When I was a child, I heard family members talk about the devastating day of December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed. I didn’t fully understand what they were talking about, but I could feel the somberness in their tone of voice that told me it was an important event.
Much, much later, I was to learn what President Roosevelt meant when he said, “A date which will live in infamy” when he asked Congress for a Declaration of war.
The brazen attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II. It also stunned people on the mainland, and radios across the country were tuned to news stations for days and weeks to follow.
HERE is a special salute to the Arizona and the men who fell that day.
In imagining what it might have been like for my parents on that fateful December day, this is what I wrote in my ongoing attempt to write about my mother’s life:
Later, sitting at the table with Russell, Juanita in a high chair between them, Evelyn played some more with the fantasy, creating a mental picture of what her family might look like ten years from now. Juanita would be a young lady, and maybe there would be other children. They would live in a red brick—
“Listen.” The outburst shattered the peacefulness of that daydream.
There was an unmistakable urgency in Russell’s voice, but Evelyn had no idea why.
“What?” she asked.
“On the radio.”
She had been only half aware of the radio playing in the living room, and the fact that the music had stopped had not penetrated her musings. “What’s happening?”
“A news bulletin. I think a man said there was an attack. On an American naval base.”
Russell held up his hand to quiet her and they both heard, “The naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese planes early this morning.”
“Oh my God,” Evelyn said. “That can’t be true.”
“Wait.” Russell got up from the table and went into the living room to turn up the volume on the radio.
“Details are sketchy,” the reporter said. “Stay tuned to World News Today for updates. I repeat this news bulletin just in. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor today, sinking several ships and killing hundreds of people.”
Evelyn walked over to stand beside Russell. “Do you suppose this could be a joke? Like that one a few years ago. When that actor tricked us about an invasion from mars?”
Russell shrugged. “Nobody should joke about something like this.”
Evelyn thought nobody should have joked about an alien invasion, either, but she didn’t voice that opinion.
After a few moments of static and garbled transmission, the reporter came back on air. “Ladies and gentlemen, I have the first eyewitness account of the horror that is happening in Hawaii. This comes from an NBC Blue Network reporter who climbed to the roof of a building in downtown Honolulu, microphone in hand. He said, ‘This battle has been going on for nearly three hours… It’s no joke, it’s a real war.'”
“Oh no.” Evelyn sank into a nearby chair. “That’s terrible.”
They listened to the report for a few more minutes as the announcer said that their country needed all able-bodied men to join up to fight the Japanese.
Russell stood. It was as if he needed to do that for this declaration. “First thing tomorrow, I’m going to enlist.”
“Enlist?” She looked at him, aghast. “You could get killed.”
“Don’t think that way.”
“What should I think?”
“That I will do my duty and make it out alive.”
I’m sure every wife, mother, sister and friend hoped that last statement would be true. We know, however, that it was not true for every soldier who went off to fight.
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