War Songs (& other stories)

by Granny of Six

Seventy-Five years ago, when my Dad was fighting the Nazis in Germany, a song was released that was played over and over on the radio. Radio was the only media besides newspapers and movies, we had at that time. The song was “You Are Always in My Heart” and every time it played on our radio, my Mom would cry, uncontrollably. Eventually, my mother calmed down, wrote her own words to the song, and those are the only words I can remember from “You are Always in My Heart”, which are the first four lines.

Soldier Boy I love you so, and I want the world to know,
Though you’re in the army now, I’ll make a vow I’ll wait for you.
Just before I go to sleep, there’s rendezvous I keep
And the dreams I’m dreaming now until you’re home, are all of you.

We keep a radio station on, all day, that features romantic songs from times past. They play many old war-time songs, including “You Are Always in My Heart”, and each time I hear it, still I choke up remembering those days.

Think about the many songs written during the wars. “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”, which goes, “Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me, ‘til I come marching home”, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “I’ll Never Smile Again” and, of course, “You Are Always in My Heart”. I admit, there are also many songs from the Civil War, WWI and the Vietnamese conflict, but the ones from WWII are the ones that have stuck in my mind and in my heart.

I believe that during any time of stress and, especially wartime, the most beautiful and poignant songs are written, and that is also when everything else seems secondary, to those affected.


In the Distance

She was 7 years old and WWII was in full swing. To Rachel, the war meant all seven of her uncles and her daddy were far away, window shades were black and pulled down each night in their tiny apartment, “Air Raid Drills” (where she and her 2nd grade classmates had to crouch under their desks), were weekly occurrences, food was rationed and there was no rubber for bicycle wheels or cars. Things were strained at home, with her mother often losing her temper, or in tears, for no reason apparent to Rachel. Sometimes, one or more of her aunts would come by and they all cried together.

Grandpa was a tailor, and every week, the family would get together in the store to read the letters from their men in the Armed Forces to each other, and to Grandma and Grandpa, who worked side by side. Grandma took care of the customers, as she spoke English better than Grandpa, and he did the measuring and tailoring. Rachel’s father wrote, in one of his letters, that the “Jerrys” (Germans) were throwing “eggs” (bombs) at the American soldiers. Grandpa got very excited and angry, and in his thick, Yiddish accent, said: “Ve haf eggs rationed and zumbody named Jerry is trowing eggs at our soldiers?” That was the only time during WWII that Rachel remembers the entire family having a good laugh.

Then, two years later, Rachel and her mother went to the dock on the Hudson River, and suddenly, there were soldiers everywhere! In the distance, she saw her father rushing towards them, and she knew everything in the entire world would be OK now.