Sunday, August 14, 2011

TIME MACHINE ... The World War II Era on the Eastern Shore.

December, 1941

Pocomoke City and other other Eastern Shore residents were tuning in to a special statewide radio broadcast "WHEN THE BLITZ COMES KNOW YOUR TASK." A newspaper ad advised that officials will tell you what an enemy attack will mean to your family..and what your part will be when that time comes. Front page news items such as Approaches To Bay Mined By Navy and Eastern Shore Guardsmen On Active Service reflected the worrisome news of that era.

June, 1941

In Crisfield the normal peacetime production at the Briddell plant was now involved with a heavy workload related to military needs with two work shifts required. Also in Crisfield two tent factories were working overtime to fill military orders.

February, 1942

World War II military action was reported close to home for Pocomoke and other lower Eastern Shore residents with the news that an enemy submarine torpedoed and sank a freighter just 23 miles off of Ocean City. Two died in the attack and 39 who spent seven hours in two of the freighter's lifeboats were rescued by a Coast Guard Cutter dispatched from Ocean City.

March, 1942

A complete blackout of Ocean City was ordered by Maryland's State Defense Council until a plan could be devised to prevent light reflections that could silhouette ships on the ocean. Army officials had previously called for the blackout to make it more difficult for enemy ships to spot and sink ships off the Ocean City coastline. One problem was said to be the glare of light from side streets in addition to the light along the immediate shoreline. Ocean City officials were meeting with state and federal officials and were said to be confident plans could be put into place that would not curtail the summer season.

March, 1942

The executive director for Civil Defense for Maryland issued a warning to all county defense directors that every Eastern Shore county must immediately put partial blackouts into effect every night until further notice. It would involve eliminating lighting on all advertising signs, store window displays and other such lighting that could not be controlled at once in the event of an alert. Full scale black out procedures and practices were developed in most of the bigger Eastern Shore communities during the war era.

October, 1942

Worcester County war rationing boards were created in Pocomoke City, Snow Hill, and Berlin. Pocomoke board members were R. Harlan Robertson, chairman; E. Russell Mathews, and Edward Ham. Additionally, B. Fuller Waters was appointed to the Ceiling Price Panel; and Rev. John A. Ditto, Verlin C. Krabill Sr., and William H. Dryden were appointed to the Fuel Oil Panel.

Citizens throughout the country were urged to give support and cooperation to their local rationing boards:

It may seem like a lot of "stuff and nonsense" when your local War Price and Rationing Board makes a decision. But- please remember that these board members don't make the rules.

Even OPA in Washington doesn't decide what is to be rationed. Gasoline restrictions--for example, were ordered by the War Production Board and your Petroleum Administrator.

Your Ration Board members are merely representatives of Uncle Sam. They are to see that everyone gets a Fair Share of Rationed Goods Available.

"Share And Share Alike!"- that's the motto of your War Price and Rationing Board!.

These members- patriotic neighbors of yours- are handling the toughest job in town. They work long hours, Without Pay, so please give them consideration. They're patient with you. Be patient with them.

A public service campaign attempted to explain gasoline rationing:

Why can't I get more gasoline?

Sorry- But we haven't enough gas here in the east to supply military and civilian demands now!

Well, we want to drive to our cabin every Sunday.

But that's pleasure driving.

Well. . .

And there Isn't Gas Enough for Pleasure Driving. Everyone in the east is entitled to at least 3 gallons every two weeks- and no more.

Oh, that's just one of those silly OPA rules. My sister in Indiana gets more gasoline than that!

Yes. If she has an "A" card, they give her 4 gallons a week. You see that's the maximum allowed to "A" drivers because our rubber situation is so critical throughout the country.

Well, if they have more gas in Indiana, why don't we get more of it here?

Shipping- that's why. Before the war, gasoline was shipped to the Atlantic seaboard in giant tankers. A tanker docked at an east coast port every 80 minutes. Now- these tankers are carrying gasoline and oil to our men on the fighting fronts.

Why don't they ship gasoline across the country?

They do. You'd probably be surprised if you knew how much your government is doing to bring gasoline east. They're using everything they can find. Tank cars- and even rubber-lined box cars. But we still can't get enough.

I thought they were going to build some sort of pipelines.

They have. But they haven't even produced enough for military needs!

I don't see why. Everybody gets such a little bit of gasoline!

Millions of gallons of gas and oil are used each week in our military industries. And millions of barrels are shipped weekly from our east coast ports to the battle fronts.

I never though of that before.

Most people don't. But if everyone would try to understand the reason behind rationing, I'm sure they would do everything they could to help.

You mean- the gasoline I don't get is helping to win the war?

That's right. And the more we have to fight with, the sooner we'll win.

Even in wartime there were some moments of a less serious nature:


As a young Navy pilot former President George H.W. Bush trained at the Chincoteague base. As reported in various published accounts he flew low over an area of Crisfield where a circus had setup nearby and a frightened elephant broke away, in turn frightening nearby residents. Reports were that Bush's low fly-over was an attempt to impress a young Crisfield woman he had met at a USO dance at Chincoteague.

Do you have a local memory to share with PPE readers.. such as a big snow storm, a favorite school teacher, a local happening, something of interest your parents or grandparents told you about? It can be just a line or two or more if you wish. Your name won't be used unless you ask that it be. Send to and watch for it on a future TIME MACHINE posting!


The Public Eye said...

I was going through some old things awhile back and I found several books of rations that my Grandmaw had saved in an old pocketbook.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this interesting information TK. I never knew about the torpedo strike off the coast of Ocean City.

Anonymous said...

Torpedoed merchant ships were a common occurrence off our coast in World War II. Think about it...95% of our merchant shipping eventually had to call at one of only five places along the Atlantic Coast: Boston, New York, Delaware Bay (Philadelphia/Camden), Chesapeake Bay (Baltimore/Norfolk), or Charleston. The German U-Boats took up station near the entrances to these ports and enjoyed a shooting gallery atmosphere, at least for the first two years. The old concrete towers along the Delaware coast from Dewey Beach to Fenwick were constructed to help spot submarines.

Anonymous said...

I've heard from the oldtimers that the Ocean City beach was patrolled on horseback by members of the Coast Guard.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great posts. My father was a radioman on a destroyer stationed off of Norfolk to protect the Chesapeake Bay when he picked up the sound on Sonar of a German U boat trying to get into the bay. His ship and several others used depth chargers to sink the sub with 80 some Germans on board.