Clifton V-E Day, May 8, 1945
Many surviving World War II veterans and citizens included in their Memorial Day observances a memory of Victory in Europe or V-E Day, which occurred 57 years ago on May 8, 1945. Clifton, as most other communities across the nation, greeted Victory in Europe with both gratitude and sorrow; but also with an attitude of looking forward to the future.
The Herald-News, Passaic, NJ printed articles about Clifton’s citizens involved in the fighting in Europe and Asia and community efforts to assist their fighting brethren on a daily basis. May 7th, the day before V-E Day, was no exception. We read about gunner S/Sgt. Charles Librizzi harrowing experience aboard a Flying Fortress B-17 bomber. Leipzig, Germany was the target of their bombing raid, but Leipzig returned the favor with antiaircraft shells.
The Clifton veteran, recipient of the Air Medal with five Oak Leaf clusters and son of Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Librizzi of 67 Ackerman Avenue said, “They began by knocking out our Nos. 1 and 2 engines right after ‘bombs away.’ That cost us 4,000 feet of altitude right away. A burst in the nose about that time wounded the pilot and co-pilot, another in the rear hit the tail gunner.
“The distance between us and the ground continued slipping away too fast for comfort, and we were tossing out everything that wasn’t bolted down, and some stuff that was.
“Flak was still coming up fast and fancy. A close one ripped the No. 4 engine and it wouldn’t give full power, leaving us with just an engine and a half to fly on. And we did. It took some mighty sharp maneuvering, but the pilot pushed that wreck over the lines to an emergency landing field in Brussels.”
Good news was also received at the home of Mrs. Julia DeNike residing at 13 Fenner Avenue. Pvt. Joseph Bush, Mrs. DeNike’s son, was liberated from a Nazi Prison Camp by the 83rd Infantry Division at Altengrabow, Germany. Pvt. Bush was captured in March by the Germans and was moved from camp to camp, with his family not hearing from him since December.
Mrs. Pauline Chaplin, of 10-12 Alyea Terrace; however, received news that her son Lt. Emil Chaplin had in fact been killed in action in Germany. Mrs. Chaplin had two other sons in service at the time she received word of Emil’s death. Lt. Emil Chaplin was an honor graduate of Clifton High School, a winner of the Rensselaer Institute of Technology award in mathematics and a graduate of the School of Journalism at the University of Georgia. At the time of his going into service on February 13, 1942, he was teaching school and preparing for a master’s degree.
In the community, news from the May 3rd Kiwanis meeting at the Robin-Hood Inn featured the ambassador to Czecho-Slovakia William Kelgard topic “The International Peace Conference at San Francisco.” Mr. Kelgard told the gathering that although democracy was not perfect, “it still represented the ‘only form of government under which free enterprise can exist and thrive.” Kiwanis president Philip Quinlan and past president George Anderson co-chairman also thanked members who assisted in the United Clothing drive in Clifton last Sunday when a record collection of old clothing was picked up throughout the City.
Even though Victory in Europe seemed imminent, certain war effort measures would still remain in affect. Rationing prospects appeared even bleaker for the balance of 1945 than for the previous year, as surmised from the Passaic Herald News article “OPA Outlines Prospects for Rationing During 1945 ‘Regardless of V-E Day.’” District OPA Director Richard J. Tarrant explained that “We will still have a hard war ahead in the Pacific and on the inflation and scarcity front…” and emphasized the importance of rationing and price controls “so long as there is scarcity.”
The newspaper article then presented a condensed version of the memorandum that Mr. Tarrant presented to North Jersey’s 55 War Price and Rationing Boards. The gasoline, tire, shoe, and automobile situation seemed gloomy enough, but food and fuel oil appeared even bleaker.
Mr. James F. Byrnes, Director of War Mobilization and Reconversion, stated “Americans will not eat quite as well in 1945 as in 1944, regardless of Germany’s defeat.” Food supplies would likely be reduced 5 to 10 per cent from 1944, driven by military needs and relief requirements in the liberated areas. The fuel oil supply will be “as tight as last year, if not tighter.” This was caused by the military supply line shifting from crossing the Atlantic Ocean to having to cross the Pacific Ocean, which added an additional 4,000 miles to the trek.
