There is one front and one battle where everyone in the United States—every man, woman, and child—is in action and will be privileged to remain in action throughout this war. That front is right here at home, in our daily lives and in our daily tasks. Here at home everyone will have the privilege of making whatever self-denial is necessary, not only to supply our fighting men, but to keep the economic structure of our country fortified and secure during the war and after the war.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s radio broadcast to the nation, April 28, 1942

Thursday, March 31, 2011

War-Time Romance



I take my girl down
to Frenchman’s Bay
for a little talk and
maybe something more.
Glancing over the water
we see nothing, only
stars in the distance,
and yet, we can hear
a steady thrumming—
the muffled sound
of an engine.
She leans against me
and breathlessly whispers
before she nibbles
on my ear.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Postcard courtesy Boston Public Library.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Man On the Bicycle



One thing we hope never
to see in our neighborhood
is the man on the bicycle.

He delivers THE TELEGRAM,
bringing messages of a loved one
maimed, missing, or dead.

Nowadays, no one chooses
to send a telegram,
not even for news of a birth.

The man on the bicycle
is no longer welcomed
around here.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Telegram courtesy World War II-Prisoners of War-Stalag Luft I, used with permission.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mrs. Roosevelt's Underwear



With the rubber shortage,
elastic is no longer being made.
Underwear has gone back
to the old-fashioned type
tightened at the waist by
buttons or a drawstring.
I’ve heard a story that
one day, while giving a speech,
Mrs. Roosevelt’s underwear
came undone and dropped to her feet.
Without stopping or making
a fuss, the First Lady
stepped out of her underwear
and continued on.
Imagine that!

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Another Christmas



Another Christmas.
This is the fourth
since Pearl Harbor.
I hate being selfish,
but isn’t there anything
besides war bonds
that Santa can leave
me this year?

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Christmas card from author's collection. Note: to see the inside of the card more clearly, click on the image.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The News



The war goes on
and yet, I think an end
may be in sight.
I'm totally obsessed
with the news, so I
must walk to the library
every day only to be
faced with papers
a day old or older,
the reports inside their
pages no longer new.
Still, it will have to do
until the church bells
ring out news of victory
using no words at all.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Poster courtesy North Carolina Digital Collections.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Russian Sniper



I can't get it out of my head.
The photograph of a Russian
sniper. A headline reading
Germans Just 'Snakes'
But, it wasn't a rifleman--
it was a rifleWOMAN.
Yes, a woman! And I have
no doubt, none at all, that
she could, and would, kill.

So why, after more than
two years, hasn't this war
ended? I think someone's
not telling us the whole story.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Clipping from the Oakland Tribune, October 6, 1942.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Kilroy Was Here



I don’t know who started it.
The story I heard was
it’s an inspector in Boston
who drew the big-nosed face
on ships that he had okayed.
But who knows, there are
other stories going round.

Leave it to the sophomore boys
to pick up on a fad and overdo it.
They think they’re so clever.
every girls room in the school.
I know my brother had
something to do with it.

That’s why I decided to get even.
I snatched a pair of his drawers
from the line and drew Kilroy
on the seat of the pants.
I’m sure mother will figure out
who defaced Jimmy’s drawers.
I have a feeling she’ll be laughing.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo, from the WW II monument in Washington, D.C., by Kurt Magoon.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Animal Husbandry



First wolves, now cows.
Who comes up with these
names? I've been reading
of the Milchk├╝he--milk cows!

Another name for damn u-boats.
Milk cows offer the "wolves"
sustenance. Supplies at sea.
Without returning home to port.

Stop, no more! Let's speak
plainly!--Nazi pig bastards
are what they are, and we're
gonna roast them all.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo of captured u-boat, U-505, courtesy U.S. Navy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Selective Service



After Pearl Harbor
the Selective Service Act
was quickly revised.

Men ages 18 to 65
had to register. Eighteen?
My cousin, Ted.
Both my Grampas!

Ted joined up before
he could be drafted

My brother, at 16,
was safe. But before
we knew it, it was 1943.

Ed turned 18, and by
that time, the rules
had changed again.
Eighteen was draft age.

Off to war he went.

Guess what? Draftable
is anyone up to age 45.
Dad's turned 44--he's
not out of the woods yet.

And, me?
I just turned 17.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Article clipping from the Racine Journal Times, May 12, 1944.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Class Assignment



Miss Barnes gave us
a rather odd assignment,
or so I thought, at first.

We were each to make
an autograph book and
head downtown.

Once there, we were
to gather the autographs
of every serviceman we met.

We were not to look for
heroes, but for the common
sailor or foot soldier.

We were told to be polite,
to introduce ourselves, and
to carry on a conversation.

Miss Barnes indicated
that we might be surprised
by what happened.

We were surprised!
By the delighted "Who me?"
By the willingness to comply.

And most of all,
by the enormous smiles
of ordinary guys

who suddenly stood
taller than admirals
and generals.

Monday, March 21, 2011

This Close



I came this close
to being shot last week.

My neighbor Margie
is sweet on a soldier
from the nearby camp.
Since I work as a delivery boy,
Margie thought I might deliver
a letter for her—would I!

I took off on my bicycle.
The gate in front of camp
was open, so I rode right in.
“Halt!” yelled a sentry.
He ran toward me
with a rifle held chest high!

I nearly crapped myself.

After questioning, I was
permitted to deliver Margie’s letter
and encouraged to bring more!
Today Margie told me that
she and her soldier are getting married!
Ain't that swell!

