Archive for February 15, 2015

A Blue Star Turned Gold

Regardless of the struggle I have with the recipes and ingredients and just the way of things on this project, I do not come anywhere close to the reality of home front living during WWII. I am most reminded when I read a letter from Chaplain John W. Hardy, dated 16 February, 1945.  The letter was given to me by one of the wonderful people I interviewed in connection with this project.


To: Mr. Chester A. Gerrie

February 16, 1945

On behalf of our Commanding Officer, I wish to express to you and your family our sincere and deep sympathy in the loss of your son, Capt. Jack S. Gerrie. It is always difficult to express one’s feeling in a letter, especially in matters which touch our lives as deeply as this.

I feel sure that the War Department has given you the details of his accidental death here on the 29 December, 1944. It was while awaiting transportation home, at this Depot in England, that the fatal accident occurred to your son.

On Sunday, 31 December, 1944, at our morning service here in the Garrison Chapel, we had a Memorial Service. This service was attended by many of the men on the Post. In the congregation were several officers and men who had been in combat with your son. In the service we remembered you and the family in our prayers, and asked god to give you strength and courage.

I also, being the Protestant Chaplain of the Post, had the honor of going with four other officers, three of them from your son’s regiment, as an escort to the Cambridge National Cemetery where your son was laid to rest. This too, was a most impressive service, for full Military honors were part of the funeral service. As the blessing was given, committing your son to a peaceful rest, taps was sounded and the volley was fired while we gave the salute. The cemetery is one of the most beautiful and peaceful spots in England. The Army will take great care and pride in the resting place of your noble son.

I hope that you will find consolation, as I know you take pride, in the excellent record of your son. He was one of the most decorated soldiers that we have had the honor of passing through our Post. These all are a token of his loyalty to his country, the unceasing courage, heroic effort, and warm companionship shown to his comrades as he strove to maintain the high ideals for which many have sacrificed so much. It is in men like your son that our country takes pride, and will enable her, one day, to bring Victory to our cause, and Peace to our World.

On behalf of our Commanding Officer, Officers, and men, we extend to you and your family our heart-felt sympathy, and hope that you will find consolation in the high esteem which we have for the courage, heroism, and fellowship so beautifully lived by your son, and also the hope that we can maintain those same characteristics as nobly as did he.

Sincerely yours,

(Signed: John W. Hardsy, Chaplain, (Capt.))

In WWII the common sight of Blue Star Banners in the window meant there was a family member of the home serving in the Armed Forces. Some homes had more than one blue star; each individual son, husband, father, was recognized by a blue star. A gold star pasted over the blue star represented the honorable death of the family member. For his parents’, Chet and Isabelle, Capt. Jack Gerrie’s star turned gold and the small community of Ripon, Wisconsin was given the unspoken signal to surround the family with prayers and loving support.


I was intrigued by the letter enough to research Capt. Jack Gerrie’s service a little further. He was, just as the Chaplain described, incredibly decorated. Capt. Jack Gerrie received the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism on 23 & 24 August, 1944 near Fountainbleau, France. Later in October of 1944, he was an integral part of the battle at German-held Fort Driant. Several accounts of his bravery exist. In his own words, in a letter to General Patton, Capt. Gerrie shared the truth of a horrible scene. Enraged to see German troops shooting down American Medics while trying to retrieve wounded Americans, Capt. Gerrie sent German prisoners in their place. Seeing the German troops shooting the prisoners, Capt. Gerrie wrote, “We said to hell with it” and shot the whole damn bunch.” This information from Capt. Gerrie was left out of the US National Archived version of the After-Action Report. Patton himself wrote in his diaries he hoped they could conceal the unfortunate instances of prisoners shot.

A report from adds a little more information about the hero’s death, but also conflicts with the Chaplain’s letter. According to the site, Capt. Gerrie, “While awaiting transportation back to his unit at a depot in England on December 29, 1944, after a 30-day leave back home in the United States, Captain Gerrie was killed when a captured German gun he was examining accidentally went off.”

I do hope the Military Times article is correct, that Jack had been home for 30 days during the holidays, and not that he was about to go home. Another detail gives my heart a little ease – somehow Capt. Jack Gerrie made it home to the US and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. May he rest in peace.

Capt Jack Gerrie


Cheery Cherry Cheesecake

Cheery Cherry Cheesecake

One of my all-time most favorite desserts is this incredibly simple, no bake Cheesecake recipe. Instead of pouring the cheesecake into a pie plate, I crumble some graham crackers into small Mason jars and then pour the cheesecake on top. The smaller serving size is perfect for lunch boxes and guilt-free portions after dinner.

Here’s the recipe:

1 package Cream Cheese, softened

1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk

1/3 C Lemon Juice

1 tsp. Vanilla

Mix all together. Pour over a graham cracker crust (I don’t even use butter or sugar anymore…just plain graham cracker crumbs). Chill for a few hours and thoroughly enjoy. When I have fruit filling or topping I add it. Other times I eat it just as is, without anything else.

This time around making the recipe, under the WWII rationing rules, I had run out of points to buy the can of Sweetened Condensed Milk. I was lucky enough to find a recipe to make some from scratch.  What?!?  Yes, making Sweetened Condensed Milk from scratch.

