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Al McIntosh: Column excerpts
Selections from "Selected Chaff: The wartime columns of Al McIntosh."
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Throughout the war, in a weekly column called "More or Less Personal Chaff,"? Al McIntosh, the owner and editor of the Rock County Star Herald, chronicled its impact on the people of Luverne, Minnesota and the farming communities that surrounded it. He was not a Luverne native: he'd been born in Park River, North Dakota in 1905, the son of a Presbyterian minister. His vivid reporting for the Lincoln [Nebraska] State Journal caused William Allen White, the celebrated editor of the Kansas City Star, to make him a handsome offer to join his staff. But McIntosh had always wanted a small-town paper of his own and in 1940, he bought the weekly Rock County Star. When the owner of the rival Herald died in a car accident in 1942, he bought it, too, and merged the papers. He lived with his widowed mother on the second floor of a house at 403 North Kniss Street in Luverne. Nothing seems to have escaped his eye.

August 1941
Miss Aagot Johnson Rylund who is [in town] visiting her brother knows what it is to see vast sections of a city ripped to ruin by German bombs and she remembers the nights that London burned"” how she could read a letter by the unbelievable glare of the far off flames [She] knows what it is to have high explosive bombs blast their big craters right outside the doorway of the shelter in which she was sleeping... She has had her best friends killed.

Looking out at the peaceful countryside from the Thompson porch she said it was hard to believe that the rest of the world was at war.

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December 1941
Events are moving at such a dizzy pace that editorial and news stories are outmoded almost before the type is laid on the page forms for the press. Outwardly, Rock County is serene and peacefully beautiful, as always. But, already, the shadow of war is over the county.

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December 18, 1941
You're right. Mrs. Etta Dehmlow did look as if she wanted to dance in the streets for joy. She just received one of those Navy censor cards from her son, Larry, crewman on a submarine. It didn't carry any postmark but it was the message that thrilled Etta “Okay" [was all it said but] that's enough to gladden the heart of any mother. It was dated December 8".

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December 18, 1941
Most of us are letting our daily cares and worries obscure for us the beauty that is around us -- ours for the asking. It would pay us to look up, not down. The frost-laden trees and shrubbery last Sunday morning presented a picture so beautiful that there isn't a living artist who could do the scene justice.

And the lights of Christmas that are beginning to blaze from so many Luverne homes. It kindles the warmth of Christmas in your heart, no matter how cynical you may be. Take a few minutes off to cruise around and revel in the beauty of the lights. And give a moment's thought to the fact that we are privileged, by virtue of Rock County's "isolation," to be still able to enjoy this sweet beauty. There won't be any Christmas lights for the homes on the East and West coasts this year.

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January 8, 1942
Jess Frankes, the contractor whose log of travel with the navy [a few years back] reads like the itinerary of a world cruise, has sadly resigned himself to the belief that his contribution to national defense will be "hoeing corn" next summer. Jess did three years, nine months and ten days with the Navy, winding up in 1930 as a first class yeoman. The other day he tried to get back in ... but the Navy wouldn't take him although Jeff will fight if you say he's not as good a man as he ever was. Trouble was he's short some important teeth. He offered to stand the expense of having some plates made but "no dice" said the recruiting officer as Jess still fell short of dental and optical standards.

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February 12, 1942
Many a person gave prayerful thanks that Rock County men serving in the Armed forces were spared in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that black Sunday"¦ But now "“ over two months later"”comes word that a Rock County man was injured that day. It was Walter Rockman, formerly of Steen, who was a member of the Marine Corps. Rockman was off duty at the time he was wounded so he must have been hit at the very outset of the attack. [He] lost two fingers and his arm was badly injured. "¦Rockland was placed in a San Francisco hospital. Infection set in and it's believed it may be necessary to amputate the arm.

