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"Thanks for the Memories." Remember when that was the theme song of Bob Hope and his USO show when they'd show up in Okinawa, a military hospital in San Diego or on the flight deck of a flat top in the South Pacific?

I recently was given a stack of 1943 Life magazines, and what memories they've generated. The cover price was 10 cents, and the photos, text and advertising pretty well centered around the war. Every issue carried full-page ads showing the lovely girl in a flight suit and the handsome Air Force pilot holding Camel cigarettes. She was smiling and puffing because she'd just tested a new nylon parachute. And she loved the taste of her Camels. It felt good to her "T zone."

There are photos of another brand-new B-17 being rolled out of the factory covered with the names and messages of the workers who built it in order to carry out the war against those three despots who made up the Axis -- Hitler, Hirohito and Mussolini.

One issue carried a three-page story written about the only Negro battalion in our Army. Another issue showed the Japanese camps for those who had been displaced and moved inland because they might be disloyal to our American cause. A lot of us have forgotten the terrible ways people have been treated on the basis of their skin color or religious beliefs.

Reading these magazines, it's easy to pick up the sense of patriotism and motivation justifying the teaching of young people to hate, to kill and to be willing to die to bring about a successful conclusion of the war. There is a story about one of my favorite comic strips that appeared in the Stars and Stripes, "Terry and the Pirates," drawn by Milton Canniff, and the introduction into our lives of the glamorous girls who were copied onto the fuselages of many of the airplanes our young people flew and died in.

And the pin-up girls -- Dorothy Lamour, Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, Judy Garland and Alexis Smith. Most of the photos showed the men in uniform smiling and dedicated as they trooped off to war. There are reminders of gas rationing and the difficulty of purchasing nylon stockings and butter. There are pictures of Boy Scouts collecting old newspapers and practicing their Civil Defense blackouts. And there's the unusual sight -- at least back then -- of seeing women cleaning blast furnaces, ferrying airplanes and welding ships.

It's interesting, too, how the word "fashion" has taken on new dimension and style. For the men, uniforms are uniforms and they haven't changed that much. But for the women, the description of "sexy" has undergone a revolution.

The descriptions in 1943 of modern weaponry now seem pitifully naive and old-fashioned. Some of us remember how proud we were of our radar systems, bomb sights and all-weather aircraft. How primitive they seem to us now, looking back with the hindsight of Monday morning quarterbacks.

But I wonder -- as we've seen kings, kingdoms and dictators go; watched millions of people being killed, starved and evicted from their homelands; had new values thrust upon us; given up freedoms for the sake of fatter wallets; endured the rape of our natural resources; and seen the thrusting of God and his influence out of public life -- have we, in fact, learned anything? Are we really the better for it?

DON BOOTH lives in East Aurora.

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