I didn’t start working in the gear business until 1971, but the events of 30 years earlier affected me from the moment I walked into the employment office. The people interviewing me and making decisions about my career were shaped by the Day That Will Live in Infamy. They looked at each potential employee as if they were someone they might have to go into battle with.
Once you got past the employment office and into the shop, most of the journeymen who trained you were also vets. They didn’t talk about it a lot; one or two asked where my father or uncles served in “the big one.” They typically only asked where — not if — because the shared experience was that universal.
Even our equipment had “served;” you could tell the “war vintage”-machines from the pre-war- and post-war-machines by the reduced concern for cosmetics. The castings were a bit rougher, for example, or the manufacturer’s logo had not been sharpened with a die grinder. Some of those machines are still making chips today.
This wasn’t just in Milwaukee. In Chicago, some buildings still have “Government Property” on display. Further evidence of the war can be found in the buildings themselves. Metal was in short supply both during and after the conflict, so roof trusses were made in wood — of the (pre-war) angle iron and (post-war) c-channel material — yet nevertheless beautifully and soundly made.
This morning the Internet has stories of the last official reunion of the USS Arizona Survivors Association. After 73 years, the youngest survivors are no longer able to travel without risking their health.
A grateful nation cannot forget their service and the sacrifices of countless others. No matter what our problems are today, and we have a lot of them, the men and women who fought The Big One set an example of service we would be wise to follow.