Pearl Harbor Day and America's Entry into WWII: Reflections by a New Lenox Woman
About 3 p.m. CST on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was bombed. Dorothy Boldt, 91, reflects on her days as a real live "Rosie the Riveter."
Dorothy Boldt, 91, of New Lenox Township, has no memory of that actual day 71 years ago that the US Fleet was bombed and nearly 1,800 Americans died as a result of the attack. But she remembers that it changed her life forever.
She married her husband, TL, in April 1942, and he enlisted. He left in October 1943. The couple would be separated for more than two years.
He was a tech sergeant. From December 1944 through January 1945, "He fought in the Battle of the Bulge." It was on the Western Front of Belgium, France and Luxembourg. He didn't come home until after the war was over, she said.
Living at the time in Pontiac, Boldt was having a hard time make ends meet on the salary she earned as a hair dresser. "I made about $10 a week. I was determined to make a living," she said.
While she can call to mind the music of time—the Big Band Era—and the likes of Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington along with Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, she doesn't quite remember the details of filling out an application for Caterpillar, Inc. in Peoria. Despite the fact that she'd be leaving the only town she'd ever know, she moved because the money was better. "The job paid $32.50 cents a week."
Boldt was a "tool girl. I brought the guys tools when they needed it. I worked the 2nd shift (4 p.m. to midnight,) which was tasked with building earthmoving equipment to ship overseas. The war was on and Caterpillar was running three shifts, seven days a week.
Having rented an apartment with two girlfriends, she said, "We got through it." The shortages were tough. "I remember you couldn't get sugar or nylon stockings."
The trio went occasionally to the local USO on Friday and Saturday nights. "We'd just talk to the soldiers and maybe dance." It was a bit of normalcy.
Everybody supported the war effort, she said. "We bought War Bonds," and Boldt was a major player in Caterpillar's Letter Writing Campaign. "We'd write letters to the boys that (had) worked there." There wasn't much to say, but it was a letter from home; they appreciated it.
Of course, she wrote TL faithfully. "He's passed away now. …I didn't know where he was. Everything was secret. We'd send letters to the APO (Army Post Office in New York), and they'd ship them out from there."
Sitting at the kitchen table, paging through a well-worn scrapbook that was filled with black and white pictures of a much younger woman and a man in uniform, she smiled.
"It was hard sometimes not knowing where he was. You just didn't think about it." Once in awhile, she'd get a letter from him. They weren't allowed to write anything that might mention their whereabouts, she said. "I just knew he was in Europe. …You couldn't let it get emotional."
When he finally came home, the couple spent the first few months getting re-acquainted. "We'd been separated so long, and he was nervous around loud noises. It was really hard on him."
"What I do remember was as soon as the war was over; I was out of a job."
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