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April 3, 1942
In case you're one of those men being inducted into the military forces, it is suggested that you equip yourself as follows:

1) A full suit of civilian clothes"¦
2)Three or four bath towels.
3)Half a dozen pairs of light wool socks.
4)Extra underwear and plain white dress shirts.
5)Plain-toed oxfords"¦
6)For the soldier's own protection, a pair of shower shoes.
7)Plenty of handkerchiefs.
8)A few extra coat-hangers.
9) Every soldier is expected to supply his own toothbrush, shaving equipment, sleeping garments and any other toilet accessories which he may wish.

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April 30, 1942
A lot of people who patriotically hammered their fingers to a pulp and ruined their tempers straightening out old tin cans breathed a sigh of relief when they learned that the government isn't greatly interested in them right now "¦ It seems that the tin percentage is so small that nothing much will be done with the drive until more efficient methods of reclaiming the tin can be devised.

That belated news doesn't bring any happiness to Louis Ahrent for he had been one of the busiest toilers in the tin can drive staged by the cub scouts"¦. He had loaded the collection of tin cans into a borrowed trailer [that came] unhitched and the tongue rammed into the rear of his car"¦ So the score now stands "To Cub Scout treasury from sale of tin cans $2.45,"? and a local garage bills reads, "To Louis Ahrent, repairs on car, $10."?

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July 30, 1942
There's been a rumor going around that ought to be brought up short right now. It was to the effect that Louis Shelby, who is married and has four children, has been given a 1A classification and was to leave with the next selective service contingent.

Several men rushed home and told their wives, "Well if they take Shelby, who isn't any spring chicken and probably was in the other war, anything can happen."?
The draft office admits it was a mistake and regrets the error"¦

How did Shelby take it?

"Oh,"? he said, "I wasn't worried "“ I figured it was all a mistake so I never went up to see about it."?

He might have been unconcerned but a lot of other chaps were in a dither.

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September 17, 1942
If you want to get a real thrill go down to the railroad yards and see the carloads of scrap [metal] rolling out of Rock County headed for the steel mills. It's tangible evidence the local scrap rally committee did a marvelous job"¦. It's estimated that 250 tons were collected "¦ about a 50 pound average for every person in the county, man, woman and child"¦. But we can't rest on our oars when we remember that the Nebraska average per person, was 105 pounds. There's a mark to shoot at and we've got to get busy again.

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October 1, 1942
They can send all the movie stars they want on country-wide War Bond sales drives, but for our part we'll take Maude Jochims as the best bond salesman, or saleswoman, of them all.

We stopped in at the Palace Wednesday afternoon and there were some long faces. They were going to fall $8,000 short. Then Maude "“ as a one-woman campaign "“ waded in to canvass Rock County patrons. [The] Rock County folk came to bat in the usual big-hearted way.] The bond orders poured in and the total was boosted over $48,000.

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November 5, 1942
A few months ago Andrew Olson was holding his head and saying, "woe is me"? about business at the Manitou [Hotel] because of the restrictions on travel. But Andrew had no idea what a "ten-strike" lay ahead for the hotel business here.

He's been putting up cots "“ when some boys [visiting from a nearby air base] get up and go to early church service Andrew rents the rooms again to those who have been a bit tardy in "getting in."? They were even sleeping in the lobby Sunday morning"¦ A year ago you would have been a "bad boy"? if you had spoken loudly after midnight, but now snake dances and "community sings"? are the order of the day -- or rather early morning.

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January 14, 1943
How many of you have ever extended an invitation to any of the soldier boys you see almost every day in Luverne to come to your home for dinner? [Dr. F.W. Bofemkamp], on the spur of the moment, invited a couple of men because he thought of all days Christmas was the loneliest to be away from home, tramping the streets of a strange town, thousands of miles from home.

Did the boys love it? A couple of times the boys nearly "choked up"? when the conversation veered to "home and mother"? but they enjoyed every minute of the stay. One of the boys returned to Luverne and called again for a brief visit. He was so anxious to be "part of the family"? that he kept suggesting things he could help do, like taking down the tree trimmings, washing the dishes. That gives you a measure of how lonely some of the boys are, behind their mask of indifference, and how much it would mean to them in the way of happiness if you would extend an invitation to them.

