Raymond Salmonsen was born in 1932 in Hartford, Connecticut. When World War II broke out, Raymond and his family moved to California. The Salmonsen family never discussed the war at length, so Raymond relied mostly on the radio for updates. His mother worked as an air raid warden and he often helped her prepare for air raids. Raymond insists that World War II did not seriously impact his life until some years after it had ended, when he served in the Korean War, a conflict precipitated by World War II’s separation of Korea into North and South.
In this interview, Raymond shares his earliest recollections of World War II, the importance of radio in receiving wartime news, moving to California after the start of the war, going to school in the 1940s, the small day-to-day impacts of the war, and the enormous effect its precipitating the Korean War would have on him later in life.
Mother as an Air Raid Warden
I can remember my mother was an air raid warden, and she had a hat and a little whistle. She used to go out; every time they had an air raid, she would be out there with that little whistle, telling people. I can remember we used to paint the headlights on the cars black on the top.
CR: Why was that?
So that aircraft coming over couldn’t see the headlights on it.
I can remember when my father had to buy [gas for his car]. There was gas rationing at the time, so you had to buy these gas rationing stamps. We get to Bakersfield, California, which has gotta be one of the hottest spots in California that there is, and we run out of gas. No more gas, can’t buy it.
CR: What did you guys do?
Well, he finally went to the Rationing Board and got enough rations to get us to [San Bernardino] California.
Listening to the Radio
The line of communication was the radio, and I did listen to it. In fact, at the time—way back then—I used to listen to it in the middle of the night because I had made myself a crystal set. You ever hear of a crystal set?
CR: I have not.
A crystal set is—without going into big detail—you have earphones on and you have a crystal with a little small needle, which is called a cat’s whisker. And you keep putting it in to different places until it picks up the signals. And then, I would lay there at night listening to that thing, fall asleep with that thing on.