Last updated: April 6, 2020
The Lusk Herald
November 7, 2019
By Lori Himes
Turn on the television, pick up a newspaper or magazine, log into a social media site and the prevailing sentiment of the masses is glaringly evident.
There is a pervasive anger that is almost palpable. And then we hear the elementary children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance over the loud speaker every morning, with pure exuberance that only youth possess, and hearts swell with the pride that is our country. This is how it should be.
As we watch the heroic men and women that bravely and selflessly served our country during the World War II era, age, and pass from this life, it becomes apparent that as a society, we are losing a valuable resource. A vital educational opportunity that cannot be reproduced and the loss will be repeated as those that have served in other conflicts age and take their insight and lessons with them to the grave.
The United States did not officially enter the War until December 1941. The general attitude of American citizens was against entering the War. President Roosevelt at one point told the American people that we, as a country, would not become involved.
World War II is generally considered to have lasted from 1939 to 1945; it was the most widespread war in history with more than 100 million people from more than 30 different countries serving in military units. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources.
It is estimated that 50-85 million fatalities occurred which made it the most deadly conflict in human history.
With this in mind, I selected a random year from the Lusk Herald archives to perhaps gain an understanding of the attitudes and responses of members of Lusk and Niobrara County during that time. The year was 1942.
The beginning of 1942 began with the call to service of men 28 years of age and over for preinduction physicals. By the end of the year, boys 18-19 years old were being called.
Committees were being called for tire, gas, and sugar rationing. As the year progressed, coffee silk and nylon hose were added to the list.
Patriotic Essay Contest s were being held for the children. People were being asked to clean out their storage rooms and attics to assist National Defense and farmers and ranchers were asked to donate their scrap.
Everyone was asked to purchase U.S. Defense Bonds. For the most part people went about their daily lives. People married, had babies, and participated in school and community activities. By the end of January, Red Cross Fund donations were being published. People gave what they had, maybe a dollar or two, sometimes more.
Advertisements were generally of a patriotic theme. There were instructional articles on how to salute and care for the flag. There was a pride than can almost be felt.
People gave what they had for the effort with no complaint. Mothers and Fathers gave up their children to the cause with pride and honor in their hearts.
It was not just the men who volunteered. Jantine Kaan answered the call and is believed to be the first woman from Niobrara County to enlist as an army nurse. Wives left behind went to work in factories or depots to do their part. There was not one Letter to the Editor complaining that they were asked to give too much or that it wasn’t their responsibility. They gave because they felt that it was their responsibility, sometimes giving the ultimate sacrifice.
In the June 11 issue, the first Niobrara War fatality was reported. Frank Dupes, a Marine from Keeline, was only 22 years old. He was killed in action at Midway Island. He was one of 18 boys from Keeline already in the service. When his mother received the telegram reporting his death, it was reported that his “Mother has taken the word bravely and with pride and expressed the hope that her son’s sacrifice would help end the war soon“.
In an article titled “Etched in Stone” by Margaret Matray from the Star-Tribune, a rose-colored stone set in cement with a flag sentry stands as a memorial to the six men that did not return to their small town of Keeline. No one seems to know the history of the stone or how it came to be there. Just the names of the young men that died protecting our freedoms.
By June the community was increasing their salvage drive by having a Niobrara Salvage Festival. Manville community won the float contest with plaster cast of Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito sticking out from the sides of the scrap iron. And there were over 50 miniature floats entered by children.
The 1700-pound bell from the old Jireh College was donated by the remaining trustees to the Red Cross as scrap and it was mounted on a model T truck and the bell tolled the entire parade route. The sound was reported to be “beautiful and penetrating” and made people wonder if it shouldn’t be retained. Further research proved that a compromise was reached when it was reported in the August 13 issue, “The bell was purchased by St. James Church in Holland, Minn. for $200, and the proceeds were promptly donated to the Red Cross.
There are so many stories, some have already been lost. There were two large “Memory Boards” that at one time were displayed in town. Some say they had been stored at the elevator. But no one seems to know where they went.
Taking the time to learn of our history and to teach our youth the importance of our freedoms is vital. The quiet dignity that was possessed by this community during this difficult and trying time stands as testament to our future generations.
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