May 8th news from the War front continued bleak with a
Herald News article headlined “132,000 Americans Killed in Europe.” But,
victory in Europe had finally been achieved with the news that Admiral Karl
Doenitz, Hitler’s successor, having addressed the German people, “said he
ordered the High Command to surrender unconditionally the night of May 6-7 on
all fronts.” Admiral Doenitz concluded by saying “On May 8 at 11 P. M. the arms
will be silent.” The news of the end of fighting in Europe, was greeted by
President Harry S. Truman with his radio address and proclamation:
This is a solemn but glorious hour. General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations. The flags of freedom fly over all of Europe.
For this victory, we join in offering our thanks to the Providence, which has guided and sustained us through the dark days of adversity.
Our rejoicing is sobered and subdued by a supreme consciousness of the terrible price we have paid to rid the world of Hitler and his evil band. Let us not forget, my fellow Americans, the sorrow and heartbreak, which today abide in the homes of so many of our neighbors – neighbors whose most priceless possession has been rendered as a sacrifice to redeem our liberty.
We can repay the debt, which we owe to our God, to our dead and to our children only by work – by ceaseless devotion to the responsibilities, which lie ahead of us. If I could give you a single watchword for the coming months, that word is – work, work, work.
We must work to finish the war. Our victory is but half won. The West is free, but the East is still in bondage to the treacherous tyranny of the Japanese. When the last Japanese division has surrendered unconditionally, then only will our fighting job be done.
We must look to bind up the wounds of a suffering world – to build an abiding peace, a peace rooted in justice and in law. We can build such a peace only by hard, toilsome, painstaking work – by understanding and working with our Allies in peace as we have in war.
The job ahead is no less important, no less urgent, no less difficult than the task which, now happily is done.
I call upon every American to stick to his post until the last battle is won. Until that day, let no man abandon his post or slacken his efforts.
And now, I want to read to you my formal proclamation of this occasion…
The Allied armies, through sacrifice and devotion and with God’s help, have won from Germany a final and unconditional surrender. The Western world has been freed of the evil forces which, for five years and longer have imprisoned the bodies and broken the lives of millions upon millions of freeborn men. They have violated their churches, destroyed their homes, corrupted their children, and murdered their loved ones. Our armies of liberation have restored freedom to these suffering peoples, whose spirit and will, the oppressors, could not enslave.
Much remains to be done. The victory won in the west must now be won in the east. The whole world must be cleansed of the evil from which half the world has been freed. United, the peace loving Nations have demonstrated in the West that their arms are stronger by far than the might of dictators or the tyranny of military cliques that once called us soft and weak. The power of our peoples to defend themselves against all enemies will be proved in the Pacific as it has been proved in Europe.
For the triumph of spirit and of arms which, we have won, and for its promise to peoples, everywhere, who join us in the love of freedom, it is fitting that we, as a Nation, give thanks to Almighty God, who has strengthened us and given us the victory.
Now, therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, do hereby appoint Sunday, May 13, 1945, to be a day of prayer.
I call upon the people of the United States, whatever their faith, to unite in offering joyful thanks to God for the victory we have won and to pray that He will support us to the end of our present struggle and guide us into the way of peace.
I also call upon my countrymen to dedicate this day of prayer to the memory of those who have given their lives to make possible our victory.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington this eighth day of May, in the year of Our Lord 1945 and of the Independence of our United States of America the 169th.
Even with the announcement of Victory in Europe, news of death continued to be spread across the pages of the Passaic Daily News. Word was received that Private John Robinson was killed April 19 in Italy. He had been in Italy since last July and had entered the service October 17, 1942. His wife Jeannie Robinson and daughter Elizabeth Jean resided at 21 Kenyon Street.
May 8th also brought good news of loved ones to several families in Clifton. Major George Mount Richmond, air commander of B-17 Flying Fortress group formations was located in a hospital in France recuperating from burns received after being shot down during a mission against Nazi installations in Germany. His wife had previously received word that Major Richmond and his crew had to bail out and that his crew was picked up by the Americans, while Major Richmond was listed as missing in action. He was previously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in February and also holds the Air Medal with five Oak Leaf Clusters. Major Richmond is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry M. Richmond of 24 Day Street and is a Rutgers graduate and attended the University of Virginia Law School.
News was received of Staff Sergeant William D. Pavlik, of the Engineer Combat Battalion, being awarded the Silver Star Medal for heroic action in France, last June. “The citation (read)… During an air raid in France, on June 11, 1944, a truck loaded with high explosives and ammunition was hit by a bomb, wounding and killing several men. Sgt. Pavlick, disregarding the intense heat from the burning truck and constant threat of further explosions, remained at the scene of the fire to help remove the wounded men to safety and administer first aid. The courage, coolness and disregard for personal safety displayed by this enlisted man reflects the highest credit upon himself and the armed forces of the United States.” Sgt. Pavlick has been overseas 22 months, in India, Africa, and France, before going to Germany. He is a graduate of Clifton High School, where he was an athlete.