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Little Drummer



Every Sunday Aunt Katie comes
for dinner with that pesky baby.
Mama always lets him bang
a tin can with a wooden spoon.
Oh, what a noise! Daddy's
complained about it for months!

This week there's been good
news from Europe every day.
Today Mama went to the parlor.
She took her prized pillow from the sofa.
She gave it to my little cousin and said,
"Beat the hell-o out of it, little man."

Yes, MY MOTHER really said that!
"I won't need that old pillow anymore,"
she said. "My boy will be home
soon and I'll squeeze him instead."
Daddy and the baby just laughed
and laughed as the feathers flew.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Sweetheart pillow from author's collection.

Saturday, March 19, 2011




No actor is part
of this movie.
These liberated prisoners
are not horror film extras.
This is not Hollywood illusion.

This is evil and it is real.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Newspaper clipping from the Oelwein Daily Register, April 9, 1945.




This year we studied mythology
--Greek and Roman gods.
One of them was Janus, god of transition.

Transition means to change.

Poor Janus--looking backward,
looking forward. Always moving--
never in the here and now.

I'm like Janus.

I see my father as he was
before he left to fight the war.
Soon, I'll watch him turn civilian.

How he is today is what is unknown.

When he left I was six inches shorter.
Just a kid. Now I'm practically a man.
He won't know my voice when I speak.

I used to hate girls, but not anymore.

Dad knew me as a child, he'll know
me as an adult. But what about now?
Does Dad feel like Janus, too?

I wonder if he's as scared as I am?

When we meet we'll have to turn
our heads away from the past, turn
from the future, and look at us as we are.

Will we like what we see?

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Train



The only other time I saw the president
was when we both had gone to enjoy
the therapeutic waters of Warm Springs.
Mr. Roosevelt took the time
to speak with some of us guests.
He mentioned his new puppy.
I said, "I have a cat named Fluffy."
I was young and didn’t know not to
interrupt such an important man.
He listened to me ramble on
about kitty cats and puppy dogs,
and when I finished, he smiled.

Today, years away from Warm Springs,
I’m in a crowd of soldiers, sailors,
and hundreds of civilians
waiting to pay their respects.
We listen attentively to the whistle
that signals the train’s arrival.
The crowd surges forward without me.
On the grass this wheelchair’s
not worth a tinker’s damn.
So, from behind, I salute, and
whisper a long overdue thank you
to the man with the smile.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Top and bottom photos courtesy Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

V-E Day

Sarah Jane


In my religion,
it is a sin to dance,
but I don’t think God
minded that today,
I joined a conga line
that wound its way
around town.
Today, May 8, 1945,
the war with Germany ended
with celebrations,
parades, hugs and kisses,
banging pots and pans,
horns tooting, confetti throwing,
dancing and praying.
All these ways
of thanking the Lord
that the boys in Europe
are coming home.
Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you, Lord.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Norfolk Public Library.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Musical War



Uncle Mick has come home
--badly scarred, but whole.
He and Mom are downstairs
right now, jitterbugging to
"I’m Beginning to See the Light."

They’ve played it at least
six times and don’t show signs
of stopping. That song will be
the one I’ll remember when I
think about the war ending.

When I look back I hear
"We’ll Meet Again"--a tune
that in my ignorance I thought
more hopeful than sad.

Then there’s "He Wears a Pair
of Silver Wings" to remind me
of neighborhood boys who
ran off to become flyers.

Sinatra singing "Snootie
Little Cutie" brings back
the handsome Marine who
nearly swept me away!

Ooh, listen! They’re playing
"Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive"...
excuse me while I go downstairs
to listen to another memory.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Sheet music from author's personal collection.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hiroshima and Nagasaki



Two cities bombed--
obliterated--to end a war
that has gone on for
what seems an eternity.

Is it right to end the killing
of American servicemen
with the killing of Japanese civilians?
I just don’t know...

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo, "Japanese family camps in ruins of Nagasaki, having built temporary shelter from bits of metal and wood debris on the terraced hill that was once row on row of houses," courtesy Harry S. Truman Library & Museum.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Plus Six



We're all in a dither.
Matt should be home soon!
The war is winding down.

He was drafted in '42.
He's served his time.
--and then some.

But Dad reminds me
of the "plus six" clause.
"For the duration plus six."

Six more months!
It's not fair, but as Dad says,
"Who said life is fair?"

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Article from Connellsville, Pennsylvania, The Daily Courier, August 14, 1945.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Miracle Cure!


The thoughts and hopes of all America--indeed of all the civilized world--are centered tonight on the battleship Missouri. There on that small piece of American soil anchored in Tokyo Harbor the Japanese have just officially laid down their arms. They have signed terms of unconditional surrender.

Four years ago, the thoughts and fears of the whole civilized world were centered on another piece of American soil--Pearl Harbor. The mighty threat to civilization which began there is now laid at rest. It was a long road to Tokyo--and a bloody one.

Harry S. Truman, radio address September 1, 1945


President Truman announced
terms of unconditional surrender
and suddenly my shortness
of breath and the tightness
in my chest are gone.
It's the first time in a long time
I've been able to breathe.
I never realized until just now
that for the past four years
I'd been holding my breath.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The War Is Over!

Mary Lee


We were at the beach
and when we arrived
back home, still wet,
Mom, was laughing
and crying and laughing.
She gave us the news
and we knelt
to say a prayer.

"You’ll always
remember this day,"
Dad said.
And to make sure,
he made us sit
on the front step
for one last picture
of his homefront army.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.

This is last of the poems. Thank you for reading Kids of the Homefront Army.