During World War II, Camp Shanks in Rockland Co., N.Y., about ten miles from New York City, was the point of embarkation for hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops leaving to fight in Europe. (See here and here.) My father worked there as a clerk. He had been too young for World War I, and while not too old for the Second World War, by 1941 he had six children, and my mother wouldn’t agree to his going off to war. His contribution was to work at Camp Shanks, to edit a newsletter of home town news that he sent to all the young men from West Nyack, N.Y., who were in the military, and by serving as an air-raid warden in that little town.
I have memories of the air-raid drills, of all the lights having to be put out, or the shades drawn, and the top half of car headlights blacked out. We had a Victory Garden in our backyard. We kids would also collect string and tin-foil, for some war-related purpose. We still have the ration-books that were used for buying food, one for each member of the family. (By the time the war ended, there were eight children.)
I remember the fire-siren blowing to celebrate the end of the war, doing summersaults on the front lawn, and telling playmates that my uncle was going to bring a Jeep home. How little I knew at the age of six: he was in the Navy!
“Saving Private Ryan” was on TV last night and perhaps that’s what prompted these memories. Much more realistic than many a war movie, it still falls far short of the horror of the real thing, you will be told by anyone who has ever fought in a war.