By The Greater Astoria Historical Society
It is November 1944 and news of the world war fills the papers.
Sgt. Edward McQuillen, of 134-02 134th St. in South Ozone Park, who was reported killed in action in the Marshall Islands and for whom three memorial masses were offered, came home and told how it felt to return from the dead: “We were fighting tooth and nail. A mortar shell lands in the foxhole I just left. It hits another fellow.”
The explosion stunned McQuillen and wounded him in the right arm. A buddy came up and, unable to recognize the body in the foxhole, saw the sergeant’s weapon and reported him dead.
McQuillen, a former National Biscuit Co. clerk, had only one regret. He arrived home and missed his fiancee’s furlough by one week.
“Love will find a way,” he said, vowing to catch up with her.
As for an Astoria tail gunner, he miraculously escaped on a bomber mission. He was hit by Zeroes above Yap Island and forced to bail out. George Christopios, of 32-06 47th St., spent more than 20 hours in the water keeping afloat by his Mae West life jacket. He modestly never told his family of his ordeal, Purple Heart and promotion to staff sergeant.
But in another letter to home, he told his family a further harrowing experience: “We were flying nicely on a mission when suddenly half the tail broke and the plane starts to shake like jelly. In two seconds my chute is on and I’m at the door in a flash. It’s a good thing these planes have two tails.”
Republicans urge Queens to vote for Gov. Thomas Dewey. The campaign literature declares, “We detest regulation by bureaucrats recruited from radical ranks and on the public payroll at high salaries. Real America abhors class-hatred and civil-strife and are alarmed by the infiltration of Communist, Fascist and alien ideologies into key positions in our government. The destruction of the American way of life is their goal. Spendthrift waste and crushing taxation are their tools. Control over our lives is their objective.”
The other side publishes “An Open Letter for Thomas Dewey, heir to Isolationism and Hoover Leadership.” The Queens Business, Labor, and Professional Men’s Committee for the Election of Roosevelt signs the ad, which begins, “Al Smith and FDR have more experience in government in their little finger that you [Dewey] have in your whole body” and ends with, “We don’t know you have got what it takes. You have a lot to learn and a long way to go. We are the only nation large enough and strong enough to choose our destiny and make others follow. You just don’t have the experience or the ability to carry through with such a program.”
On Election Day, Dewey piles up a 71,900-vote lead and takes Queens as FDR sweeps the nation. It is the second time Queens votes against President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The county has a long erratic record in presidential contests, often backing the loser.
More than 614,000 citizens voted in a quiet and orderly fashion. At that time, it is the greatest popular turnout in borough history.
The late Fannie Hunt, of Flushing, 108, went home to Virginia, the land of her birth.
Born in 1836 as a slave, this woman became later in life a respected member of the community. She helped her husband found a church and built it on land she donated to the town. The Virginia native and her minister husband remain married for 77 years.
After his death, she became blind and had to move from her native Virginia to Flushing. She lived her last 12 years with a daughter, at 43-50 164th St.
She died from a fall. Only 10 days before, she was in excellent health. She left behind many grandchildren and was proud of two great-grandchildren, a sergeant and a lieutenant in the U.S. armed forces.