THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

A boy to whom the war was unknowable

Email|Print| Text size + By Richard Carpenter
Globe Staff / August 1, 2003

I was only a toddler on Dec. 8, 1941, when the United States entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I was 4 when the war formally ended on Sept. 2, 1945, after the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But young though I was, I have my memories.

They are not of the daily danger two uncles faced on the battlefields of Europe. Nor are they of my father's war work at the Charlestown Naval Shipyard.

Instead, I remember shopping with my mother, who always clutched her book of ration stamps, and needed to buy whatever food and other goods were available in that time of shortages. I remember, too, asking her on an April day in 1945 why there were black wreaths on the telephone poles. "President Roosevelt died," she told me. I kind of understood.

But mostly I remember the bells, whistles, and horns sounding throughout the city of Lynn on Aug. 14, 1945, the day Japan surrendered. I didn't understand what all the noise was about until my older brother, with all the wisdom of his years, decided it must mean that a man was coming to everyone's house with free toys for children. I never questioned his conclusion. After all, he was 5.

We waited patiently while the symphony of celebration continued until an even older boy, a family friend named Keith, rushed in to our little apartment, shouting, "The war's over! The war's over!" That was the reason for the whistles and horns, he told us. My brother and I were so, so disappointed.

How little we knew.

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