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Centennial Monograph: World War II


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Centennial Monograph: World War II


How the Town of Maynard was affected and responded to World War II.





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On September 1, 1939, Adolph Hitler, Chancellor of Germany, by ordering the invasion of Poland started what turned out to be World War II. Before it ended In 1945, the entire World became involved and It proved to be the bloodiest conflict in all human history.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the first peacetime draft law (Selective Service Act) on September 16, 1940. Benny M. Sofka and Veli Kangas were Maynard's first volunteers under the new Act. They were honored by the townspeople at a banquet on Sunday, November 17, held in the George Washington Auditorium. Selectman Donald Lent presented both of the young men with Waltham wrist watches — gifts from the people of Maynard. Sofka in response said: ”My parents came to this country many years ago. - As I grew up, I saw that they enjoyed living here and I thought it was up to me to enlist in the service of my country for the benefits it has given to them. I will give my life if it is necessary." Kangas, who had been in America only four years and was not a citizen, was so overcome with emotion at such attention, that he could not speak except to express his heartfelt appreciation. The following morning a short parade accompanied the two volunteers as they left town to report to the Concord Draft Board.

Things on the home front began to take shape. Guyer W. Fowler was appointed Chief Air Raid Warden and the town was divided into thirteen sections with a captain in each section.

Frank J, DeMars Post, American Legion, under Commander Ben Gruber formed an Air Raid Defense Program. Watchers were stationed a top the watch tower at the fire station on Nason Street, from where calls could be sent to the Chelsea headquarters.

This was followed by the formation of a Defense Council by the Legion and the citizens were urged to register for Civil Defense. An aluminum drive, under the direction of Warren Bemis, resulted in the collection of 1,290 pounds to be melted down and used in airplanes. The first group of volunteer Air Raid Wardens received certificates from Mrs. Mabel Tobin, Director, and thirteen women of the Motor Corps Unit of the Women's Defense School received diplomas from their instructor, Mrs. Frank C. Sheridan. Also, a first aid course was begun under Dominic Baccarro.

A formal declaration of war was issued by Congress at the request of President Roosevelt on December 8, 1941 after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan the day previous. At the time our Pacific Fleet was crippled. Edward Boltrukiewicz, Seaman 2nd Class, U. S. Navy, of Maynard was stationed at Pearl Harbor and was awarded a citation for bravery during the bombing of the Naval Base.

Home defense programs went into operation immediately, a plan was formulated by the Legion and Veterans to build an observation tower on top of Summer Hill to spot planes. Walter Tierney, Manual Training teacher in the High School, drew the plans. A road was laid from Summer Street to the top of the hill. Louis Boeske provided the gravel and the trucks were donated by local men. An old building in Memorial park was dismantled by High School boys and the lumber used for the tower.

On January 12, 1942 a telephone was installed and the tower went into operation, with Herbert Martin and Percy Taylor the first volunteers on duty, Harold V. Sheridan was appointed Chief Observer.

A victory book campaign was conducted by the Girl Scouts and about four hundred books were collected to be sent to the servicemen.

Tire rationing went into effect. The report center was moved from the police station to a small utility building at Memorial Park. A blackout committee was formed. During blackouts, all outdoor lighting would be extinguished, and all homes were to be fixed so that no light was visible from the outside.

Early in February, all men between the ages of twenty and forty-five registered for Selective Service. Registrations cards for four hundred and fifty men were filled out.

The street department filled all containers left in front of homes with sand for extinguishing bombs. Also, in March the first practice blackout was held.

In April 1942, over one hundred separate land owners in Maynard, Hudson, Stow and Sudbury agreed to sell to the Federal Government a total of thirty-one hundred acres of property (approximately eight hundred acres from Maynard) for an ammunition depot, The area was approximately four square miles and included the Henry Ford farm, once known as Gateley's farm, the Puffer homesteads, Don Lent’s family home, the Jim Haynes farm belonging to the Sarvela family, Puffer’s Pond, the Vose farm, formerly Rice Tavern, and many other valuable farm, residential and summer resort lands. Many of those landowners had lived on their farms or estates for several generations, some of which were among the first built in this territory in the 1700's. Maynard lost some of its most valuable and picturesque area in this transaction. Puffer Road, Old Marlboro Road, Taylor Road and White Pond Road were closed off where these roads entered the government property.