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April 1 1943
The marines and soldiers fighting the Japs have appealed to the folks back home for knives, not "penknives"? but "pigstickers."? Ed Hillebrand was exhibiting one made by his father. Made of saw steel, long, wicked and curved, and with a deer horn fitted for a handle, it should be highly prized by the jungle fighters . If any of you with mechanical ability want to volunteer to make the type of knives needed, the Star Herald will pay all the costs of seeing they get to their destination.

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April 15 1943
Mr. and Mrs. Norman Steine have proved the truth of that biblical quotation that runs something like this: "Cast thy bread upon the waters for thou shall find it after many days."?

They have entertained soldiers from the Sioux Falls air base from time to time, but one apparently was more appreciative of the hospitality. He wrote his mother who lives in Vermont about the Steine's kindness. The other day Mrs. Steine received a letter from the Vermont mother, expressing her appreciation"¦ In her letter she admitted she didn't know much about Minnesota conditions, but that there evidently was a real shortage of sugar, so "maybe a half-gallon of pure Vermont maple syrup will come in handy."? Mr. and Mrs. Steine are now enjoying the finest maple syrup they've ever tasted in their lives.

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April 29, 1943
He used to be one of those light-hearted, laughing youngsters that was always cutting didoes with his car (the kind of kid you sometimes shook your fist at because of his highway antics). And his car fairly groaned under the added weight of extra horns and the signs and lights made it look like a carnival midway.

It had probably been ten months since I had seen him"¦[and] I hadn't been particularly aware that he had been gone until he walked in the office wearing the dark green uniform of a U.S. Marine Cops private.

"Hello,"? we said, "where did you come from?"?

And his low-voiced, matter of fact, one word answer accounted for that drawn, haggard and prematurely aged appearance.

"Guadalcanal."?

It was Private Virgil Meeker"¦ He doesn't make any claim of bravery or having done anything wonderful. He immediately made it plain that he wasn't in the first wave of Marines"¦. He "caught it twice,"? he said, but he thinks he was "lucky, very lucky,"? and his biggest worry, next to whether or not the doctors will reverse their decision and let him return to combat duty again, is how much gas the ration board is going to allow him for his car during the leave.

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June 3, 1943
How times have changed! It was but three years ago that an item about a girl driving a farm tractor was big enough news that the city dailies ran pictures of Anne Nelson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Pete Nelson, driving the [family] tractor.

Now, on more than one farm, girls are doing a real "man's job"? by helping in the fields. William Rogge says that four Hills girls are operating tractors this year: Dorothy Nelson, Frances Bakk, Joan Madison, Charlotte Larson. Any other nominations?

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June 10, 1943
The four grim lead lines of the newspaper seemed so tragically cold and bare.

"Staff Sergeant Richard E. Mueller,"¦is reported missing with seven others following the crash of a medium bomber in the Atlantic near Columbia, S.C. Saturday. All are believed dead."?

Four grim lines of newspaper type --- that tell so much and yet so little"¦.

But for us, and thousands of other friends, none of the usual information, or even a picture, is needed to help us remember "Red of the A & P,' because that is the way he will be remembered here, not as Staff Sergeant Richard E. Mueller.

With hair as vivid as a June carrot, and a grin that had the power of a locomotive headlight, this boy never walked down the street, or round the aisles of the store. He fairly danced or ran and you knew that here was a chap that was going places.
"Red"? did alright for himself in the army"¦I don't know exactly what his job was "¦ [and] nobody will ever know what happened"¦ But we'll gamble that even though they were pitching straight down to the dark blue water that "Red"? never once looked up but fought right up to the last second to find, and right, trouble. And we'll never think any different but that if there was just a split second left "“ and a buddy was struggling to get free of the plunging plane, that Red, to use the old phrase of his "clerking"? days, called out, "Can I help you?"?

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September 9, 1943
All of us use the phrase, "after the war"? so much it almost becomes meaningless"¦ The motorist uses it when he thinks of new tires, a new model car, and the right to drive as fast and as far as he pleases. But for all of us, although the words aren't often spoken, it means the day "when you boys come home."? It means, if you had witnessed it, a portion of a little drama as we did this week, the ecstatic happiness and the wild gladness of thousands of family reunions.