On V-E Day, Mayor William E. Dewey proclaimed “I Am American Day” in Clifton. Mayor Dewey called upon all of Clifton’s citizens to join in the observance of I Am American Day, Sunday, May 20, to honor foreign born men and women who have been naturalized as well as great numbers of native-born citizens who have become of age in the last year. He said, “These citizens are giving strength to our Democracy in its struggle against tyranny and its striving to make secure through international organization the rights and opportunities in our own and other sovereign nations.” Mayor Dewey asked patriotic, civic and educational groups to hold appropriate exercises in celebration of the event, to impress upon all citizens their responsibilities for building the nation’s security and advancing its welfare.
“V-E Day greeted with mixed emotions here, celebration subdued in Clifton,” was the title of an article in the Passaic Herald News of May 9th, as Clifton welcomed Victory in Europe. Mill whistles blared, church bells tolled, but no crowds appeared in the streets. Mayor William E. Dewey and City Manager William A. Miller ordered all offices at the City Hall closed for the day. Flags remained at half-staff, as they had been since the death of President Roosevelt.
Richardson Scale and Dumont Laboratory closed, while Curtiss Propeller and Bright Star Battery Company remained opened, but several departments at Bright Star were shut down when joyous workers left their posts.
At the direction of Superintendent of Schools George J. Smith, all public schools opened and held assemblies, where the teachers impressed upon the children the importance of the effort in Japan and urged them to continue to buy War Bonds and Stamps. The children were then sent home after the program at school.
The police and fire department had off duty officers report in case of emergency, but when everything remained calm in the City, the off duty officers were sent home. Clifton’s calm response to V-E Day was in fact no indication of its continuing response to support its citizens in the field, returning home and still at home.
In another article “OCD volunteers [were] urged to serve until final victory.” The article provides a picture of Clifton’s war effort:
The Clifton Defense Council last night called upon its thousands of volunteers in police, fire, radio, nursing and other community services to ‘stay on the job’ until final victory in the Pacific. Echoing the pleas of Governor Edge and State OCD Director William Wachenfeld that there is still important work to be done in War Bond Drives, Salvage Collections and other public service, the OCD asked its forces to ‘stand by.’
The resignation of Secretary Ira Schoem was tabled for two weeks so that he might assist in transferring agencies that had been organized for public protection to the Community War Services Division. It was suggested that the Police Reserves and the staff of WKKQ, the Federal Communications Commission short wave station, be placed in charge of Police Chief James N. Marsh; the Fire Reserves, Fire Chief James L. Sweeney; the Nurse’s Aides, to the Red Cross; and other OCD forces be assigned to CWS, which has directed bond and salvage work in Clifton.
City Engineer John L. Fitzgerald, who has been commander-in-chief of the OCD in Clifton since it was organized in 1941, said he hoped that the thousands of public-spirited citizens who have been doing ‘such a marvelous job on the home front,’ would continue their services. He suggested the major services of the OCD could be concentrated in Community War Services, of which City Treasurer John Franz has been chairman, and Mrs. Loretta Schleich, secretary. A meeting will be held with City Manager William A. Miller to complete arrangements.
A letter was received from State Director Wachenfeld, urging that the OCD forces be kept intact, until final victory. Mr. Wachenfeld also expressed the hope that the OCD in Clifton would again play an important part in the Seventh War Loan drive, which opens officially next week.
It was announced that the Federal Communications Commission had renewed the license of WKKQ, the Civilian Defense short wave station in Clifton, which had expired April 30. Frank Takacs, radio aide, and Emil Ploenes, assistant aide, will remain in charge, under the direction of Crine Hellegers, chairman of OCD communications.
The meeting was held at the home of Joseph Wittie, 312 Lakeview Avenue. A social hour followed and Mr. Wittie again proved himself a gracious host.
Other efforts in Clifton included a “canning demonstration… planned by the nutrition committee of Community War Services Division of the Clifton Defense Council. “Mrs. R. R. Hill, chairman of the nutrition committee, invites all Clifton women to attend the demonstration Wednesday, May 23, at 1:30 P.M. at St. Peter’s parish house, Clifton Avenue, between First and Second Streets.” The demonstration was presented by Miss Fontilla Johnson, Passaic County Home Demonstration Agent. Mrs. Hill continued by saying, “This year, as never before, it is imperative that housewives make plans for their summer and fall canning early and put up as many foods as possible. We are being warned that there will be a good shortage in the months to come.”
