Remembering D-Day: What the home front was like in Kendall County 79 years ago today

The Record kept readers up-to-date on local servicemen as they fought in Europe and the Pacific

As Allied forces stormed the beaches in France 79 years ago on this historic day, D-Day, June 6, 1944, life in Kendall County was proceeding much as it had since the outbreak of the war three and one-half years earlier, according to the files of the Kendall County Record.

Throughout the war years the Record continued to report the local news with a focus on the activities of Kendall County area residents, businesses, civic organizations and churches. Glance through the pages of the Record from the early 1940s and you will find weekly reports of births and deaths “up at the Copley Hospital” in Aurora, birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries, family reunions and all manner of community and church gatherings.

There was a good chance that if you were a Kendall County resident in the early 1940s and you went out of town to visit relatives or ventured up to Aurora to watch a movie at the Paramount or one of the city’s other downtown theaters, you would find a brief note about your outing in the following week’s Record.

Unlike this year, the spring of 1944 was a wet one in Kendall County. The Record reported May 3 the abundant showers of April had continued into May, but that most of the “oat and grass seeding is finished but some armers are still trying to get in their fields ... .”

Graduation ceremonies also were held that spring at Oswego, Yorkville, Plano and Newark high schools. The Record reported that 29 diplomas had been presented to graduates at the Oswego High School commencement.

Rationing of fuel, rubber and other commodities to aid the war effort was part of everyday life. The Record published a notice the day after D-Day reminding fuel oil users that renewal forms for the upcoming winter heating season were due June 12 in the Yorkville office of the Local War Price and Rationing Board.

There is scarce mention in the Record of the events taking place overseas leading up to D-Day or the long-anticipated Allied invasion of France on June 6. Robert F. and John R. Marshall, the Record’s owners and publishers at that time, left the war coverage up to the daily papers and radio.

But the impact of the war on Kendall County families was evident in the Record with every Thursday edition, especially that spring. Each week, the paper published updates on the many young men from Kendall County who had enlisted or been drafted into the armed forces. Those reports tell the story of their contributions – including some who sacrificed their lives – in the war effort, and of their families back home in Kendall County. Though short, the notices also tell the story of homesick servicemen, anxious parents, happy reunions and all too brief home leaves.

For example, the Record reported in April that “Mrs. Everett McKeown has received word that her husband has arrived in England.” Less than two months later, Pfc. McKeown, an Army medic from Oswego, was seriously wounded when a German mortar shell broke his leg during the D-Day invasion.

Also in April, the Record’s NaAuSay Township correspondent reported that “Mr. and Mrs. Seth Wheeler received word this past week that their son Pfc. Virgil Wheeler had been seriously wounded March 13 in action on Bougainville. Virgil left for service 3 years ago, April 21. He served overseas 2 years. Friends can write to him at the following address: Pfc. Virgil Wheeler, 3602883 (hospital), Theatre Directory, APO 502, c-o PM, San Francisco, Ca.”

In May, just weeks before D-Day, the Record published reports of servicemen at home on leave for Mother’s Day.

The paper described one Mother’s Day homecoming at an Oswego-area home as follows: “Mr. and Mrs. George Hafenrichter had a real celebration on Mother’s Day. Their son, Sgt. Leonard Hafenrichter from Indiantown Gap, Penn., was home on a 10-day furlough and early Sunday morning another son, Ensign Carl Hafenrichter and wife from Whiting Field, Milton, Fla. surprised them by coming home on a leave.”

Another Oswego area serviceman home for Mother’s Day was Pvt. Stanley Herren, who spent the day with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Herren, according to the Record.

At least one serviceman home on leave stopped for a visit at the Record office, then located on Bridge Street in downtown Yorkville. The Record reported that “Sergeant L.H. ‘Dink’ Wormley of Oswego, more late of a government hospital in Michigan, and most late of ‘Somewhere in England’ was a visitor at the Record office last Thursday and told of some of his experiences overseas. He half expects to get a CDD [Certificate of Disability Discharge] but will fight the move to release him from the Army. He looks good and says he feels all OK.”

On May 24, the Record reported that Dr. Saxon, formerly of Oswego, had sent a letter from “somewhere in Italy,” in which he described himself as “very busy and lonesome.” Saxon asked that his friends would write to him.

The day after D-Day, June 7, the the Record reported that “Staff Sergeant Forrest Wooley is home from Fort Meade, Maryland, on a seven day furlough.” Wooley would return to Oswego after the war and operate a hardware store on the village’s Main Street and serve a stint as a chief of the village’s volunteer fire department.

The week after D-Day, the Record reported that Dick Walper, son of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Walper of Oswego, was home on a 30-day leave. “Dick has been in major battles in the South Pacific and hasn’t been home for four years,” the Record noted.

Tragically at the end of June, days after D-Day, the Record reported that Tommy Collins “second son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank E. Collins of Yorkville, but formerly of Oswego township. Tommy was killed in action in Italy on June 5. Another son of the Collins’, Jimmy, is in the Navy.”

In April, the Record had reported that Emil Farren, son of Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Farren of Yorkville, had been reported missing in action. The report read: “The community extends their sympathy. ‘Bud’ was a gunner on a Liberator B-24 bomber and was one on a flight over Germany when the action took place. The chances are that he is a prisoner in Germany and we hope this is the case unless he is found on more friendly territory, say Switzerland.” A few weeks later, in June after the Allied invasion of France, the Record reported that Farren had been captured and that his parents “have received the following address for their son: Staff Sergeant Emil L. Farren, U.S. Prisoner of War, No. 3085, Stalag Luft 3, Germany, Via New York City, New York.” The Record added: “We all think of him often and pray for the day our Army will take the prison camp in which he is held.” Those prayers were eventually answered. Farren was later liberated from the German POW camp, along with other Allied POWs at the end of the war the following spring and returned to Yorkville.

Also in late June, the Record reported that “Pfc Richard Young of the Marines, son of Mr. and Mrs. Dwight Young of Oswego, is home from California. Young, who went on to become head of the Kendall County Forest Preserve District, would participate in the Battle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific in February 1945. Upon returning to Oswego after the war, Young became a noted naturalist and environmentalist who worked to establish both the Kane and Kendall County Forest Preserve Districts.

The Record also published notice in June that Company I, 3rd Infantry, Illinois Reserve Militia, based out of the armory in Plattville, south of Yorkville was in need of more men. The paper described volunteering for the militia as a “patriotic duty, which should not be shirked.”