In April 1942, nine hundred and forty-eight men registered for the draft.

At this time retail sugar sales were banned for one week prior to sugar rationing. The quota allowed: one pound per person for a two week period. Gasoline rationing went into effect, with pleasure cars limited to three gallons a week. Bicycles also came under the Rationing Board.

A drive amongst the employees of the American Woolen Company resulted in a 94.7% enrollment for pay allotment plan for the purchase of War Bonds. Mrs. Lindsay Smith headed the American and British Bundles for Britain relief groups. A junk drive, under the direction of Frank Rowe, netted one hundred tons of scrap iron and rubber articles.

Fuel oil supplies were cut one-third and rationing of same went into effect. A Mobile Blood Unit of Boston came to Maynard and set up in Knights of Columbus Hall. Seven hundred registered and six hundred pints were obtained. Coffee rationing went into effect and one pound per person was allowed every five weeks for each person over the age of fifteen years. A Womans' Salvage Group was formed to collect tin cans and fats. The tin cans were flattened after removing both ends and the labels. The fats were turned in at the meat markets.

On December 14, 1942, Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Lanigan, 66 Great Road, received the following telegram, bringing to Maynard for the first time the hard, cold facts that war was not a distant thing, not merely a matter of headlines in the dally papers:

”The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your son. Private Thomas F. Lanigan, was killed in action in defense of his country in the South Pacific Area, November 28, 1942.”
(Signed) by Adjutant General

Private Lanigan was the first Maynard man to give up his life in the defense of his country in World War II.

The 605th U.S. Coast Artillery was granted use of the Maynard Observation tower and operated it for the remainder of the war time period, Shoe rationing went into effect, and a stamp from the sugar rationing book was used and the number announced by the Office of Price Administration (OPA),

O.P.A. Victory gardens became popular, and land was made available by Guyer W. Fowler, the American Woolen Company, the American Powder Mills and some town land in the old Cricket Field, 4-H gardens were planted by the children. The Memorial Day parade was held without a band. The Maynard Band had disbanded because so many of its members were in the service. Mrs, Earl F. Ryan, chairman of the Maynard Red Cross, announced that 65,000 surgical dressings were made here during 1943.

In February 1944, Fire Chief Allan announced the Air Raid whistles will be dispensed with. Guyer Fowler resigned as Chief Air Raid Warden to assume his new duties as a member of the Draft Board. Roy Marsden became the Chief Air Raid Warden.

On June 6, 1944, known as D-day, the invasion of Europe by the Allied troops began, which filled the townspeople with mixed emotions. To many it was something long overdue; to the families of the servicemen it brought days of anxiety.

A Soldier's Christmas remembrance fund was started under the direction of Joseph Dineen. The purpose was to raise enough money to send each service man from Maynard $5.00 for Christmas. A total of $5,403 was collected.

Herbert Martin, chairman of the Rationing Board, stated 1945 could be a critical year for supplies -- 85% of civilian meat was rationed -- butter and canned goods were in short supply -- tire quotas were cut a shortage of fuel oil existed. The Maynard Branch of the American Red Cross under Mrs. James Mahoney had furnished sweaters, socks, scarves, mittens, and various other articles for the Army and Navy, which were made by the women of the town.

President Roosevelt died April 12, 1945 and Vice-President Harry S. Truman succeeded him.

On May 2, Berlin fell to the Allies and on May 7, V-E Day, Germany signed unconditional surrender terms, thereby ending the European conflict.

On August 6, an A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and on August 9, Nagasaki was hit by A-bomb. President Truman announced that Japan had accepted the terms of unconditional surrender and World War II was ended. V-J Day was officially declared on September 2, 1945.

During the war years, seven successful War Bond drives were conducted locally. The town of Maynard saw one thousand and ninety of its young men and young women enter the conflict, thirty-three whom died in the service. Many were wounded and several received citations for valor and meritorious service.