Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Air Raid

I was just a young boy growing up in Eastern Pennsylvania during the Second World War. We often had air raid alerts. Several of our neighbors were air raid wardens. My best friend’s father was the designated leader. He wore a soldiers’ helmet and carried a flashlight and went from house to house and if he could see any light coming through the windows, he knocked on the door and warned you that your blinds were not pulled or some other light was on. No one was allowed to smoke outside since a lit cigarette could be seen for miles. Some of us, as all young kids would do, went outside during the drill, and searched the skies for the airplanes we supposed were definitely headed our way. On occasions, we actually thought we saw planes. Our necks were sore from searching the skies. After what seemed like a long time, the air raid leader sounded an all clear horn. Window blinds went up, lights were turned on and people came outside and talked and smoked and were glad that it was just an alert. The parents discussed the air raid and supposed that the planes were shot down out at sea or somewhere east of us. The excitement of the drill, never knowing if it was for real, was magnificent to us kids.

But to my knowledge, there was never an actual attack. The US government scheduled these drills for the duration of the war ending them when Germany surrendered.

All the adults, mostly immigrants from Eastern Europe, were glad that the drills were done, most of whom having gone through the First World War were glad they were only drills. They thanked FDR for his concern and careful planning.

It was only much later, when I grew up and was able to reflect on the logistics that I discovered that the drills were pure propaganda. There was not an airplane in the world that could have flown from Germany or Japan, dropped its load of bombs in Pennsylvania and returned home. The planes that were used to bomb Europe, flying from England, were barely able to traverse that round trip. It was just a rouse to scare the American people into supporting the war.

It sometimes reminds me of our current Homeland Security Department that continues to issue alerts with not a shred of verifiable evidence that harm is headed our way. They were just like the air raid alerts, another ruse to scare us and be thankful that the administration was doing their job.

Contrary to Peter, Paul and Mary the times are not a changing.

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