On November 28, 1942, the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Boston burned and claimed the lives of almost 500 people. The December 2 issue of the "Fort Devens Digest" reports that the dead included 17 Army men, 26 Navy men, three Marines, and two WAVES. Two enlisted men from Fort Devens perished in the fire as well as the 19 year old daughter of the Post Dental Chief. Join us at the Fort Devens Museum on November 19th at 1 PM for an illustrated lecture by historian Bob Begin detailing the fire and its aftermath.
In the fall of 1942, all of America was feeling the brunt of the war. Across the globe, war was raging on all fronts. In North Africa, GI's were up against stiff resistance from German and Italian forces. All of Europe was under German control. In Russia, the 4 month siege of Stalingrad was underway. And in the South Pacific, Marines were fighting on land, sea, and air for control of an unknown island named Guadalcanal. Casualties of American boys were increasing as the war grew. In Waterloo, Iowa, a family would learn that all five sons were lost in the sinking of their ship.
Here in Boston, the war's effects were highly noticeable. Train and bus stations were full of young men in uniform. The harbor was full of ships destined for convoys. Rationing was in place. War-related industries were working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All of America was united and focused on winning the war.
And yet, people would try to find a way to enjoy life or at least deter the worry of tomorrow. Family gatherings, social events, movies, sporting events, and nightclubs. Movies such as Flying Tigers with John Wayne, or on a lighter note...Pardon My Sarong with Abbot and Costello. Thanksgiving dinners at the Parker House were $3.50 or $3.00 at the Hotel Vendome. A big football game was scheduled for the much-favored BC against Holy Cross. And there were several "hot spots" where one could frequent.; such as the Latin Quarter, the Mayfair, and the Cocoanut Grove. Of these, the Cocoanut Grove was the "hottest ticket” of all. Everybody would be there. This program is free and open to the public at the Fort Devens Museum on the 3rd floor of 94 Jackson Road, Devens, MA. Please visit fortdevensmuseum.org for more information.