Saturday, May 23, 2020

May 25, 1944: Strategic Sheep Purposes

Article by Opa for Mercury Chronicle, May 25, 1944.


"Five Brothers" Have Agreed 
To Dismiss Power Politics

Editor's note: Thomas Doeppner, a student at Kansas State College, was for a short time with the United Press at Amsterdam. He is a German refugee, and his interpretation of developments in the European war theater carries the weight of his internment camp experiences in Nazi Germany, as well as that of previous years of travel on the continent. The Mercury Chronicle each week brings you his interpretation of the war in Europe.

By Thomas W. Doeppner

London was the scene of a smaller crisis of the British Empire last week: the meeting of the five prime ministers of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Very little of decisions or even of topics under discussion were given to the army of press correspondents who patiently waited in front of locked doors. The knowledge which the public received about the outcome of the conference had its source in a few generalizations and in the speeches which the five gave in parliament.

One of the most interesting subjects of apparent controversy was the question of the Empire's postwar status. Should Britain and her Dominions be solidified into a single, unified power bloc? Should the existing "Democratic Empire" be made the nucleus of a new League of Nations? Should the dominions retain their present status of relative independence? Or should this independence be carried even farther? 

Winston Churchill, so far, a leader and advocator of big power politics, this time made no commitments either one way or the other: but it would not be Churchill if he had not a hand in the game, somewhere. 

Churchill's Boer War enemy and later good friend, Jan Christian Smuts, South Africa's Prime Minister, who last year had favored a strong Commonwealth bloc, surprised the world by being the principal sponsor of a League of Nations plan. He had opposed British power politics in 1919, but at that time, he was a strong opponent of the League as well. 

Awkward Handling. 

Today, however, he maintains that the first League of Nations did not fail in principle, but because of the "awkward impractical handling of its major functions." Smut's idea of a League would not dismiss the plan for a strong Commonwealth block entirely, but it would permit other countries to influence this block as members of the League. 

In some contrast to Smut's focus, Canada's Mackenzie King expressed his satisfaction with the status quo ante*?-intimating the fact that Canada's ties with Britain, are no longer any deeper than her ties with the United States. 

King favored neither the Big Power Bloc idea, nor the suggestions of a new League. He wants Canada to retain and possibly enlarge her present state of independence. 

King's biggest opponent was Australia's John Curtin. Curtin's position can easily be understood when one considers the scares and fears through which Australia must have gone during the days when Japanese invasion of the Australian continent seemed imminent. Curtin wants to ensure Australia's safety in the Pacific and, therefore came out came out with a suggestion to form a permanent secretariat of the Commonwealth, which would mean the formation of a strong highly centralized and permanent British power block. This, Curtin thinks, would guarantee Australia's security. 

Fraser Favors Idea

New Zealand's "I'm-from-Missouri" Peter Fraser did not seem very concerned about this particular part of the conference, but he seemed inclined to step in with Mackenzie King's idea of a status quo, much to King's surprise, who had expected that New Zealand would follow the footsteps of her big neighbor, Australia. 

In general, it appears safe to say that the "Five Brothers" have agreed to dismiss power politics from the possibilities for the Empire's future, rather than set up a system which might act as a check against a British Big Power Bloc.

Opa writes another article for the Mercury Chronicle, reporting and interpreting the news for his Kansas community. This episode in history is not one that is familiar.

I know I've asked this before, but where is he getting his news? I was actually for a hot minute thinking, maybe his Dad is somehow wiring info to him on a radio or something?! Then I remembered that his Dad was in Nazi-run territory and the odds of that are quite low. Plus it would be stupid for him to risk his life for his kid's newspaper article. 

Anyway, this story reminds us that war is more than just fighting the enemy. Even though that seems plenty hard enough, your team must be on the same page, and even within the British Commonwealth, it seems like folks have a different idea about what the future should look like. It seems weird to think that they have to work out what happens after the war while they are still fighting the war, but that's a huge part of making sure that peace is lasting. 

