Prewar Life to Pearl Harbor

Civilian Life During the War

Postwar Celebrations and Thoughts


Doctor James B. Heneghan grew up in Chicago [Annotator's Note: Chicago, Illinois]. He was born in La Porte, Indiana in February 1935. His father worked as a surveyor for the Indiana Highway Department. He got an engineering job in Chicago and the family moved there. He lived the longest in the south side of Chicago. His father helped design the Twyckenham Bridge [Annotator's Note: Twyckenham Drive Bridge] over the Saint Joseph River in South Bend, Indiana. Heneghan and his son visited it recently [Annotator's Note: at the time of the interview]. Heneghan and his family were on vacation in Florida when he heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941]. Prior to that, they were at a railroad track and his father was almost hit by a train. They thought that was going to be the scariest time of their vacation, but a few days later, 7 December 1941 was. His parents could not believe it. It was a frantic time. Very different than now because it was hard to get news then. When Heneghan was in Chicago, there was a theater called "The Telenews" [Annotator's Note: later called the Loop Theater] that ran newsreels all the time. His parents were concerned that his father might have to go to war. It was a somber ride home. People started saving more money. Eventually there was rationing. They had war bonds [Annotator's Note: debt securities issued by a government to finance military operations and other expenditure in times of war] and they bought stamps [Annotator's Note: War savings stamps were issued by the United States Treasury Department to help fund World War 2] at school and put them in books towards buying them. Having come through the Depression [Annotator's Note: the Great Depression was a global economic depression that lasted from 1929 through 1939 in the United States], his parents, especially his mother, abhorred debt. His family was kind of isolated and Heneghan does not know of any immediate family who served. His grandfather was involved in horticulture. Heneghan spent his summers with his grandparents. In Chicago, the people who lived in apartment buildings started growing gardens in vacant lots. Nobody ever bothered anybody else's gardens. They felt this helped with the war cause. His wife's father-in-law was a tool-and-die maker. He worked himself to death during the war producing munitions. He had a nervous breakdown. He even slept at the plant. He felt he had to do more because he was not fighting in the war.


Doctor James B. Heneghan's father was a civil engineer. He helped design the very first pre-stressed concrete arches that could be used for hangars [Annotator's Note: for aircraft]. Roberts and Schaefer Company was who he worked for. The war was discussed in the classroom. Heneghan had a close friend at Notre Dame [Annotator's Note: University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana] who was from Oahu [Annotator's Note: Oahu, Hawaii] and had been there when the attack occurred [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941]. He told Heneghan about the things they did due to fearing an invasion by the Japanese. In wartime Chicago [Annotator's Note: Chicago, Illinois], a lot of people in uniform were walking around downtown. Everybody was so appreciative and friendly. It was a thrill to read about the D-Day landings [Annotator's Note: D-Day; the Allied invasion of Normandy, France on 6 June 1944]. They had no idea of the scope until they saw some of the movies. The victory celebrations were something. He remembers the dropping of the atom bomb [Annotator's Note: nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, 6 August 1945] and thought it would be the end of the war. The second one [Annotator's Note: nuclear weapon dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, 9 August 1945] did end the war. Heneghan was German and German was spoken at his grandmother's house. They felt they could not speak German in public and were embarrassed by their heritage. The country got after the Japanese because they were not Western Europeans. The cartoons they saw, had a lot of propaganda. At Notre Dame, he became friendly with Japanese students in the early 1950s. He became good friends with a Japanese boy. Heneghan's grandmother asked him why a Jap [Annotator's Note: a period derogatory term for Japanese] was there. That stuff went deep.


Doctor James B. Heneghan went to patriotic events at Soldier Field [Annotator's Note: in Chicago, Illinois]. That stadium could hold 100,000 people. They were spectacular events. They all felt they were in the war with the people who were fighting. VE-Day [Annotator's Note: Victory in Europe Day, 8 May 1945] was a huge party downtown and it was incredible. It was tempered because the war was not completely over. When the war ended, everybody wanted to help the returning service people find work. They were welcoming them back. He saw soldiers with injuries, and it was very sad. The number wounded were many times the number who were killed. One of his roommates' sons went to the Naval Academy [Annotator's Note: United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland] and became an orthopedic surgeon. It became hard for him to amputate limbs of injured men. It is extremely important that kids growing up today learn about the war. When he tried to study history from books, were hard to understand. Video interviews are much better. Museums store the artifacts of history and are also important. Future generations should never give up. Things can seem extremely hopeless at times, but it will work out.

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