For this Veteran’s Day post, I’ll be looking at an artifact that illuminates the early relationship between two veterans in my family—one who served during WWII, and one who was still two decades away from serving and was too young to understand the sacrifices his father and his family were making.
This post is about a wallet of loose photos that my grandfather, Vernon C. Black, carried with him during World War II to remind him of his family back home. My grandmother, Dorothy R. (McMurry) Black, took the photos, captioned them, and mailed them in letters she sent almost daily (most of which still survive and will undoubtedly be the topic of a series of blog posts in the future). She also cared for the wallet and photos for decades and thoughtfully left a note giving a brief history of the wallet.
This photo wallet was carried by Vernon Curtis Black with these pictures in it during WWII (carried in his right hip pocket.) —Dorothy R. Black
This post presents the photos that were in Vernon’s photo wallet as it preserved by my grandmother—presumably as it was when he returned to his family at the end of the war. There were at least dozens of additional photos that were once part of the album but had to be removed to keep it slender enough to carry with him. I’ve already found one batch of a couple dozen such photos that I believe were once in this album (based on their captions), but I’ll save those for a future post.
My father, Keith Vernon Black, was the first child born to Vernon and Dorothy Black, in the Fall of 1942. The young couple had gotten married less than two years earlier, on December 18, 1940. Before they were able to celebrate their first anniversary, the world that they and their generation knew was violently shaken and the future they were hoping for had to be set aside.
War had already been raging in Europe for two years, but the U.S. avoided becoming entangled in that conflict. Then, on December 7th, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. On the following day the U.S., led by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, declared war on Japan. Three days later, on December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S., and within hours the U.S. responded with a declaration of war on those two countries.
I suppose the natural reaction in such a situation is to lash out at those who threaten you and to protect and comfort those you love. My grandfather, Vernon Black, certainly did both of these. My father was conceived less than six weeks after Pearl Harbor. Vernon initially joined a marine civil defense unit (the topic of a future post) and after working all day he spent his nights aboard a small boat patrolling the coast to watch for signs of an attack or invasion.
Their son Keith was born on October 19, 1942. Vernon continued manning the civil defense boat a few nights a week, month after month, without ever a hint of an approaching enemy. Meanwhile, the U.S. was waging a devastating war on two fronts. Vernon grew impatient and wanted to join the war to help end the war.
On August 28, 1943, six weeks before his son’s first birthday, Vernon enlisted in the U.S. Army, wanting to be sent to the Pacific Front to fight the Japanese. He completed his basic training at Camp Abbot in Oregon, but after his superiors discovered he could type reasonably well, he found himself being shipped off to the European Theater to serve as a clerk.
And now to the photos in the photo wallet. The photos in the wallet were loose and appeared to be in no particular order, so with the exception of my grandmother’s accompanying note, I’ve ordered the contents chronologically below:
World War II ended on September 2, 1945, but Vernon remained deployed in Europe after the war had ended. He spent his time taking military-sanctioned business courses in Biarritz, France, until he was returned to the States. Vernon was discharged from service at Fort Lewis in Washington on February 13, 1946.
Comments and questions:
- Jude is Jude Laspa, Keith’s first cousin.
- Harriet is Kathryn Harriet (McMurry) Laspa, Jude’s mother and Dorothy’s younger sister.
- Glenn is Glenn McMurry, Keith’s first cousin.
- Frank is Frank Bailey McMurry, Glenn’s father and Dorothy’s older brother.
- Katherine is Katherine Laspa, Keith’s first cousin.
- Aunt Dot and Uncle Clarence are Dorothy and Clarence Bailey, Dorothy’s aunt and uncle.
- Uncle Oscar is Oscar McMurry, Dorothy’s uncle.
- Who was Sheryl—the girl that Keith is with in April and July, 1944, and March, 1945? She was apparently born two weeks before Keith, so around October 5, 1942.
- Who was “Chouche” and where was “Chouche’s place?”
- Who was Rowena?
- Who are the Mowoons, and how is their name really spelled?
- Who are Meldon, Wayne Boulton, Nettie, Nel, Irv, Beverly, Harry and Sten?
- Who is Dinny?