The other morning an unshaven, weary uniformed man, with a string of gaily colored ribbons on his breast, slipped off the morning train and was driven to his home. Instead of going in the front way, he went around the back, un-noticed. Probably he just wanted to feast his eyes on "home."?"¦ His children were watching at the front, their noses almost boring holes in the window panes, as they watched the street for a sign of "˜daddy,' Nobody needs to describe their shrieks of joy when he walked in from the backdoor to surprise them. If you could have seen them later, hanging on to his hands for dear life as though they could hold him home forever, you couldn't have helped getting a bit misty yourself.

It was Jess Frakes we're speaking of, "carrot top"? himself, the chap who used to start so many arguments at the morning coffee shop sessions and who we used to tease so unmercifully when he was breaking in his "new teeth."?

Jess knows what it is to undergo a torpedo attack on ship, to be shelled and bombed on an island, and to hear the Jap radio announce that"¦ the Americans on that particular spot had been "wiped out."?

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October 21, 1943
Although critical Bible students will hasten to set me straight, I still think, even though there is no similarity in the subject matter, that the words in Luke 15-24 are in themselves fittingly descriptive. They read, "for this my son was dead, and is alive again, he was lost and is found."?

Those were the words uttered by the father of the prodigal son but probably were not far from the fervent rejoicing uttered up this week at the H.O. Hansen home. There's great rejoicing in that household for their son, Lt. Lloyd Hansen, who was feared dead is reported alive and safe in a German prison camp.

The analogy, as I said, ended with the words for Lt. Lloyd Hansen is no prodigal son. Rather he could well be called the "¦ Man with Nine Lives "¦ for like a cat he seemingly, and literally, lands on his feet"¦.

Now comes thru the Red Cross to the bombardier's wife that he was captured by the Germans after the bomber, on which he was a member of the crew, was shot down in flames. His capture followed by exactly two months another crash "“ one which ended in the English Channel after their bomber had been shot down.

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December 15, 1943
"One of our bombers is missing!"? How often we've heard that phrase used over the radio and we've thought how that ominous sentence must strike cold terror in the hearts of every mother and father who is wondering where "he"? is tonight.

The grim import of that laconic summation of an aerial raid struck home this week when Mr. and Mrs. George Nelson received one of those dread messages Sunday morning:

"The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regrets that your son, Second Lieutenant Darwin G. Nelson, has been reported missing in action since December 1 in the European area"¦"?

We think Darwin Nelson is (and we are deliberately using the present tense because we have a strong premonition that somehow the big strapping youngster made it down to earth all right) one of the most vivid personalities we've ever encountered. Polite"¦ and then some "¦ about every tenth word was "sir"? "¦ And he had a grin on him that was about as powerful a radiance as a locomotive headlight"¦

If you remember, it was just a bit over two months ago that he gave Luverne a roof rattling salute as he power dived his big Fort over the business district in an ear drum-blasting "hail and farewell"?"¦ We've often thought what he was thinking of as he circled several times low over the family farm south of town"¦ And his final gesture as he waved goodbye to "the folks"? was to do a little bombing on a small scale as he dropped clothing and belongings that he could not take with him.

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January 20, 1944
Here's the best news of the week! There's real joy at the George Nelson home this week. Because there is new hope that their son, Lt. Darwin G. Nelson, may be alive"¦.

Tuesday, they received a telegram from the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence of the Federal Communications Commisision which reads as follows:

"The name of Second Liutenant Darwin Nelson has been mentioned in an enemy broadcast as a prisoner in German hands."?

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March 2, 1944
The middle aged man, his shoulders bent just a bit more that morning under a crashing blow of sudden grief, came out of the Western Union office clutching a yellow piece of paper, and walked over to where we were talking on the sidewalk.

"I was just coming down to your place but maybe you'd care to look at this now if you want to,"? [he said] and he handed over the telegram with shaking fingers.

