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From the Depression to the Draft

Approximately 16 million Americans served in World War Two. All came out of the Depression with many being jobless prior to the war and most being poor. It’s been said that World War Two helped bring America out of the Depression and that is certainly true as industry geared up, not only to supply our own troops but also supply our allies.

The humorous postcard below represents what was the likely transition from Depression era poverty to induction into the military-which meant for most three square meals per day plus a brand new wardrobe.

My parents were Depression era and the postcard would have made them smile. It wasn’t called the Greatest Generation for nothing.

This card was mailed (stamp was removed) to Mr. Con O’Neill who lived at 815 E. South Ave., Houghton, Michigan. Houghton, Michigan is “Yooper” territory located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you made a trip across Lake Superior you would be in Canada. I ran a search for the address and found that the house is still there and occupied. The picture I found shows an older home that needs work.

I also ran a search for Mr. Con O’Neill. O’Neill is a common Irish name and the few “Con’s” I found did not line up with Michigan although their ages seemed about right. Assuming “Johnny” (see below) is also an O’Neill I ran a search and found probable descendants in the Upper Peninsula. If a relative of Johnny O’Neill ever runs a search then perhaps my blog will be found and they confirm the message below.

My wife and I cooperated to decipher the writing. This is what we believe it says.

Dear Uncle Con, Arrived here Sat From San Antonio and I expect to move again-soon-and it may be to the Far East. My new address is 5th Air Depot Supply Sqdr., Herbert Smart Airport, Macon, GA. My regards to all. Best Wishes, Johnny

Hebert Smart Aitport appears to be a road near the Macon, GA airport. Perhaps at one time the airport itself was named Herbert Smart.

Johnny was part of the Army Airforce (the Airforce was part of the Army unit 1948). He was assigned to a supply squadron. He expects to be sent to the Far East.

We could not make out a year on the postmark but the day is clearly December 8th. This is speculative on my part but it’s possible the December 8th postmark is from 1941 with December 8th being the day after the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese. Johnny’s reference to the Far East may indicate a hasty deployment to that theater of operations in light of the attack.

It’s also possible that it may be December 8th, 1942 by which time the war in the Pacific was in full swing.

A search for Johnny O’Neill, US Army did not turn up anything that would seem to match. As noted, I speculated a bit assuming that “Johnny” was an O’Neill and also assuming he was from Michigan.

The Army Airforce had 80 Supply and Repair Squadrons during WW2. A search for the 5th Air Depot Supply Squadron turned up an interesting link to the Air Museum in Great Britain. The 5th was attached at one time to the legendary 8th Air Force.

A search for John O’Neill with the 8th Air Force did not turn up the name. The Army Air Force was at 100 different bases in Great Britain during the war. It’s certainly possible that Johnny did not go to the Far East as he predicted but rather ended up with his squadron in Britain. Thank you for your service Johnny.

The famous Memphis Belle, a B-17G of the type “Johnny” may have worked hard to supply with the 5th Air Depot.

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