The Times and Tides of Ocean City, Maryland
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Being a Teenager During World War II at Ocean City, Maryland
by Arthur T. Davis

Aircraft ID Book
During my early teenage years growing up in Ocean City our country entered into World War II. The closest the conflict came to Ocean City was when a German submarine torpedoed a merchant ship just off our coast. If I recall correctly, it was the freighter David H. Atwater that was torpedoed by the notorious U-boat 552 about ten miles off the coast. The survivors of the Atwater were machine gunned to death in their life rafts by the Germans. The life rafts were picked up by a U.S. Coast Guard patrol and brought into Ocean City where their bodies were laid out on the Coast Guard dock at South Division Street and the bay. Everything was very secretive during the war and the retrieval of these bodies was done under the cloak of night and the news was not announced until the next day. A renewed effort was made by the townspeople to enforce the blackouts along the length of the beach.

This event really brought the war home to us. Of course food and gas were rationed. Everyone in town collected cans, tinfoil, lard and other items that were needed to help the war effort. I remember that my mother, Violet, also had a victory garden.

A page from the Aircraft ID Book.
We quickly lost many of our teachers who went off to fight the war. Those teachers left at home taught what they knew, mostly business courses, typing, and such, but there was one course that was particularly useful to us during the war. The Aircraft Identification course, where we learned to identify German, Japanese and American airplanes from silhouette flash cards.

The U.S. Army came into town and built machine gun emplacements on the beach and along the western shore of the Sinepuxent Bay. These were beehive shaped structures made from sand bags stacked much like ice blocks were for igloos. Lookout towers was built only along the beaches. The tower was a small room, about 6 by 6 feet, and was located every so many half-miles along the beachfront. Kids my age, who were about thirteen, were recruited to man the towers along the beach to spot invading planes. We (my partner in the lookout was Sally Cropper) were provided with binoculars and a phone that rang directly to the coastal defense forces. When we saw a plane we identified it and called in the direction it was flying, the altitude, and the number of engines the plane had. The station that Sally and I manned was located about a mile or so north of the town. Mrs. Annie Pruitt Quillen, the wife of Coast Guardsman Samuel Quillen would pick us up at sunrise and delivery us to the lookout and return to get us before school started.

We also served as Junior Air-Raid wardens. When a drill was held, the fire whistle blew and we jumped on our bikes, wearing armbands for ID and carrying a flashlight and a whistle. Our job was to see that everybody got off the streets and that no lights were showing from homes, hotels and businesses. If lights were seen we would blow a whistle to let them know. The coast was kept very dark so that the lights would not guide invaders. Car headlights were painted black except for a narrow slit. The boardwalk shops had no outside lights and you had to enter through a maze of plywood boards that kept the inside lights from showing.

Art Davis with friend Edward Hudson (left) as teenagers
Almost all of the volunteer firemen were off fighting the war. A few older men who were assisted by the Coast Guardsmen, who ran from their station house to the firehouse when the alarm sounded, manned the trucks. My friend, Fish Powell, and I lived close to the firehouse so we would run to jump on the back of a truck. No one objected and they were glad to have us pull hose and reload it after a fire. I guess you could say that we were the first fire cadets of the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company.

The older teens were organized into a "minute man" group and trained with wooden rifles to be a defense against invasion. One time our Boy Scout troop was recruited to assist in their training. Our job was to plant a bomb under the old bridge that entered town at Worcester Street. We painted sections of broomsticks red and tied them together to simulate a bomb. We made it to the bridge but the "minute men" found us and chased us all over town.

Fortunately there was never an invasion on this beach.

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