Happy Valentine’s Day!
Today on the day that is celebrated for loving relationships, I will share examples of love that existed and thrived during World War II. All of these story excerpts are relayed in greater detail in my book, We Fought to Win: American World War II Veterans Share Their Stories. Buy it here on Amazon.
In November 1943, during a furlough from the Tennessee Maneuvers (exercised designed to simulate battle conditions), Millard Schwartz of Jay County/ Indiana traveled home to marry Mary Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Flesher whom he had met years two years earlier on a blind date. The two had kept in touch via letters during his military service.
Two weeks later, Schwartz returned to his unit at Camp McCain, Mississippi. In July 1944, he and 18,000 American troops sailed from New York harbor for Europe on the Queen Elizabeth. He and Betty would not be reunited until the end of the war two years later.
After Millard returned safely from the war, the couple became parents to two sons. They remained married for 70 years until Betty’s death in 2014.
Ruth Cooper Licking (photos of the Lickings wedding/ street scene above)
In June 1944, Sergeant Ruth Cooper from Marion, North Carolina, was with a group of WACs (Women’s Army Corps) at their assigned base, Kelly Field in San Antonio when they began chatting with a group of soldiers, including Tech Sergeant Bill Licking from Greensburg, Indiana. Licking had been stationed in Panama for three years and was now at Kelly Field in an administrative position.
Cooper and Licking got along well. During the next several months, they saw each other as often as schedules allowed.
Shortly after the New Year 1945, they professed their love for each other and decided to marry. But the war presented problems.
The thought of traveling to either of their hometowns to get married was out of the question due to gas shortages. No one from their families could attend as trains were full of soldiers moving across the country.
The couple compromised. On February 17, 1945, in the Kelly Field base chapel the two exchanged vows in front of a large crowd from the base, many of whom they didn’t know.
Cooper borrowed a wedding dress from a fellow WAC. Licking’s solid gold wedding band cost her $45.00 to purchase, including the engraving with their names and wedding date.
The two soldiers resumed their jobs while living in on-base housing. When the war ended in August 1945, Ruth was discharged in September and Bill a month later. They moved to Greensburg, then Bluffton, Indiana, where they operated a men’s clothing store for 27 years. They became parents to four children.
Note: In some cases wives traveled with their soldier husbands as they moved from base to base for training.
Vernon Kaehr was drafted into military service with the U.S. Army in February 1943. After passing a physical examination at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, Kaehr was assigned to the Infantry, 37-mm Antitank Regiment and sent to Fort Lewis in Washington for basic training.
Upon being granted leave in September 1943, Kaehr returned to Bluffton, Indiana, where he had grown up, to marry high school sweetheart Mary Ann Steffen.
The couple drove to Fort Lewis where Kaehr was transferred to the supply department. Mary Ann found a job at the shipyards riding a bike to deliver messages between offices.
A few months later, Vernon was sent to Louisiana for special training. Mary Ann returned to Bluffton and was reunited with her husband after the war ended in May 1945.
Vernon and Mary Ann became parents to four daughters and celebrated 70 years of marriage in September 2013.
What challenges do you find in 21st century relationships – separation due to work, financial difficulties, other? Perhaps one of these stories will inspire you to try to make your commitment work in 2020!