Documentary shown in Wilton highlighted WWII veterans from New Hampshire

WILTON – More than 56,000 New Hampshire residents served in the military during World War II from 1941-45. What did those people who stayed home do while they were gone? How did they fill their places, get the work done and aid the war effort?

On April 16, John Gfroerer presented a documentary he made in 1994, “World War II in New Hampshire,” to an enthusiastic audience of residents at the Gregg Free-Wilton Public Library in Wilton. Many of them remembered the period as children, their fathers serving as air craft spotters on Carnival Hill.

The 60-minute documentary consists of interviews done mostly in 1993, interspersed with film clips of speeches by President Franklin Roosevelt, movie stars, such as James Cagney promoting war bond sales, and newsreels of the war. He interviewed people across the state including those from Portsmouth, Concord and Warner.

“World War II changed everything,” Gfroerer said, “communications, technology, the workforce, how we see ourselves as a nation and as a part of the world.”

He decided to make the film, he said, because 1993 was during the 50th anniversary of the war and he thought “people should remember all this.”

The various speakers recalled rationing, shortages of all kinds including meat and butter.

“White margarine” was mentioned. “It looked like lard,” a woman recalled. “You got this capsule of orange stuff and you had to mix it in.”

Gasoline and tires were strictly rationed, reserving much of it for farmers, which eliminated personal travel and vacations.

With a shortage of agricultural help, high school students picked apples and harvested crops and some left school to work in factories. German prisoners of war were put to work on farms.

The state house dome was painted green to make it less visible.

There were aircraft spotters in every town. Windows were covered to prevent light and attract attacking airplanes.

German U-boats sank ships off the Isles of Shoals, prompting a “submarine net” to be put in place across the river below the Portsmouth Navy Yard and mines spread along the coast.

“But the war brought us all together,” Gfroerer said. “The United States really became united.”

The program was sponsored by the New Hampshire Humanities Council.

The film was funded by the New Hampshire Humanities Council. Gfroerer owns a video recording studio, Creativideo, in Concord.