Our View: Thanksgiving, 1945
Posted: November 21, 2012
Vernon Kirby of Winchester is 88 years old, so he’s seen many a holiday season come and go. But never, perhaps, has he been as thankful — or enjoyed a turkey dinner more — as he was on Thanksgiving Day in 1945.
Mr. Kirby was 21, a gunner boatswain’s mate third class aboard the USS Currituck AV-7, a seaplane tender nicknamed “The Wild Goose.” World War II in the Pacific was over, the peace treaty having been signed almost three months earlier, but in late November, Mr. Kirby and his mates were still in harm’s way, courtesy of Mother Nature. En route to Okinawa from Luzon, the Currituck found itself caught in the middle of a typhoon — with winds, Mr. Kirby recalls, reaching 125 miles per hour in strength.
But make it to Okinawa the good ship did — just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. One day last week, Mr. Kirby dropped by The Star, bearing the menu from that memorable repast. The bill of fare: “turkey soup and saltines; sweet pickles, celery stalks, and stuffed olives; roast young tom turkey; mashed potatoes, sage dressing, and giblet gravy; buttered peas and cranberry sauce; oranges, apples, and mixed nuts; pumpkin pie and hot rolls; ice lemonade, butter, and ice cream; cigarettes and cigars.”
Mr. Kirby, a Valley native who joined the Navy in October 1943, remembers it all, as if it happened yesterday or last year. “We ate dinner, by the grace of God,” he told us. “The war was over and we had made it through the typhoon. I never want to be in another one.”
Printed on that menu was a message to the crew of the Currituck from its commanding officer, Capt. J.E. Clark. It reads, in part, “We are commemorating this day with mixed emotions. A great victory has been won by the powers of right and many of you are on the threshold of permanent return to your loved ones. But it was not cheaply won and as we give thanks for our blessings we are sobered by the thought of those who gave the ultimate to make it so.”
A great message on this or any Thanksgiving — but especially one that finds American men and women at war, and far from the comforts of home.