by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
If you have watched any television news over the past couple of week, you are no doubt aware it is the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II. D-Day, June 6, 1944, marked the beginning of the Battle of Normandy which lead to V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day) on May 8, 1945.
But it wasn’t until the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 8, 1945) that Japanese Emperor Hirohito knew defeat was inevitable. The fighting ended on August 15 however, the Japanese delegation did not officially sign the document of surrender until September 2, 1945.
Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu, representing the Emperor of Japan, signed the Instrument of Surrender. He was followed by the Chief of the Army General Staff, General Yoshijirō Umezu, who signed for the Japanese Army.
After this, General Douglas MacArthur signed the Instrument of Surrender as the Supreme Allied Commander. His signature was followed by that of 8 more gentlemen representing the other allied countries.
The Instrument of Surrender was signed aboard the USS Missouri, a battleship now enshrined at Pearl Harbor. I believe Missourians have always seen the significance of this ship being chosen because the haberdasher from Independence, President Harry Truman, made the decision to drop the bombs, thus ending the War.
The Historical Society recently received a gift from Blake Elliott, a book compiled by his brother, Terryl Elliott entitled Until I See You Again. It is a collection of World War II correspondence between his parents with a few letters from his grandmother and other relatives included.
While his mother, Vivian was from Independence, Missouri, his father was born and raised in Grain Valley. Herschel’s parents were Walter and Lula (Sanders) Elliott. His older sister was Anna Maude Caldwell and his younger sister was Naomi Graham.
Herschel attended 12 years of school in Grain Valley, graduating in 1929. He was on the 1928 Football Team, the only undefeated team in the school’s history. The team was placed in the GVHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.
Before going into service Herschel lived with his family in a house near the corner of Main Street and U. S. 40 Highway, now Eagles’ Parkway. It was torn down in the mid 1950’s, never having anything so “modern” as running water, indoor plumbing or central heating.
The letters reveal a simple life in a much simpler time. They reveal the hardships of the War following the Great Depression. In their daily, yes daily, correspondence readers can learn about sugar rationing, gasoline rationing, and scrap metal drives; family members and friends being laid off from General Motors and others working long hours at Lake City Arsenal.
Readers can also learn about other “local boys” serving in Europe or the Pacific. And we can also learn about the eagerly awaited PX rations, which included cigarettes, candy bars, soap and razor blades.
And then, there was personal information, some good news like the birth of a nephew and some not so good like the death of Herschel’s mother. From the first letter home written on May 5, 1941 to the final letter written on October 18, 1945 one can better understand the hardships endured during World War II.
While Herschel was an airplane mechanic who never saw combat, he did serve his country. The following is from a short newspaper article that fairly well sums up his experience. “Cpl. Herschel T. Elliott, husband of Mrs. Vivian Elliot, 1407 West Alton, arrived home, Tuesday evening (November 13) from the European Theater of War, after thirty-five months overseas. Cpl. Elliott has received his honorable discharge. He served in North Africa, (Sardinia), Corsica, Southern France and Germany.”
Herschel and Vivian returned to Grain Valley where they lived with his widowed father and their two sons (Terry, who arrived in 1946 and Blake in 1949) until moving to Blue Springs in 1952.