Monday, August 12, 2013

My Parents During World War II

Two thing have caused me to think of my parents' experiences during World War II. First, I’ve been writing the biography of a 94-year-old may who was in the infantry in Europe, captured by the Germans, kept in a prisoner-of-war camp and repatriated by the Russians. Second, I recently participated in a ceremony where butterflies were released to commemorate loved ones, and I sponsored butterflies for my dad and mom who died respectively in 1968 and 2005.

My mom came to Hawaii in 1935 when she was 21 years old, sailing on the Lurline from Los Angeles to Honolulu. On Sunday morning December 7, 1941, she opened the office of Globe Wireless in Honolulu and didn’t get off work until almost midnight, given all the messages that needed to be sent to the mainland after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. I remember hearing stories of curfew and black out curtains in Honolulu and the rumors of poisoned water supplies and concerns that an invasions by Japanese troops would follow the bombing.

My dad, Murray Befeler, was a war correspondent with the Associated Press and served as Pacific Pool Coordinator of photography. He was stationed on Guam at the time of the invasion of Iwo Jima, and he was the person who selected Joe Rosenthal’s picture of the flag raising on Iwo Jima to be send to the mainland.

Like many people exposed to World War II, my dad spoke very little about his experiences. The only story I overheard was how he stayed sober and won a lot of money at poker.

In 1954 he took a trip through the Pacific and photographed scenes of ten years after the war. I still have a set of 35mm slides showing rusted landing craft and downed airplanes on a number of islands such as Saipan.

In looking at records on, I found evidence of my own World War II experience. I arrived in Honolulu on March 5, 1945, at the age of three months after nine days at sea when my mom brought me from San Francisco on the S. S. Permanente. I remember my mom mentioning that she had come over on a cement ship. For years I thought this meant the ship was made of cement rather than it had been a ship that had transported cement for Henry J. Kaiser’s company.

Mike Befeler

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