When the Home Front is Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Here are short clips from my home front memories.

By Peter Rostenberg, MD   b. 1939

We lived in Fort Sill, Lawton, Oklahoma during WWII, while my father fought in Europe. Cherry Street, our road, ended a few houses down from us in a vast grassland; flat and far as the eye could see. While we neighborhood kids were playing outside one morning, one of us noted an undulating, wide, brown cloud developing on the horizon. It made no noise. We continued to play our cowboys and Indians until we heard a low-pitched metal-on-metal noise that seemed to be coming from beneath the cloud. It stopped us in our tracks.  We ran inside to tell our mothers that something unusual was occurring, but they were not excited. Perhaps they thought it was just another Oklahoma dust cloud that would soon invade the un-airconditioned homes that summer day.  We returned to our viewing booths in our front yards.  The noises grew louder. We finally we saw them –  tanks, halftracks, tankers, you name it!   Our eyes bulged. We watched the war machines maneuver back and forth, further and closer, while telling each other, in hushed awe, what we were seeing.  It all made us feel closer to the power of war.  We returned to our nice, safe homes realizing how very lucky were.

Dad came home to the base on furlough, bringing with him a P38 pistol, a Mauser wrapped in cosmoline, and a huge Nazi flag.  Mom was not happy. On this same furlough, Dad took us to Wichita Falls State Park to see buffalo.  We found no buffalo, but I saw my first tree, standing alone in a field, not far from the road. I found the shade beneath the tree curiously cool and its grass unbelievably soft, especially for my brother John and me who usually went barefoot.

At 11 AM Mass I would put my head on my mother’s lap to rest and wait for the Cherokee women who came to church wearing the beautiful, bright hand crafted blankets. I understand Oklahoma was 20% native American at that time. And finally, at the commissary, I would walk to the back where supplies were delivered to watch the rail road tracks. I waited for the steam engines to emerge, rushing out from the low woods and when they did, it made my day…nothing could be more exciting than that!

On our way back east, we drove into the late dusk toward Oklahoma City. We finally found a motel comprised of separate little houses. I wondered why all the other motels were full, but this one had lots of vacancies. Just before falling asleep, with lights out, we discovered the reason for so few customers: We were located near the end of a military air strip.  Planes took off right above our heads.

It’s funny what you remember about the war time home front.


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