It was one of those "we regret to inform you"? type of messages, the kind that hundreds of Rock County parents live in terror of, day and night.

We copied down the text of the official telegram. What could we say? Absolutely nothing"¦. Nothing, no matter how much you mean it, can ease the heartache the slightest bit"¦ He tried to be so casual, to choke back any word that might reveal the depth of his emotion.

But I thought then "“ I wish that some of those people who like to say so patronizingly "you folks out here in the Midwest don't have the slightest idea there is a war on"? could have looked at the tear- reddened eyes of Herman Wiese, Sr., that morning.

If they had -- they never would utter such slander again.

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March 30, 1944
Been complaining lately about life's hardships have you?

Maybe you'd like to trade places with some of the boys "“ for instance Sgt. John Wahlert just back from Italy. One night not very far from Cassino shell concussions knocked Wahlert out of his foxhole three times, tossing him from 10 to 15 feet each time. But he was so exhausted he'd crawl back to the hole, usually filed with four inches of ice water, and drop off to sleep despite the continuous roar of artillery fire.

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May 25, 1944
Outwardly, things haven't changed here. The lilacs are out in full bloom. The countryside was never greener. At night there are a million stars winking in the sky with a couple of million bullfrogs parked along the edges of the bank-full ditches croaking a mighty chorus.

But things are different.

The staffs of daily newspapers all over the country are on alert in case news of the invasion of Europe breaks. Key executives don't stir very far from a telephone day or night. The belief is that the long-awaited flash will come sometime after 11 p.m. but before 5 a.m.

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June 1944
When we sleepily stumbled down the hall to answer the ringing telephone we made a mental note that it was shortly before 3 A.M.. We picked up the receiver, thinking it was Sheriff Roberts calling to say that there had been accident. Instead, it was Mrs. Lloyd Long, playing the feminine counterpart of Paul Revere, saying, "Get up, Al, and listen to the radio, the invasion has started."?

We sat by the radio for over an hour listening to the breath-taking announcements. And then we went to bed "“ to lie there for a long time, wide-eyed in the darkness "“ thinking "what Rock County boys are landing on French soil tonight?"?

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June 1944
And so the invasion news came to Luverne, quietly. There were no whistles, no sirens, no demonstrations. Not much was said. The coffee shops were filled almost to standing room as the 10 o'clock morning news approached. There were sober faces on the men as they listened to the news but there was a smile of exultation when they heard that the Allied forces had penetrated ten miles inland.

One mother dropped in the coffee shop. She shook her head and pushed the cup of coffee placed in front of her aside. "I just want to listen to the radio,"? she said. Her boy, by all the odds, was "there."? One didn't have to be psychic to know what was in her mind "“ or her heart. The prayer that she was uttering right then as she listened to the announcer was multiplied a thousand times and more in Rock County countless times during the day.

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June 1944
The death of Private Russell Wilder in France should be a sobering reminder for all of us that grim and tragic days lie ahead.

The days of kisses and cheering for the Americans are over. No longer are they going to be welcomed with flowers. They are to the point now where they come as invaders of the land of the enemy. The casualties are going to be many. We can have no reason for relaxing. The toughest going lies ahead.

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June 22, 1944
Mrs. Andrew Brekke, Beaver Creek, reports that her son, Cpl. Elmer D. Rollag thinks enough of war bonds that he has bought his 12th $50 bond. He's been with the army engineers in the southwest Pacific two years and of that time 16 months was spent on Guadalcanal.

Kind of puts a lot of people to shame doesn't it? "“ considering that a corporal doesn't make any "defense wages."?

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July 6, 1944
We've had a couple of letters from boys out in the South Pacific asking for more of those columns describing how life "goes on"? back in Rock County. Well, this is being written the evening of the Fourth of July -- the quietest Fourth that Rock County has spent in many a decade.

First, people hung out their flags either at their home or their place of business. You never saw so many flags being displayed in Luverne. Then about noon they headed for the park down by the river under the big trees.

