World War II and the Home Front: Rex Holmes

Time Frame: ca. 1940's

As the battle raged on in Tunisia, 15-year old Rex Holmes of Red Oak waited in the Western Union Telegraph office in the Red Oak Hotel.

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Back home in Iowa, the news from the battlefront was limited. The lack of information only served to deepen the worry for the families with the men in the 34th. In Montgomery County that worry was intensified because a large percentage of the men from the area were fighting in Tunisia. As the battle raged on, 15-year old Rex Holmes of Red Oak waited in the Western Union Telegraph office in the Red Oak hotel.

(Rex Holmes) Des Moines they signaled that they had traffic for Red Oak. Well, I knew how to operate the machine, so I turned around and flipped the switch and told them to go ahead. And all of a sudden it dawned on me that damn machine is still running. It's been running quite a while. I went over there and picked up—the tape had run into a waste basket, and I picked up the tape and started looking at it. And I read two of them. And I knew right then and there we was in trouble. I thought they never would stop.

None of the deliveries Holmes made that day would be happy ones.

(Rex Holmes) There was one lady here in town, she had three sons and a son-in-law. And she worked as a maid there at that hotel. And when those things come in, I took the first two up. And of course, when she got the first one, she liked to have had a fit. And when the second one come, then she really got—I had to get a doctor up there for her.

By the end of the day, Holmes had delivered more than 60 telegrams to area families. At the end of the war, more men per capita had been lost from the Montgomery County area than from any other county in the United States.


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