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home : columns : dave fjeld
January 15, 2019


1/9/2019 10:23:00 AM
War years tidbits from Irene
If you didn't get a chance to read the story about Irene Hultquist's early Christmas present (page 6), do so. You'll be glad you did.
Her story is history and she shared a few other tidbits that didn't make it into the story, but were ideal for this space.
For instance, when servicemen are shipped overseas, family members - yes, even spouses - don't know where their loved ones are sent. I believe that is still the case today, but was definitely the case in 1943 during World War II.
Irene's husband, C.J., a preflight mechanic for the P38 fighter planes, knew he was likely to be sent either to Japan or to the European Theater. He didn't know which.
Well, correspondence in the 1940s was exclusively by letter and, of course, the letters were censored by the military to make sure no military secrets were inadvertently shared in letters. It wasn't uncommon for family members to find blank spaces in letters.
Well, C.J. and Irene had devised a plan to circumvent the censorship, while letting Irene know where C.J. had been sent.
"We decided that if he wrote me a letter and he went to Europe, he would write Irene "E." Hultquist. If he went to Japan, he would write Irene "J." Hultquist," Irene says. "That's how I found out he was in Europe, but I didn't know where. And I didn't know for two years.
"He would write letters, but they were so full of holes because they (military) would censor them."
One thing wives were allowed to know is a relative time frame as to when their husband would ship out. While they weren't given an exact date, they were given a small window.
Again, C.J. and Irene devised a plan to know when he would be deployed.
"He said, 'If I don't come home tonight, you'll know I will be in the shipping orders," Irene recalls. "He didn't come in, but I did get a notice that he would be in Santa Maria, Calif. I could come up, if I had transportation.
"I took the bus to Santa Maria and we were together about three nights."
C.J. and Irene stayed in a hotel in Santa Maria those three nights before he deployed. During that time, Irene experienced a very unusual and, later, disturbing event.
"Every morning, there would be a water glass on our table and when I would pick it up, there was something drawn on there," Irene remembers. "When my husband came in the first night, 'I said what is this? I don't understand what it is.'
"He said, 'Oh, that's a swastika.' We knew that the lady who was doing our cleaning was a German lady. We knew the German language."
C.J. told his newlywed wife not to talk to the woman, much less share anything with her. Yet, every morning, after the room was cleaned, Irene found a swastika under the glass.
"She would try to talk to me and I would just shake my head, 'no,'  " Irene says. "Several of my friends, whose husbands were shipping out, found the same thing."
The morning that he didn't return, she knew he was being deployed. C.J. told Irene when that happened, she was to pack up and return to Glendale.
She did.
When she got back to Glendale, she picked up the next morning's paper only to read some chilling news.
"They found a bomb in the hotel that I was staying at," Irene recalls. "I still have the newspaper clipping. Somehow or another, they were suspicious of this happening and they found it."
Irene followed her husband's instructions and then returned to Minnesota.







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