Here’s how I did it:

3/4 C Powdered Milk

3/4 C Sugar

1/2 C Hot Water

Combine the powdered milk and sugar together. Pour into the hot water and whisk.

I even prefer this homemade version to the can. It wasn’t quite as sweet and I could even back the amount of sugar down a little more if I wanted to (or needed to on a short sugar week).

From a historical context, Powdered Milk became a very important food product during WWII. Our military and allies relied on its use, as it was easier to carry and store. The US was able to export the product quickly and easily to civilians overseas who were suffering through extreme food shortages and rationing. Powdered milk has similar nutritional value as normal milk, as it is one and the same – only a dried version.



US export Dry Milk, June 1944

What Husky Men Doing Active Work Like Best

February. Three months into the WWII Food Rationing Project. It has certainly been a learning experience. One of the biggest learning curves has been lunch boxes.

Prior to the project, I would set out ten Bento-style lunch boxes on Sunday morning and pre-pack the entire week’s worth of lunches for my husband and me. I made BBQ Chicken Roll-Ups, Macaroni or Potato Salads, Mason-Jar Cheesecake, etc.

With the project, I am following along with the Health for Victory Meal Planning Guide as best I can. The pamphlet is very good at adding lunch box sandwich variety. I have enjoyed adding the Egg Celery Sandwich Filling to my lunch box.

The biggest problem is that homemade bread doesn’t last a whole week. It is difficult to pre-pack the lunches without crunching into a toast sandwich by Wednesday. I continue to experiment with new ideas.

Argosy Magazine, July 1944

Argosy Magazine, July 1944

I got a kick out of February 1944’s article from the Health for Victory Meal Planning Guide, “Things to Remember About Packing a Lunch Box”.  Here is their advice:

What is a good lunch? One place leftover meat usually goes over big is in lunch box sandwiches. But every day, whether or not meat is available, a lunch box should: 1. Nourish – that is it should contain milk or a milk-food; bread; a protein food such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese or perhaps baked beans; and fruit or vegetables. 2. It should taste good – a hot food, a sweet, and a tidbit tucked in as a surprise will help appetite appeal. 3. It should carry well – if it doesn’t it may not get eaten!

The work they do makes a big difference. All workers need the same foods but the active worker needs more energy foods – bread particularly – and more fruits and vegetables to help turn that bread into energy. Three substantial sandwiches are none too many for a husky man doing active work – and he’d probably like a piece of pie, too, along with the milk, fruit, and vegetables. One sandwich, plus the other recommended foods, is probably enough for the not-so-active worker…two may be needed by someone who’s moderately active. The night shift worker is apt to have a finicky appetite, so go strong on variety and pack lunches attractively.

Do’s and don’ts to guide you! Do use mixed fillings of several ingredients, moistened with dressing, rather than always slices of lunch meats. Include something crisp in the filling – celery, pickles, chopped pepper, shredded lettuce, relish, sliced cucumber, for instance.

Do keep sandwiches moist. Heavy waxed paper is the secret.

Do include their favorites as often as possible. Men vote for ham or peanut butter sandwiches, cake rather than cookies. Apples and bananas are their favorite fruits.

Do include a hot food – soup, cocoa or other hot drink, meat stew or baked beans – they’re always welcome.

Don’t skimp on the butter or fortified margarine – spread it clear to the edges of the bread. They think they don’t like margarine? Try blending two teaspoons of prepared mustard to each quarter pound of margarine. It adds interest!

Don’t get in a rut. Vary the sandwich fillings, the drinks. Fill a jar with a pudding one day, a salad the next. There’s nothing more dreary than “sameness” day after day.


So there you have it. The right way to pack a lunch box for your “husky man doing active work” and even your “night shift worker apt to have a finicky appetite”.

My errors: I’ve never packed a drink for my husband. I’ve never packed milk or a milk-food for my husband (he saw cheese underneath a microscope in the eighth grade and has never touched it since). I can’t imagine my husband eating three sandwiches for lunch in addition to all the other requirements. Maybe he’s not “husky” enough, but I do think he does active work.

Saran Wrap didn’t quite hit the market during WWII. The story is interesting in reference to ‘scary things we wrapped our food in’. The a lab technician at Dow Chemical Company invented Polyvinylidene Chloride (PVdC) by mistake while developing a dry-cleaning product in 1933. The product was useful to protect US fighter planes and automobile upholstery from the elements. Once Dow eliminated its green hue and offensive odor in 1942, they fused layers into woven mesh to make ventilating insoles for canvas jungle combat boots. As an honor to his wife and daughter, the inventor (John Reilly) named the product Saran (a combination of Sarah and Ann). In 1949, the product became very popular as a food preservation wrap. It wasn’t until recent years and much debate about the safety of PVdC that Saran Wrap is now made from ordinary polyethylene.

Given the controversy of environmental and health hazards contained in plastics, I’m still a fan of storing/wrapping foods in glass, butcher paper and wax paper. To me, it sounds better. One of the lessons I’m learning in this project is that 9 out of 10 times, convenience isn’t always a good thing. Plastics of any kind are a convenience and I think we will be paying a huge price for their use in the future.

For now, I’ll go back to lunch box packing. I’m glad to now know what men like: ham and peanut butter sandwiches, cake, apples, and bananas. So noted.