Some of the others, with their elders, were busy in a soft ball game. The old timers drifted over to the horseshoe pitching headquarters and as far away as the highway you could hear the familiar "clink"? of the shoes hitting the steel peg.

We said the Fourth was a quiet day. There wasn't excitement "“ no speeches, no parades, no band music. Everybody spent the day quietly "“ but they were all thinking of you boys "“ and hoping and praying that this would be the last Fourth of July you'd spend away from home.

Well, that's about the story as to how things are going back home.

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July 20, 1944
Somehow, the gossip "grape vine"? had heard that there was a telegram coming through after 6 PM last Friday for Mr. and Mrs. Ray Lester of Magnolia. Ray Lester heard about it and his heart was heavy.

He started walking down the street "“ on the way he met "Scotty"? Dewar, the depot agent.

"Which one is it? " asked Lester "“ because there were four boys to worry about in that family. After being told [it was Kermit] he went sorrowfully home to break the news to his wife.

It must be a hard job handling those death messages. Dewar had known Kermit since babyhood "“ it was more than he could do to carry that message to the home "“ he left it in the Lester box at the post office. And the family understood why.

And it was a gracious gesture that was made at the dance in Magnolia that night. When the crowd heard the news "“ the dance was halted immediately out of respect to the memory of that fighting Marine [who died on Saipan].

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August 3, 1944
Rock County's service honor roll, bearing the names of 1,065 men and women who claim Rock County as their home or their birthplace, has been completed on the north side of the city hall. Seal Van Sickel of Hawarden, Iowa, did the art work.

The honor roll, one of the most beautiful seen in this section of the country, was sponsored and erected by the Rock County Post 2757 Veterans of Foreign Wars, and paid for by voluntary contributions received by the post from the public. Of the 1,065 persons in service, 29 are young ladies"¦.Gold stars have been placed before the names of seven men who have been killed in action, ordered while in the service. Room still remains to add at least 60 more names, the artist stated.

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August 10, 1944
Here is one of life's tragedies. Mrs. Henry Smook went over to Sioux Falls with her youngest boy, Harold, 17. It wasn't a shopping expedition or a long-planned day of fun. She had gone with her youngest son to give her consent to his joining the Navy.

She didn't know that while she was there a telegram had come to her home in Luverne telling her of the death of her son in France, Private First Class Herman Smook.

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August 31, 1944
W. F. Baack, who farms west of Luverne, nearly fell out of his chair the other night when he looked at a picture from France in the Sioux City Journal and saw the beaming face of his former hired man [now an infantryman] who was being enthusiastically kissed by a French couple.

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September 7, 1944
Women are wonderful!"? sighed Neil Roberts. We wondered what on earth prompted such a romantic outburst on the burly sheriff's part. It seems if it weren't for women he wouldn't be able to solve half of his cases...

Here's the story behind the recent pick up here of a soldier from Jackson County who had been A.W.O.L. for three months. The soldier who had been hiding couldn't resist sending word to his wife who was working at Worthington to meet him here. The Jackson sheriff got a tip to that effect so he and Roberts met the bus. They spotted the woman getting off the the bus and followed her west a block on Main Street. Suddenly, out of nowhere, seemingly, appeared a man in overalls. The meeting place had been rearranged for it was the A.W.O.L. chap"¦. The two sheriffs pounced on him and it wasn't long before he was in army custody.

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September 14, 1944
Lt. John Stavenger, bomber pilot now in England, has decided it's a mighty small world after all. He hadn't hardly landed before he bumped into Lt. Howard James of Luverne.

Then, he leisurely settled back and read an English magazine. He looked at one big picture of a wrecked plane. The picture carried the caption: "The man who was lost returns to base."? The pilot in question was none other than Lt. Quentin Aanenson of Luverne. His family knew nothing of the incident. And the picture showed the Luverne youngster walking away from his wrecked plane as blithely unconcerned as if he'd just bought a nickel's worth of candy.

