2017-04-21 / News

From Grandmother’s diaries: The War Years

Holocaust Remembrance Day is April 24

My name is Kathy Morrell Newman. I live on top of historic Horrell Hill, 285 feet above sea level, in the house my Grandfather Howell Morrell built for his bride, Mary Boozer Morrell, 112 years ago. Join me in my journey among my family memories on the Hill as I share the thoughts, worries, and wisdom of a Horrell Hill lady— in her own words.

World War II is ranked as one of the deadliest wars in the history of the world. In terms of total casualties, 60 million were killed. Six million were Jews and one day each year we remember those who suffered, those who fought, those who died, and the many families that were completely destroyed. Holocaust Remembrance Day is April 24, the beginning of an eight-day period, established by Congress as the period for remembrance programs and ceremonies.

It has been over 70 years since the Holocaust. For those who survived, it is still real; the horrors are alive, never forgotten. For some others, 70 years makes the Holocaust seem part of ancient history. I was one of the others until I read the World War II entries in my grandmother’s diary. They bring to life the horrors, the bravery, and the heartbreak of war.

Mary Boozer Morrell grew up in Columbia on Plain Street, now Hampton Street. She kept diaries from age 15 (1890) until her death in 1947. Eight have survived, including her 1890-95 journal, her 1933 Gleams diary during the Great Depression(she recorded a Gleam each day), and six in the 1940s, four of which covered four years of World War II (1942-1945)

The United States entered the war on December 7, 1941, when the Japaneses attacked Pearl Harbor.

In Her Own Words:

December 7, 1942- Remember Pearl Harbor. A dark and gloomy day, ending in a old, miserable drizzle all nature mourning for our country on account of the tragedy a year ago. I'll never forget waiting in the car while Ruth and James happily gathered holly, when over the radio came the words, "The Japs have attacked Hawaii.

Thursday, May 13, 1943 - An article penned to this page is titled “Allies Win All Africa. Battle ends with 150,00 Axis prisoners. Here is her entry.

Was news in morning’s paper for which I am thanking our heavenly Father. Oh, any day we soon have peace! I hope I am not selfish about my boys. James and Uncle Haley), I am praying they may be permitted to live for God and their country, if it be His will.

Tuesday, June 6, 1944

Ruth( daughter) banging on my door this morning exclaiming “Get up, the invasion has started.” The great invasion of Nazis over- run Europe by the Allies, to which we have been looking forward to so long. I spent all of my spare time by the radio, thrilled and thanking God. All regular programs left off and time given to news, prayers, and patriotic music. In Columbia, the churches open for prayer and many holding special services. Our President tonight reading a prayer he had composed and read slowly.

Pinned to the preceding page in this entry was President Roosevelt’s Prayer, which he wrote and read to the American people at 10:00 p.m. while Allied troops were landing on the coast of France.

“My Fellow Americans:

In this poignant hour, I ask you to join me in prayer:

Almighty God, Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our republic, our religions, our republic, and our civilization and to set free a suffering humanity.

“Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness to their faith.

“They will need thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. The enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces, success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again, and we know that by Thy grace and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

“They will be sore tried, by night and day, without rest till the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violence of war.

“Some will never return. Embrace these, Father and receive them, Thy heroic servants.

“And for us at home-fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of all men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them-help us.

“With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace-a peace invulnerable to the scheming of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all men live in freedom.


Wednesday, June 7, 1944- Regular programs on the radio today, but interrupted at intervals by news of the invasion. Tonight the broadcasting of a recording of an actual part of the battle of yesterday. Almost too terrible to listen to. Just the same as if we had actually been there. Felt so sorry for Mrs. Clapsaddle. Her last son left today to join the Navy- her sixth in service.

Sunday, August 11, 1945 - Listening eagerly all day for the announcement of peace. Japan has agreed to surrender provided the allies let her keep her emperor. No decision and still fighting goes on and precious lives are sacrificed. So anxious to help, dried the dishes and put them away. (Significant: Grandmother had an intense dislike of kitchen chores, made it clear about three times a week and referred to her “black monster” in the kitchen.)

Saturday, August 11, 1945- Peace may come at any moment. The allies have agreed to let the Japanese keep their emperor, provided he agrees to order his subjects to carry out the commands of the allies.

Sunday, August 12, 1945- Just as I started to put my diary away, an announcement came that Japan had accepted the peace terms. A few minutes later, it was announced to be a mistake.

Monday, May 13, 1945- When that first announcement came last night, I wept and thanked God. Then I started writing on the margin of my diary. Had not completed the first line when the next announcement came. Have kept the radio on all day again, but no news.

Tuesday, August 14, 1945- After a day of almost heartbreaking and longing, at seven this evening- It came! It came! The announcement of Japan’s surrender, so peace! I wept, Ruth went out and rang the old farm bell, silent for so long. Ruth tuned in to several cities and the “din” was so great we could hardly hear anyone talk.

Wednesday, August 15,1945- Over the radio all day patriotic music and world- wide rejoicing. An address by King George of England. No stammering and only an occasional hesitation.

August 20, 1945-An article from the State Newspaper, titled “Truman Leads US in Prayers of Thanks” was pinned to Grandmother’s August 20, 1945 entry.

I am trying to decide which I am more thankful for, the cessation of war or the fact that I live in a nation whose leadership observe it as this newspaper clipping tells. I decided the second was more selfish, so I'll say peace over all the world is first.

Holocaust Remembrance Day is April 24, 2017. Let us remember.

By Kathy Morrell Newman, ©April, 2017

Note: I am not a historian, and my writings reflect one woman’s opinion and the facts as I understand them.

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