The "peace" after the First World War was clearly not strong enough to prevent the second. So now they have to figure out what the power structure is after this war (if they can predict it and plan it). Spoiler alert: they do a little better, but it's still not great.

The laughable part of this all is my 20-20 hindsight vision. Britain loses SO much power after the war. Here the discussion is all about the British Power Bloc, thinking out checks and balances. How can we have the protective power of Britain without losing our independence? Meanwhile, I'm remembering a bit done by one of my favorite comedians, Eddie Izzard. He talks about how after the war Britain is sort of holding a bunch of territories behind her back, hoping no one notices. The Allied powers tell her, give it back, let it go, and England retorts that it needs the Falkland Islands for "strategic sheep purposes." And just like that, England is no longer an Empire. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

May 24, 1944: Stubborn Optimism

Letter from Opa to Visa Division in D.C.

1011 Moro Street
Manhattan, Kansas
May 24, 1944

Visa Division
Department of State
Washington, D.C.


I am filing an application for preexamination at the Immigration and Naturalization Service at Philadelphia. I shall be grateful if you will supply me with sufficient copies of Form BC to enable me to apply for advisory approval for the issuance of an immigration visa.

My alien registration number is 1102568, the number of my certificate of identification, 5871.

Very truly yours,

Thomas W. Doeppner

Letter from Opa to American Consul in Canada

1011 Moro Street
Manhattan, Kansas
May 24, 1944

Consul General of the 
United States of America
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Dear Sir:

I have filed application for preexamination with the Immigration and Naturalization Service at Philadelphia. I would like to make formal application for my visa at your office and shall be grateful I you will inform me as to what documents I should submit prior to my appearance at your office.

Very truly yours,

Thomas W. Doeppner

Letter from Opa to Helen Herckt at INS

1011 Moro Street
Manhattan, Kansas
May 24, 1944

Miss Helen Herckt               99503/254 St.
Chief, Status Section              NIU
U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service
70 Columbus Ave.
New York 23, NY

Dear Miss Herckt:

Thank you for your letter of May 17, 1944. My studies are completed now, but as yet my plans for the coming months are incomplete. I have made application for work in several electric manufacturing companies as electrical engineer. Since most of these companies are to some extent engaged in work which is of some importance to the war, effort, these companies have to apply for a special permission to employ me. I am now waiting that this permission may be granted, and I shall let you know as soon as I have accepted employment upon the granting of such permission.

In the meantime, I shall probably remain in Manhattan where I can make a living by servicing radios and other odd jobs in the line of electrical engineering.

I received the application blank and questionnaire from I-55 for preexamination, executed them, and am forwarding them today to Philadelphia. Thank you for considering the change of my status from that of a student to that of a temporary visitor.

Very truly yours,

Thomas Walter Doeppner

Opa did spend all night typing! He is diligent in responding and moving forward as soon as he gets the next step on his desk. I could argue that he doesn't have much else to do, but all the same- he is no procrastinator. 

I mistakenly thought forwarding materials to Philadelphia meant he was forwarding to AFSC. He may still be doing that, but in this case he is referring to the INS in Philadelphia. 

Most of these letters are pure follow-up requesting the next pieces of information and documentation he needs to have. I will say, in a time of internet, I thought about how most of these letters have been (or at least should be at this point) replaced by an online search and downloading of a form. There is some goodness in that expedience, but I wonder if the lack of human contact means that it is harder for folks to understand the process (no one to write and ask questions, no one to respond with directions). I suppose this is the role now played by many of the non-profit organizations that provide legal and social work services for folks navigating this process. Even in Opa's time, the AFSC and other agencies were needed to help people manage. 

The last letter refers to Opa's shifting from student visa to visitor visa. This isn't so much a desire but a bridge between the protections of being a student to the protections of being an employee (or even better, citizen). Opa has graduated, so he's sort of in no-man's-land as far as his legal status in the US. 

