave of the Normandy Beach invasion. As part of the RJHS exhibition summer 2022 “From the Home Front to the Front Lines”, in a special Gallery talk, Cliff Paino discussed the experiences of hisparents during the late 1930s and early 1940s, as they survived The Great
Depression and World War II. He let his father and mother speak to the audience directly through some of their letters and journal entries while interspersing relevant historical events, and handed-down stories. For example, he read a letter written by his father to his mother from his army base – a letter written as news of the Pearl Harbor attack is coming in over the radio. Cliff also relates the events leading up to D-Day and the position he held on Omaha Beach that day, directing his fellow troops as they landed on that perilous beach. Running time 39:43
Click on image above to view video
The U.S.S. WASATCH: the flagship and command
center of the 7th fleet during the Battle of Leyte Gulf
Leyte Gulf was one of the largest and most decisive naval battles of all time.
Admiral Kinkaid, aboard the Wasatch, commanded the naval forces of the 7th fleet.
In the U.S. Navy’s history, few battles are as significant or as controversial as that of Leyte Gulf (23–26 October 1944). Among the largest naval battles ever fought, Leyte involved nearly 200,000 men and 282 ships fighting in four separate engagements across 100,000 square miles of ocean. It was exactly the sort of “decisive battle” that both the Allies and the Japanese had sought since the beginning of World War II, one that pitted the waning might of the Japanese Combined Fleet against the U.S. Third and Seventh fleets. Although the Japanese hoped that this battle would revive their flagging fortunes, in the end, it would prove to be their navy’s death knell, leaving the Allies in command of the Pacific and well situated to recapture the remainder of the Philippines.
Click on image above to view PDF of portion of actual Cruise Book that describes the Battle of Leyte