For returning veterans, Clifton’s Quentin Roosevelt Post No. 8, American Legion, invited Clifton High School Principal Harold J. Adams to discuss, “the various programs through which the High School authorities cooperate in the education of men in service, to assist them in completing their High School courses and obtain their diplomas, and gave an outline of the facilities for furthering the education of returning veterans.” Continuing, Principal Adams “stressed the importance of a High School training for the post-war world, predicting that the High School diploma will be the ‘big filter in the future,’ in seeking jobs.” He also said, “Clifton will have a well rounded program, probably with adult evening classes and vocational guidance.”
School children also contributed to the effort to support Clifton’s citizens in service. The Clifton Junior Red Cross packed 25 overseas boxes of games at the Clifton Red Cross. The shipment included games of checkers, chess, and acey ducey; also distributed in the shipment were tennis balls, soft balls, touch footballs, playing cards, harmonicas, occarinas and crossword puzzles. Junior Red Cross Members, Josephine Zarcone, June Luteran, Shirley A. Harbison, Barbara Kelsall, Naomi Evans, Margaret Van Breman, Janice Eslinger, Joy Aamot, Valerie Minnic and Francis Gasparovic assisted in this effort.
The Seventh War Loan Drive brought the students of Public School No. 13 to the forefront with their weeks of planning. Conrad O. Schweitzer, School 13 Principal, “announced at a special assembly that although the campaign starts officially Monday May 14th, the school will fire the opening gun tomorrow Friday May 11th, three days in advance.” Principal Schweitzer told the students that they have done “a magnificent job” in selling war bonds and that they were the country’s salesmen and Uncle Sam was relying upon them to advertise the 7th War Loan effort. The committee included Mrs. Marion Lynch, departmental grades; Miss Clara Breeman, intermediate grades; Miss Elena Duplak, primary grades. Weekly rallies were planned where huge posters prepared by the students would be displayed and the “School No. 13 Seventh War Loan News” would be distributed.
The economic well being of Clifton post V-E Day was brought up at a merchant’s forum under the auspices of the Commerce Council of the Chamber of Commerce. Arthur Rigolo, chairman of the Clifton Committee for Economic Development, told businessmen “of the need for making immediate post war plans to take care of increased consumer demand as soon as restrictions are lifted.” He continued by saying, “Each firm and business man should analyze his problems because competitors throughout the Country and everywhere are making similar plans.” Mr. Rigolo concluded his portion of the forum by detailing some of the factors that would play an important part in increased sales, such as store appearance, new fixtures, advertising, and window displays. John Meszaros of the First National Bank led a forum discussion on bank credit. Henry Fette, chairman of the commercial division, summarized the activities of the division since the first of the year. Peter R. Barns, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, concluded the meeting by informing businessmen on future trends in retailing and post war markets.
The community of Clifton was not only involved in supporting its citizens involved in the war effort, but also found enough resources to support the funding raising drive of the American Cancer Society. Dr. George W. Surgent, County Physician was chairman of the Clifton drive. Up to May 10th the Clifton drive had raised $2,000 of its $6,000 quota. Corporate donors included Hoffman LaRoche, Waldrich Company, Takamine Laboratory, Magor Car Company, and Bright Star Battery Company.
The news of an Army Barracks damaged by flames was also reported in the May 10th Passaic Herald News. The article stated, “Fire broke out in the abandoned Army barracks in Nash Park, near Randolph Avenue, at 8:30 last night. No serious damage was reported. Children living in the neighborhood have been using the building as a playhouse.” The most striking appearance of Clifton right after V-E Day was a view of Route 6 (now Route 46) at Van Houten Avenue looking toward Great Notch. The only items visible in the photograph are electrical lines and one home, located near an exit/entrance ramp. The photograph caption explained the situation best by stating, “This is a sweeping view of Route 6, which shows the natural beauty of this important entrance to the City of Clifton. There is talk of dotting it with hot dog stands, ice houses, and vegetable stands. The Planning Board has rejected on the first application, holding it should be strictly residential.” If only the planning board could see this intersection today.
Clifton was an active community during World War II as evidenced by the news articles of the few days between May 7th and May 10th including V-E Day and began planning for the post war era even before the announcement of V-E Day.
The Passaic Herald News issues of May 7 through 10.
Donald Charles Lotz 6/4/2002