I felt for him as he was describing his application process. He's applying for jobs, but as a German(-ish) applying for jobs in companies that are actively working on projects to benefit the war effort: he's a liability. They have to really want him to go through the efforts of getting permission/clearance to have them on their team. I can fully understand why as a company you would want to simplify and say: no foreign employees right now. Unfortunately, that guy is my Grandfather, and he is in a bind. 

This must feel oddly familiar to him. In Germany, after graduating from High School with honors, he had no prospects. No real path to a positive career or education. Eve before the war was in full-steam-ahead mode, this was clear. Now he has clawed his way to America, studied and managed working, creating a new life, becoming proficient in English, and fully engaging the American culture. He has done his best to fully assimilate. Here he is, after graduation, and the prospects are not looking great. He is working hard with optimism, but despair is really a short distance around the corner. Has he given thought to what would happen if no one employs him? How long can he work odd jobs? 

Opa was German by cultural upbringing, but he did have a stubborn optimism. I thought that was born out of his life experience of things working out, but now I wonder if he had always been a bit stubbornly optimistic. He just took the next step, confident (or faking it) that things would work out.

It's working so far.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

May 23, 1944: All Good Things

Letter from Opa to Grandmother


May 23, 1944

Dear Margie,

Several things of importance happened today. A representative from RCA was on the campus and informed me that the 2nd Service Command has relaxed the ruling concerning the employment of aliens in the East, and that therefore, if I am still interested, my application for work with the RCA will be reconsidered. Naturally, he could not promise anything, but he thinks that he will be able to give me some definite word one week from now, after an airmail correspondence with his headquarters in Camden, N.J. It might be that they want me to go east, at least for further interviews, in a week or two, but I am very skeptical.

Also, I received two application blanks and questionnaires from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, one of which is twenty-two pages long, concerning my pre-examination. So, tonight, I just typed my foolish head off; typed those questionnaires, sent a letter to Philadelphia, wrote to the State Department to get advisory approval for the issuance of an immigration visa, wrote to the American Consul in Canada and asked him to make formal application for a visa to Canada, and wrote to the Canadian Consul in Kansas City (I hope there is one) asking him what port of entry he would suggest. If I should be granted pre-examination, it would mean a trip to Canada for not more than ten days. How does that sound for a second honeymoon?

Hubert left this morning at 9:45, with good impressions of Eileen, Manhattan, and Marjorie. I was so glad he was able to come and stay over; this gave some added flavor to my birthday.

I am taking plenty of time for reading this week. Tonight, I started on Voltaire; that guy is just too clever, and rather radical. He reminds me an awful lot of Sy's ideas, and of the argument Sy and I had the other night, also of the talk we had that night in the grass on the campus. You will have to read it when you get back.

The debate question whether or not I should finish this letter was won by the negative.



Opa has a lot happening at once, but most of it seems to be good things. He's got a bone from the RCA company, saying they'll consider him for employment. He has his correspondence from the INS with the next steps in his complicated path to citizenship. (I love that he forwarded the information to Philadelphia, I'm assuming to the headquarters of AFSC, who are still keeping tabs on him.) His fiancé sent him a birthday card. And Opa got to spend time with one of his dear friends Hubert Shelley (from his days at McPherson College), who just left.

All good things!

The card from Grandmother did remind me that this would likely be the first year that Opa did not receive a letter from his Mom or anyone in his family on is birthday. He doesn't seem to be dwelling on that. Either he isn't thinking about it, or I suspect, he is keeping that grief to himself. Sometimes writing something down makes it a little too real. 

For the most part, for Opa, this is as happy a May as he can muster.

Monday, October 22, 2018

May 22, 1944: Happy 24th Birthday Opa

Letter from Opa to Grandmother


Manhattan, Kansas
May 22, 1944

Hi Monkeytail,

Since your name was not mentioned in the news tonight, I assume that you arrived home safely and without major accidents. I also assume that you sat right down and wrote me a letter, maybe?