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September 21, 1944
Case Van Engelhoven was hunched at a desk at the elevator this week, one ear glued to to the radio and one eye coked at a map of Holland"¦. It seems the American parachute invasion of Holland at Nymegehen was taking place just five miles from where his parents, brothers and sisters live.

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October 12, 1944
A kind-hearted California woman sent Mrs. Mike Ormseth of Canby a picture the other day. That doesn't sound like much, but it was the most welcome picture ever received in that home. It showed a group of Five American soldiers who are being held prisoners by the Japs and Russell Ormseth (a brother of Norm of Luverne) was one of the group "¦ Russell looks very thin, otherwise "not too bad,"? although those that know him say he looks older. But when they stop they recall that it's nearly five years since he left home. Russell, a Marine, had been in China, then was taken prisoner at Guam"¦

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December 7, 1944
Some time ago L. Roy Fodness wrote us from a foxhole"¦. This time he writes from the lap of luxury. But he is afraid the soft life is getting him down.

"I've located in a friendly French family's home and they gave me a bedroom with a real honest to gosh bed in it, with an innerspring mattress, feather ticks and clean white sheets. I had a heck of a time getting used to it but after the third night I mastered it. I don't think the change from sleeping on the ground was good for me, because I caught a terrible cold. In fact I stayed in bed all day today and the people of the house brought me hot soup."?

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December 14, 1944
Because Nick Stavenger's eyes were a bit misty when he pulled a telegram out of his pocket and handed it to me yesterday morning I couldn't help thinking "bad news."? But those weren't tears of sadness "¦ they were tears of joy for he had received the finest Christmas present in the world.

The telegram dated from Bradley Field, Conn., read as follows:
"On my way home, will wire arrival time later, Johnny."?

Second Lt. John Stavenger has been flying a B-24 over Germany from a base in England.

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December 28, 1944
We've always had strong belief in our hunches and we always had a hunch that Jarnet Johansen, who had been reported missing in action as of September 27, would sooner or later be reported a prisoner of war in Germany. So it was a double shock when the word came Wednesday morning that the Hardwick boy is now reported as having been killed in action, September 27, because it's hard to believe when you've kept in close touch with a boy to realize that you're never going to get any more letters from him.

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February 15, 1945
When John Bosch was in Luverne last Friday he happened to stop and count the gold stars on the Honor Roll board and said, "there are now 20 gold stars."? He didn't know it then but the 21st gold star would be that opposite the name of his own son, Pfc. Everett Bosch, who was killed on Luzon. The message telling of his son's death was handed Bosch when he reached his home that afternoon.

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March 8, 1945
We didn't know it till this week, but among the overjoyed American prisoners freed in Manila were two Rock County residents, Mr. and Mrs Arthur H. Riss, formerly of Steen [where he was once the mail carrier]. "Mrs. Riss and I,"? he writes, "were mere walking skeletons when General MacArthur's boys rescued us on Feb.3. We could not have stood it much longer"¦. It will be a slow climb back to health and strength [and} I shall be anxious to get back to good old Minnesota and its invigorating climate."?

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March 8, 1945
Monday morning Louis Haroldson got up early to take his daughter, Lois, down to the train so that she could get over to Sioux Falls. The day before had been the birthday of his son Berdell, who has been with the navy in the Philippines, Haroldson was wondering where and how Berdell had spent his birthday. The train rolled in. Haroldson picked up his daughter's grip and carried it down to the coach door. Who should jump down but the son just back from the Philippines. Was that unannounced and unexpected reunion at the depot a happy one? You know it was. Berdell had a ten day leave when his ship docked on the west coast. He didn't even take the time to wire because he knew every minute counted if he was going to get two or three days at home and dashed for the nearest bus terminal.

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March 22, 1945
When you lug home the shrapnel-punctured steel helmet you were wearing when you were wounded and all your wife has to say, after greeting you, is "It will make a lovely flower pot"? "“ then that's an anti-climax. That's the remark that Lt. Le Roy Fodness is now teasing his wife about and he says he really is going to give her the helmet to use as a flower pot. He wants a new one"¦. He was wounded in Germany Dec. 18 [during the Battle of the Bulge]. Jesting about his wounds, Fodness said, "if it had been anywhere else but in the head I might have been seriously wounded "¦ but with my head nothing could really get hurt."?

