Friday, May 18, 2012
Citizens of London: Sgt. Schwartz and WWII
Auntie Dorothy was one of four stenographers who worked in shifts 24/7 to take notes about changes in aircraft movements and other operational activities vital to the air war. For her support during the period leading up to V-E Day, she received a Bronze Star Medal!
Dorothy was in England for much of her service, following intensive stateside training. So I was very interested in reading the lively, well-written book Citizens of London by Lynne Olson, all about the Americans who "stood with Britain in its darkest, finest hour" (as the cover says). Prominent people like Averell Harriman, Edward R. Murrow, and John Gilbert Winant formed close ties to the people of England before and during WWII, staying in or near London as the war progressed and letting America and the world know about the danger and the courage. Not dull, not dry, and very relevant to folks like me who had family members in the war and in Britain.
Olson conveys a wonderful sense of the ups and downs of daily life in London and beyond: What it was like to live in cities under nightly attack from bombs...how American military personnel swarmed in as D-Day approached and turned rural villages into bustling depots for supplies and training...the feeling of "live for today" because tomorrow was very uncertain...the joy of eating an orange after not seeing one for two years...and finally, the strong and enduring "special relationship" between the British and the Americans, personal as well as political.
My aunt was befriended by a family in the British countryside, an experience very much like what Olson describes happening to U.S. GIs and pilots during 1944-5. I have several letters from the family, who wrote to my grandparents (Hermina Farkas Schwartz and Theodore Schwartz) to rave about my aunt and offer reassurances that she looked well and she was being taken care of. Did my aunt stay in touch after the war? I don't know, but I'm grateful that she had caring people around her while she was so far from home for the very first time, in her mid-20s.