Do you know what the mailman brought me this morning? He brought me a blue-white card with a sailboat on the outside and an anchor and the nicest birthday greetings on the inside! Thanks, honey, that was such a pretty card!

I was glad you folks could stay at least for the forenoon, so we had breakfast together, if for no other reason than to keep our old tradition. Hubert and I had dinner at Zimmermans'; somehow we managed to keep out of the way and sight of the Old Devil. I worked in the afternoon, and at night, Eilleen, Hubert and I dined at the Wareham and went to about the dumbest show I ever saw: Sahara, at the Carlton. We had a fine time anyhow, though; the only thing that was lacking was you.

Well, I believe the ball is rolling. Miss Derby received a letter from the Army Service Forces, in which she was requested to give some detailed information concerning me, and whether she considered it dangerous to the Allied cause if I were employed in work of importance to the war effort. The two-page questionnaire was filled out right away and should arrive in Topeka early next morning. It may still take quite a while, but at least I know now that something is being done.

How did Euphrosine survive the trip? I just could not find a second of rest, so much I worried about the poor little bisexual creature. I know how much it would mean, especially to your mother, if your beloved zoo would pass away. Did you take him (her?) out of the cage and gave her (him?) the necessary exercise? And how about vitamins A to Z? Did he (she?) get them? Oh please, get me out of these suspenders and tell me!! How about those mice your mother promised to get for you? Are they good chums of Euphrosine by now?

Hubert is leaving this morning at 9:45. We shall make a big night of it and I guess I'll be pretty tired after this last week, but I shall have plenty of time to rest now; only eight hours of work and no gal to take out (maybe).

Even the greatest of mind finish their letters somewhere.



May 22, 1944 is Opa's 24th birthday. He's been away from home now for 6 birthdays, spending his 18th birthday at home in Berlin just before he left for Holland. He's had five birthdays in the US. Does it now feel normal, or does he imagine what his mother would be doing if she were near? He hasn't heard from her since she last wrote him on November 18, 1943. She has been in Theresienstadt Concentration camp now for four months. I imagine she knows the day is her son's birthday and celebrates in her own way- mentally making note of her love for him.

Opa's mind (at least in this letter) seems focused very much in the present. His fiance has left school for home, not without remembering to send him a nice birthday card. He is working his library job and looking for a full time job post-graduation. The questionnaire from the Army seems to be a step in the right direction; if he wants to work as an engineer, there is a good chance he'll be working on something that benefits the Allied war effort. Opa's funny little jab about Grandmother's "pet" Euphrosine is likely a jab at her fear of mice. Perhaps he joked that a mouse would be following her? No idea- but Grandmother, for as long as I knew her- was deeply afraid of mice. In fact, she had a friend with whom she shared a funny long-running joke. The friend hated birds, and Grandmother hated mice- so all of their correspondence with each other would be on notecards or postcards or even stamps with the offending creature on it. Cracks me up.

Because my husband is funny and feels I should fully immerse in this project, we now own the movie, Sahara. I watched it to see if Opa's assessment of this "dumbest" movie was accurate... it's actually not that bad of a movie. I'm not sure why Opa had such a strong reaction to it. It's pretty typical of most war movies made in the US: an American is brave and the Nazis are evil. There are stereotypes, but I'm not sure if by those standards any movies breached the mold. I don't know why he found it so dumb.

Even the greatest of mind finish their blogs somewhere.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

May 17 & 20, 1944: Staying in the US

Letter from INS back to Opa


Immigration and Naturalization Service
70 Columbus Avenue
New York 33, N.Y.

May 17, 1944

Mr. Thomas Walter Doeppner
1011 Moro Street
Manhattan, Kansas

Dear Sir:

In reply to your letter of May 7th, I suggest that you forward to this office a letter setting forth what you expect to do after your studies are completed at the end of this month. Consideration will then be given to change your status from that of a student to that of a temporary visitor until such time as you have been admitted for permanent residence.

In another letter you will be given information regarding preexamination.

