Americans who are around today who were old enough on Dec. 7, 1941, remember the cry of “Remember Pearl Harbor.” That was the rallying cry after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, killing about 2,300 people, members of the military and civilians, with 19 of our naval ships sunk or damaged. The sneak attack plunged the United States into World War II. Congress officially declared war on the Axis Forces, the principal countries being Germany and Japan, after the attack.
Americans were surprised and angered about the attack, especially since the Japanese had officials in Washington, D.C., talking peace. Men and women responded by enlisting in the military in large numbers. Recruiting stations were jammed on Dec. 8, 1941. The draft of men already had begun the year before. There was fear this country would be attacked and war footings were put in place. Civil Defense measures began.
Even small cities like Washington had blackout drills and air raid wardens. Our industrial plants quickly were retooled to produce military equipment, everything from bombers, to jeeps, to shoes, to other items needed by the military. Civilian vehicle manufacturing and assembling ceased as auto plants switched to military equipment. Many, many civilian items were in short supply.
There was rationing of certain foods, gasoline, vehicle tires and other items. There were drives to collect scrap iron and paper, all needed in the war effort. New defense plants were established. Women prepared bandages and made socks and other clothing items for the military. For the first time women entered the work force in large numbers. They had to since every able-bodied man was in the military. Young men later in the war years were drafted right after graduation from high school, and some were in combat three or four months later. Men not fit for the military worked in defense plants. Youngsters in their early teens did work usually done by men.
Many events were canceled during the war years, such as the Washington Farm Products Show, forerunner to the Washington Town and Country Fair. Movies still were produced and that was one form of entertainment that prevailed during the war years (1941-45). There were regular newscasts on the screen during the war. Newspapers were able to publish and often there were “extra” editions when a major event occurred, such as the D-Day landings.
T. W. “Buck” Sincox was the Washington postmaster during the war and when Western Union couldn’t deliver telegrams about those killed in action, wounded in action or missing in action, “Buck” would deliver the often sad news to parents, wives and sons and daughters. There was some good news, such as a soldier who was listed as missing was a prisoner of war.
We could go on but we’ll just say the lives of all Americans changed to some degree after Pearl Harbor. It was a day of “infamy” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared when he asked Congress to declare war the day after the Pearl Harbor bombing. Sad to say the significance of Dec. 7, 1941, doesn’t mean anything to most of our young people today. Their ignorance of American history is a national disgrace.
All Americans should “Remember Pearl Harbor!”