“Our fighting men are SHEDDING their blood for you. Do your bit by GIVING some of yours to save them.”
That was the slogan on the letterhead of the American Red Cross in a November 10, 1943, thank-you to Mrs. Harry A. (Nydia) Bruno of the American Women’s Voluntary Services, also known as the AWVS. A blood drive that had been held the previous day at the Montauk Community Church was described as “a record-breaking success.”
In all, 331 “actual bleedings” were performed, setting a new high above one reached by Montauk’s AWVS unit on August 6, 1943. The letter’s author, Irma Walborn, noted that the Montauk unit had now earned a Red Cross Certificate of Appreciation as well as “an Honor Roll.”
Irma Walborn asked Mrs. Bruno to speak with Mrs. Perry (Jane) B. Duryea, the leader of the Montauk unit, to arrange the award presentation. She said she admired the logistical skills of Mrs. Duryea as well as the enthusiasm of Nydia Bruno. “I can well imagine the organization required to plan and make upwards of 1,000 sandwiches, in these days of rationing, was, in itself, a big project,” she wrote.
AWVS members – whose numbers reached 325,000 nationwide after the bombing of Pearl Harbor – did more than organize blood drives and prepare sandwiches. They also drove ambulances and kept watch for enemy aircraft and ships, among other responsibilities. The Montauk Library Archives include photos of AWVS volunteers leading emergency drills, changing tires, and hoisting gurneys as well.
Whether it meant volunteering for a service organization, donating blood, or scrimping on food and gasoline, Americans were expected to work for the common good during World War II. One sweeping local example was the displacement of people who lived in the old fishing village to allow the Navy to test torpedos in Fort Pond Bay.
Others ran the risk of much larger sacrifices, however. Veterans Day, which falls on Friday, November 11, provides a chance to reflect on what we owe to all who served in all too many wars and military conflicts.
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