Very truly yours,

W.F. Watkins
District Director
New York District

By: Helen Herckt
Chief, Status Section

Another letter from INS to Opa


Immigration and Naturalization Service
70 Columbus Avenue
New York 23, N.Y.
May 20, 1944.

Mr. Thomas Walter Doeppner
1011 Moro Street
Manhattan, Kansas

Dear Sir:

In accordance with request contained in your letter of May 7, 1944, there are transmitted herewith Immigration and Naturalization Forms I-55 and I-155, General Information and Application for Preexamination forms respectively.

These forms should be carefully executed by you, and when fully completed should be forwarded, in duplicate, to the Commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Preexamination Unit, Philadelphia 2, Pa., 1500 Chestnut St., and in due course you will receive advice as to the action taken.

It is suggested that you write to the Visa Division, Department of State, Washington, D.C., and request sufficient copies of Form BC to enable you to apply for advisory approval for the issuance of an immigration visa. Simultaneously you should write to the American Consul in Canada, to whom you propose making formal application for a visa, and inquire what documents should be submitted to the Consul prior to your appearance there to file formal application.

When you are in receipt of a letter from the American Consul in Canada that the documents submitted by you have been examined and found to be satisfactory, and that a visa will issue to you within ten days of your personal appearance at the Consulate, send a copy of that letter, as well as a copy of the letter received from the Department of State granting advisory approval, to the Commissioner at the address given above, and request that preexamination be authorized at one of our offices nearest to your home. You should also furnish him with information as to your proposed method of travel to Canada and intended port of entry to that country and request that special permission be obtained for your entry into Canada.

When our Central Office at Philadelphia, Pa., inform you that preexamination has been authorized in your case, and that special permission has been obtained from the Canadian Government for you to enter Canada, please communicate with our office nearest your home where preexamination has been authorized, and a date will be set for your preexamination hearing.

Very truly yours,

District Director, New York District
Patrick King, Supervisor, for Chief of Entry, Departure and Travel Control Section.

Let's get the obvious out of the way first: the first letter was written out by Helen Herckt on behalf of Watkins. She is clear and concise. The second letter was written out by Patrick King on behalf of Watkins, he needs to take lessons from Helen. Patrick is the ultimate government wordsmith, but it is not helpful to anyone. Whew those long sentences and long words! 

Back to the letters: it looks like Opa has some real possibility of staying in the country legally and finding a way to become a citizen! First, he has to get a visitor's visa (because his student visa is set to expire), which should hopefully hold him off until he can get the complicated process of re-entering the US from Canada on an immigration visa. That process is very complicated (still is), but Opa has a ray of sunshine in the idea that the visitor visa could hold him until he gets through it. 

There is nothing in either letter that indicates that Opa should be concerned about not being able to stay in the United States. Even through all the garbled words, there is hope and a confidence that this process will see Opa to the path of citizenship.

I bet that lifted a huge load off of Opa's shoulders. Right now, everything feels hopeful: he's engaged, he's about to graduate, he's looking for jobs, the big D-Day invasion is about happen- hopefully facilitating the end of the war. The light is at the end of the tunnel. All Opa needed to know is that for now, he can stay in the US. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

May 14, 1944: Signs of the Apocalypse

Article by Opa in the Manhattan, Kansas Newspaper: The Mercury Chronicle


D-Day Awaits a New Blow By the Russians

By Thomas W. Doeppner

Two days ago, the Allies launched their big offensive in Italy. It is the fourth major offensive so far in that sector; the first one came when the invasion of Italy had just started; the second one at the time of the establishment of the Anzio beach-head, and the third one in concurrence with the obliteration bombing of Cassino. These three have been only partially successful; did not gain any strategic territory beyond Cassino.

The latest offensive so far has made slow, but constant progress. About two miles of rugged mountain terrain have been gained, and the Germans are becoming jittery, not knowing what connection this offensive has with the upcoming invasion.