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March 29, 1945
A number of the boys in service have mentioned in their letters they'd like to know how things are going back home.

Dear Gang:
When we say "it's spring again"? you should be able to shut your eyes wherever you are, and imagine what everything looks like. Everywhere you drove in Luverne Tuesday night you could see people starting to work in their yards. The lawns are turning green again and you see the green in flowerbeds bordering the homes. The farmers are getting into the fields. Al Hemme insists that he saw some white and yellow flowers over by Magnolia this afternoon and he doesn't want any wise cracks about his eyesight, either.

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April 26, 1945
A lot of us are chronic complainers but I learned my lesson last week. Sitting in the depot waiting room in Milwaukee waiting for the Hiawatha I saw an M.P. walk over quickly to a soldier standing at a ticket window. A big pillar obstructed my view but a careless glance gave me the idea that maybe the M.P. was frisking the soldier for liquor or something. But the M.P. walked away quickly, tight-lipped and grim-faced. I was puzzled till the soldier turned away from the window and walked past me. He was a kid about 22, chin up with a big smile on his face and his chest covered with service ribbons. And then I knew what that M.P. had been doing at the window. He had been putting the soldier's ticket and change in his blouse pocket. The boy had no hands, you see, just two steel hooks, instead. And I said to myself, then, "McIntosh, if you ever complain again about "˜having your hands full' when that kid can grin without any hands, then you ought to be kicked."?

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Today started off with a big mistake caused by an over enthusiastic radio broadcaster who got the idea that a "Victory"? flash was coming up in a few minutes.

To tell you the truth, it didn't cause much of a flurry on Main Street. People have had tentative dates for victory before and have seen their hopes dashed, so they've made up their minds to keep their heads down and keep working until there is no doubt of victory any more.

And don't get the idea that the folks back home think it's a "grand waltz."? They know the fighting is brutal and costly, and that lots of our best boys have been lost in victory drives before. They are praying and hoping that the struggle, for your sake, will be mercifully short.

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May 10, 1945
Unlike New Yorkers who whooped, hollered, and tore up tons of paper to throw in the streets, the news here was greeted with quiet dignity and reverent restraint.
One by one, the flags blossomed out on Main Street and store by store the employees quietly filed out and the business places were locked up for the day.
But there was no shouting, no hilarious display of any kind. Most everybody went home. There was quiet exultation over the fact that a great victory had been achieved but that rejoicing was tempered by the sobering knowledge that there was another great war yet to be won.

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June 14, 1945
Since this seems to be "returning prisoner of war week"? we should mention what a joyous homecoming there was over at the J. G. Klutman home at Valley Springs last week. Unannounced Pvt. Walter Klutman, just liberated after being a German prisoner of war for 27 months, walked in when the family were seated at the breakfast table.

"Nobody could eat, we were so happy,"? said Mrs. Klutman.

Walter's first comment was, "Dad, you've gotten awfully grey."?

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July 12, 1945
Joyous news was that Ben Padilla received this week. His brother, Pvt. Jake Padilla has been unheard from ever since the fall of Corregidor"¦ and was given up for dead. But word came this week that he is alive and in the Jap prison camp at Osaka.

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October 25, 1945
A lad who was one of the "living dead"? has returned to his home "“ very much alive and bubbling over with high spirits. To look at Sgt. Frank Lane with his 160 pounds, you'd never realize now that he was one of those emaciated, tortured souls who survived by some miracle, the horror of that "death march"? at Bataan.

And in some ways, returning to the states and to Luverne is like rising again from the dead because he has to acquaint himself with so many things that have happened in this changing world"¦

He has a lot of "brushing up"? to do because nearly [four] whole years have gone out of his life, [four] years in which he descended into a black hole of silence, knowing nothing about what was going on in the world except that it was a terrible struggle to just barely survive.