Robert Kirby: You think we have it rough? Look at what Utahns were enduring 75 years ago.

Robert Kirby

After four years of the worst carnage the world had ever known, the May 1, 1945, issue of The Salt Lake Tribune was surprisingly optimistic.

Seventy-five years ago, the front page featured a photo of the bloody bodies of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, hanging upside down in Milan’s Plaza Loreto.

The news was big in other areas as well. The Red Army took Berlin. The U.S. 7th Army seized Munich. In the Pacific, an airfield on Okinawa was captured in preparation for the 24/7 bombing of the Japanese mainland. American prisoners were streaming home from Europe.

Not knowing that Adolf Hitler had killed himself two days before, the news eagerly anticipated the coming assault on his Bavarian fortress. And Japan would soon feel Allied boot heels on its neck.

It wasn’t all celebratory. The same Tribune issue also announced — as it had every day for years — the fates of military men from Utah. On this particular spring day, there were only eight killed and seven wounded.

Even so, God was smiling on America. President Harry S. Truman had introduced the Bible into the ceremonies of administering the oath of office to administrative officials.

For Utah and the rest of the nation, the end was in sight of rationing meat, lard, cheese, sugar, butter, sweets, coffee, margarine, tires, oil, gasoline, nylons, shoes, coal, even firewood. Assuming, of course, that any of these were available in your area.

Bacon? How could a civilian population endure life without bacon? In an age when we tussle over toilet paper and hand sanitizer, there would be demonstrations and possibly even rioting over a scarcity of bacon.

But as bad as things were on May 1, 1945, a sense of normalcy was still present. Salt Lake City teenagers were advised against the idiotic fad of stenciling the backs of their shirts and jackets with the letters “P.W.” (Prisoner of War).

Margery Jo Ferrell, 21, the 1,000th Utah woman to enlist in the Women’s Army Corps, left for training as a physical therapist for the hundreds of thousands of wounded soldiers, Marines and sailors in desperate need of her.

Life was also just getting interesting for Carroll Moss, who married Robert Early Phelan, and Joyce Whiting, who married David Arthur Good.

On a grimmer note, a coroner’s jury determined that Carbon County Sheriff S. Marion Bliss, killed in an April 23 gunbattle with a homicide suspect, was in fact shot by his own posse.

Looking back at the state of affairs 75 years ago, one thing is noticeable about the news. Despite the hardships they had been forced to endure, Utahns apparently did surprisingly little complaining.

Maybe they had grown accustomed to going without certain things in the grimmer prospect of losing even more. Or possibly they were blissfully unaware that nightmares have a tendency to return.

Other wars and disasters were waiting in the wings. Three months later, the U.S. would drop a bomb and kill 80,000 Japanese men, women and children in the blink of an eye.

It was just a glimpse into the Cold War that would spin off Korea, Vietnam and countless other conflicts.

What we’re going through today says a lot about what we will be when we come out the other side — and how well we’ll handle the next nightmare.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.