Rome First

All along, Britain's military circles held that the capture of Rome should precede the invasion of the continent because of the tremendous amount of prestige this would give to the Allies. U.S. opinion was centered on the idea that Rome is strategically rather unimportant and that the advantages to be gained from this capture would not balance the great losses in manpower which the capture would involve.

It seems probable that the offensive in Italy has been started in conjunction with the invasion, as one of the preliminary actions and diversion movements which is designed to extract another four or five divisions from the invasion coasts.

As such, the offensive does not necessitate culmination immediately or in the near future in the capture of Rome, but it would mean that invasion is not more than two or three weeks at the utmost from being staged.

Await Russian Blow

In connection with this Italian move, it is interesting to recall a statement made by Soviet Foreign Commissar Molotov, just about a week ago. Molotov prophesied that invasion, when started, will be accompanied "by strong and largely increased activity on the existing Allied fronts in the east and south..." The increased action in the south has come about. It now means to await a new Russian blow, which usually does not take any time for the Russians. Russia's recent success in the Crimea involved hard fighting so that the Russians are not taking a little time out for the re-concentration of their forces. It seems apparent, though, that Russia will not hesitate long to fulfill Molotov's promise, and then the time for D-day will have definitely come.

The invasion approaches, and no one can think or talk about anything else. Things are happening along all the fronts, with Germans watching every corner and anxiously waiting for the big invasion. 

I feel a little bit like the whole world is under an apocalyptic spell, looking for signs that tell them the end of the world is here. Perhaps what the apocalypse brings depends on who is watching. The Allies see freedom, an end to the war, and hope for a Western/Democratic-controlled Europe (with the exception, of course, of Russia). 

Signs start popping up: the Italian front sees a little activity. Though the Allies seem to disagree on the goal (to get Rome, or not, I agree with the US)- there is movement in the South. 

Opa wrote that the Russian, Molotov, "prophesied" that there would be movement on all fronts when the big invasion from the west came. I don't think prophecy is the word if it's a plan. However, the world averts its eyes from the south to look East and see when the Russians start moving. The minute the Russians regroup and forge ahead, they'll know the time has come for D-Day. 

What are the Germans doing? Are they scared or confident? Do they have their own secret plan or is the plan just to hold ground? Are they sure they can hold off the enemy at every front? This is how you lose a war- by making enemies all around you. That's what the Allies are hoping anyway, and they'll even pretend to like the Russians for a little bit to make it work.

Friday, October 12, 2018

April 28 & May 7, 1944: Expiring Visa

Letter from INS to Opa


Immigration and Naturalization Service
70 Columbus Avenue
New York, 23, N.Y.

In replying please refer 
to file 99503/254 ST
Dear Sir:

The records of this Service show that the time for which you were admitted to the United States temporarily as a non quota immigrant student will expire 6/30/44. If you are going to continue your studies beyond that period, the enclosed application for extension of stay (Form I-535) should be completed in every detail and returned to this office. Your passport or other travel document valid at least to the date to which you seek an extension must accompany the application.

A male noncitizen person within the registration age who is in the United States for more than three months must register for Selective Service unless within three months he has filed with his local draft board an Alien's Application for Determination of Residence, Form 302, and be issued an Alien's Certificate of Nonresidence, Form 303.

If you have completed your studies or expect to do so before the period of your present stay expires and you plan to leave the United States, it is requested that this letter be delivered to an officer of the Immigration and Naturalization Service at the port of departure. Unless you are a citizen of one of the independent countries of the Western Hemisphere, Canada or Newfoundland, or are a British or Netherlands subject domiciled or stationed in the Western Hemisphere departing to a destination in the Western Hemisphere, it will be necessary for you to obtain a permit to depart from the Department of State at Washington. You should also consult your local Selective Service Board regarding the possible necessity for obtaining permission to leave the United States.

If you leave the United States and thereafter desire to return, it will be necessary for you to have in your possession an appropriate visa obtained from a United States consular officer and a valid passport.

