WWW.QNS.COM RIDGEWOOD TIMES FEBRUARY 24, 2022 17
When the Ridgewood area mobilized for war
BY THE OLD TIMER
OUR NEIGHBORHOOD: THE WAY IT WAS
While the storm clouds
gathered far across the sea,”
as the famous preamble to
“God Bless America” goes, in the months
leading up to the “day of infamy” that
was Dec. 7, 1941, the greater Ridgewood
area had been largely split on whether
to enter World War II.
The community had seen a boisterous
“America First Committee” among
those most outspoken against America
entering the global conflict against
Nazi Germany, Italy and the Empire
of Japan. They claimed isolation and
neutrality were to preserve the peace
in America and keep the destruction of
war from hitting our shores — though
it was ultimately learned that many
in the America First movement had
ulterior motives that sided with those
who would become America’s enemies.
For many Ridgewood residents
and Americans, though, war seemed
inevitable. America’s involvement had
been growing, largely through the Lend
Lease Act, in which we supplied arms to
Great Britain and other freedom fi ghters
seeking to defeat Nazi treachery.
Our relations with Japan were straining
as the imperial forces invaded and
conquered territory in the Pacifi c.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
on Dec. 7, 1941, dissolved any talk of
American isolationism or neutrality.
The next day, aft er President Franklin
D. Roosevelt’s stirring speech on Capitol
Hill, the United States declared war on
Japan — and subsequently, Nazi Germany
and Italy declared war on the U.S.
How does a local newspaper tackle
such a monumental crisis? By taking
the local approach. That’s what the
Ridgewood Times did in its fi rst issue
aft er the Pearl Harbor attack, published
on Friday, Dec. 12, 1941.
“Ridgewood Backs President” blares
the paper’s headline stretching across
the entire front page. It led an expansive
story by Nino LoBello — a veteran reporter
who would soon be thrust into
service for America during the war —
that gauged the mindset of local leaders
and examined what the community was
doing to prepare for confl ict.
“This reporter spent four days scouting
around and sizing up the area,”
LoBello wrote. “He talked to leaders of
the section, quizzed members of the
community and watched the general
attitude of the people along the main
All in all, LoBello added, “President
Roosevelt was given complete assurance
by the community of its faith in
any of his war moves.”
PREPARING FOR ATTACK
In the weeks after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, thousands of Greater Ridgewood residents enlisted in
the Armed Forces — while others at home braced themselves for air raid attacks. Photo by Flickr/Creative Commons
It’s hard for most of us to imagine
today, but at the time, New Yorkers were
genuinely concerned about a potential
aerial attack and/or invasion from
German forces. War was “no longer
confi ned to the battlefi eld,” as Britain’s
King George VI had proclaimed at the
start of the confl ict, and the risk of a German
blitzkrieg in America was real in
the minds of many.
LoBello touched on the local preparations
for possible air raids in his front
“The imminence of airplane raids, in
the meantime, saw the local air raid
wardens going on a 24-hour basis.
Zone warden J. George Lutz, in charge
of the Ridgewood sector, and zone warden
Edward N. Kassel, in charge of the
Glendale-Evergreen sector, announced
that new strategy was being carried out.
Sergeant Charles Katz, of the 104th Precinct,
Ridgewood, said that a new warden
enlisting station had been set up at 66-48
Fresh Pond Road, and that a patrolman
was on duty there all day for registrants.
Drills are being held every night in the
week, it was announced.
Maps, showing in detail every house,
building, hydrant, fi re alarm boxes, police
call boxes, private telephones and the
number of people living in the unit, are
being made at war-time speed.
First aid courses have been started.
In Glendale, zone warden Kassel said, a
school has been established at the headquarters
of the Glendale Taxpayers Association,
69-45 Cooper Ave., where training
in bandage and aid work is beginning.
Classes are now open in Grover Cleveland
High School and enrollees are coming
Indeed, just as Ridgewood carried on
under a peace society, so has it changed
with the crisis and is carrying on under
war emergency. …
There is a determination to stand
united. There is a determination for a
complete victory. No one that this reporter
interviewed gave any other indication.”
Air raid drills became a normal part
of society during World War II. Overseen
by Civil Defense wardens, the
aim was to ensure that the entirety of a
neighborhood was blacked out — not a
single trace of light visible on the street
to give the enemy any knowledge that
they may have been approaching a
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