Prewar Life

Understanding the War from the Homefront

Reflections and Closing Thoughts


Frank B. Stewart, Jr. was born in New Orleans [Annotator's Note: New Orleans, Louisiana] in September 1935. He is a lifelong resident of New Orleans, only briefly leaving when he was in the military from 1957 until 1959. He was six years old when Pearl Harbor happened [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941]. He vividly remembers sitting on the floor of Audubon Grammar School in first grade, listening to Franklin Delano Roosevelt [Annotator's Note: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States] declare war [Annotator's Note: Day of Infamy Speech; President Franklin D. Roosevelt to a Joint Session of the United States Congress, 8 December 1941]. As a child he did not fully comprehend what the announcement entailed. He heard the line, "This is a day that will live on in infamy," and did not know what the word infamy meant. Stewart's teacher explained it to him and his classmates. The start of the war ushered in a rare type of unity between United States citizens. With the media evolving, people at the Home Front were exposed, more than ever, to what war really looked like. School did not change for Stewart, although there was now a newfound spirit to contribute among everyone. People were buying war savings bonds [Annotator's Note: debt securities issued by the United States Department of the Treasury to help pay for the United States government's borrowing needs] and war savings stamps [Annotator's Note: issued by United States Treasury Department to help fund participation in World War 2]. For citizens at the Home Front, everything was rationed. People like Stewart salvaged everything they could, from newspaper to cooking fat. There were shortages on things such as shoes due to the need for leather. They saved rubber bands and paper clips. As a child during the war, Stewart kept a victory garden [Annotator's Note: also called war gardens, or food gardens for defense; encouraged to reduce pressure on the public food supply]. It was incredible that everyone sacrificed to contribute to the war effort. Nobody had good impressions of the Germans and Japanese and considered them enemies of freedom. Stewart had a brother 18 months younger than himself, and later a sister born after the war. His father was a contractor, refused from the military due to health reasons. His father's brother entered the military as an officer and served at the Home Front during the war. Stewart's father became an air raid warden [Annotator's Note: volunteers that policed their neighborhoods ensuring compliance with blackouts]. In New Orleans there were many fears about submarines in the Gulf [Annotator's Note: Gulf of Mexico], so the city prepared itself for any and all types of enemy attacks. During the air raid drills people had to have their curtains drawn and their lights off, to make the spotting of the city harder for potential enemy attack. Stewart's grandfather was married the day before Pearl Harbor, and on his honeymoon cruise he feared that their boat could be attacked by German submarines in the Gulf.


The newspaper was a critical source of information. Frank B. Stewart, Jr.'s parents would read it to him until he could read it himself. When movies started becoming popular, they were always accompanied by newsreels that lasted up to 30 minutes. The newsreels often focused on events of the war, showing graphic photographs of mass killings and atrocities. Stewart was easily able to follow the events happening in the war overseas. He thought of it like following a sport, every day the Home Front learns of the latest developments. Stewart loves New Orleans [Annotator's Note: New Orleans, Louisiana], as a child during World War 2 he often saw soldiers and equipment coming through the city's port. Because televisions were not yet widely available, the most important way people got their information about the war was through the radio and the newsreels at movies. Occasionally, Stewart heard news of acquaintances dying at the front and it gave him, as a child, a sobering realization of the seriousness of life. When the Allies began stringing together multiple victories, people at the Home Front became optimistic about the war. Civilians began enjoying life without fear of attack again. However, events like D-Day [Annotator's Note: D-Day; the Allied invasion of Normandy, France on 6 June 1944] and the Battle of the Bulge [Annotator's Note: Battle of the Bulge or German Ardennes Counter Offensive, 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945] did not only inspire optimism, the people at home in the United States understood the loss and sacrifice of those fighting in Europe. Stewart also understood the need for the use of atomic bombs [Annotator's Note: nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki, Japan on 9 August 1945] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, without the use of those weapons there was to be a bloody invasion of Japan that would have caused more casualties.


Frank B. Stewart. Jr. was a child during World War 2 but recalls the willingness of Americans volunteering their time towards the war effort. He also remembers the fear of being drafted by the military for people older than himself. If you were not doing well in school and of good physical health, you more often than not found yourself in the military. The war matured him at a young age. Bloodshed over possessions and material things, committing inhumane acts against your fellow man, these are the things that typify war to Stewart. There is no way to explain the magnificence of victory. VE-Day [Annotator's Note: Victory in Europe Day, 8 May 1945] and VJ-Day [Annotator's Note: Victory Over Japan Day, 15 August 1945] were celebrated gloriously. Knowing that no other family members or friends could be hurt by the war was an extremely joyous occasion. Stewart strongly believes that World War 2 needs to be taught in school. It exemplifies the nature of man and the fragility of life. He sees The National WWII Museum [Annotator's Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana] as a part of life and an important part of education. Stewart knows that society has changed a great deal since the era of World War 2 and is not sure that the volunteer spirit of that era could be replicated again. His final message to future generations of Americans is that he hopes that we can one day understand war better and reflect on the history of how freedom was fought for and won. He thanks and compliments all who have contributed to The National WWII Museum.

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