Very truly yours,

W. F. Watkins
District Director, New York District

Helen Herckt
Chief, Status Section

Letter from Opa to INS


Miss Helen Herckt
Chief, Status Section
U.S. Immigration and 
Naturalization Service
70 Columbus Ave.
New York 23, N.Y.

99503/254 ST NIU
Dear Miss Herckt:

I received your letter of April 28, 1944, concerning my stay as a non quota student. My studies will be over on May 21, 1944, at which time I shall receive my B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering at Kansas State College. For this reason, I shall no longer be eligible for an extension of my student visa.

Due to war conditions, I am unable to leave the United States at present. Also, more than four years of residence in this country have made me realize that I cannot conceive of a higher goal than to become a citizen of this country. I understand that the ordinary procedure to obtain citizenship would be for me to leave the United States and reenter as an immigrant. Since this is not possible at present,  would appreciate if you will send me application blanks for the pre-examination of my case.

Also, what steps should I take to obtain a legal permit to bridge over the time from the expiration of my present permit (i.e. June 30, 1944) until a decision has been reached in my pre-examination case?

I shall appreciate any advice you can give me.

Very truly yours,

Thomas Walter Doeppner.

I'm always surprised at the short notice that Opa is given when his visa is about to expire. Luckily he has had a fairly quiet time with the INS for a while. 

I don't know if June 30, 1944 was looming in Opa's mind as a date upon which he had to do something, or if he was a little taken aback to get this letter and deadline. My heart kinda skipped a beat when I saw the word "expire." This letter from the INS was very confusing. I have no idea how people navigated this paperwork (then and now) without fluency in English, multiple degrees, and experience in government work. 

From what I could gather, Opa has a handful of options. He can further his studies and extend his student visa. He can go home, if home is in the Western Hemisphere (really, northwestern). He can leave and then come back as a bona fide immigrant (with a quote from a US consulate in a foreign country). 

Then the options get more muddy. He also might need to sign up for conscription with the United States. This part confused me a bit. How is it that a non-citizen visiting for 3 months or more could be drafted into the US military? But that's what it looked like, in fact, it looks like all eligible men have to sign in. There was another option about a certificate of an Alien but I have no idea what that meant. I'm sure someone smarter than I am can decipher.

Opa completely ignored that paragraph altogether. He wrote back to the INS and stated simply that with the war going on, there was no way he could leave America. He cleverly left out his country of origin, and the fact that he no longer had valid travel papers. His German passport was destroyed and his Holland Identification certificate long expired. Opa announced that he would graduate with a BS in Electrical Engineering and had no further education plans, so a student visa was not a viable option. He then declared his love for the United States and wrote that he wanted to become a citizen.

Part of becoming a citizen is coming to the United States as an immigrant (not a visitor or on a special visa like the one he had). The only way Opa could come to the United States as an immigrant was to leave and then come back. Magic happens when you step over the border. All of a sudden, you are a new person when you come back with a different sheet of paper. The problem was he had no country to walk into, and no hope of getting that beautiful piece of paper that would allow him back in. The refugee crisis was temporarily at a standstill, as the war prevented pretty much all movement across borders, particularly enemy lines. I'm not sure if this would have maybe been an opportune time for Opa to apply for an immigration visa. The problem of "where are you from?" is still there, though. Part of the process of leaving the country and coming back as an immigrant interested in citizenship, was that you could get your case pre-examined. Kind of like a pre-approval, but less solid. 

Honestly, I think Opa was trying to buy time. He didn't know when the war would end, what his status would be after the war, and how the rules would change. He might have hoped to buy some time until he got a job, when he might be able to apply for some form of a work visa. 

In all of this, I can't help but wonder, where was Grandmother in this? Did she know that Opa's residency in America hung by a flimsy thread? Did Opa have a plan that he shared with her? Did they know how this was all going to work out? Did Grandmother ever for a minute think she might have to leave the United States to follow her German husband? Or did Opa keep it all hush-hush until he had a plan? 

I have no idea. I know that this INS path is not predictable. I wonder how scared they were about it.