“December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy.” Those ten words spoken by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt have been etched in ur minds forever. It was a day that would change the United States of America and countries all around the world forever. It was a day when families all across this great country would suddenly see husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles and friends go off to war leaving their peaceful, simple existence in the background. It was a time of tears and prayers for those headed off to the unknown. Tomorrow, December 7 is the 78th Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
The sneak attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on that day would throw this country into a world war unlike anything it had ever seen before and pale in comparison to WW 1 in 1918. Not only would we be at war with the Japanese, but 3 days later declare war on Germany and Italy as well. As men, and women, were shipped off to war the immediate worry and concern of every family was praying that those heading off to war would come home safely. Unfortunately that would not be the case for thousands of American families in the ensuing years.
For me, even though I was just a little tyke, I can remember that day in detail like it had taken place yesterday. While the attack took place in Pearl around 8 a.m., because of the time difference between Hawaii and the east coast people did not hear about it until mid afternoon, around 2:30.We were living in Jersey City on Linden Ave. at the time. I was playing on the living room floor with my very first Lionel train set that was around the Christmas tree. My mother was in the kitchen making roast chicken for Sunday dinner (I can still smell the aroma of the home made bread!). My father was in the spare bedroom painting the ceiling. It was a regular Sunday afternoon until the radio program was interrupted with the news of the attack.
I heard my mother scream “Sonny, Sonny” and start to cry. I heard my father yelling, swearing and I just began to cry having no idea what was going on. I have to say here that my father, even back then was an “Archie Bunker” type and this attack and war would make him even worse when it came to being a bigot and until his dying day in 1973 it would never change. As for my mother she was totally the opposite without a hateful bone in her body. As for her screaming “Sonny”, that was in reference to my uncle who was in the Navy and stationed at Pearl Harbor. She came into the living room and grabbed me, held me close, cuddling me and telling me everything would be okay. So yes, I remember every detail of that day right down to the yellow print apron my mother wore in the kitchen while she was making dinner, my father’s brown and tan plaid shirt and grabbing his coat ready to go and enlist and being so scared I knocked the train off the tracks..
My father, who was 35 at the time, got rejected when he went to enlist in the Army the next day. So he broke up his band after a New Year’s Eve date as several of the musicians joined the Army. He went to work in the Jersey City shipyards where they built destroyers for the war effort and would stay there until 1944. Fortunately we found out a few days later that my Uncle Sonny was on the other side of the island on Dec. 7 and came away unscathed and returned home in 1945 retiring as a Commander. On the other hand I lost my Uncle George who had joined the military in 1939. He was shot down over Germany in 1943. I remember going with my mother on scrap drives, bond drives, growing veggies in a “Victory Garden” and going to school, playing with friends and trying to live as normal a life as possible. It was definitely a changing time for everyone in so many ways.
I am sure that all of you who read this piece had parent, grandparents and other relatives who fought in the war, who survived the war and were able to come home. I am also sure there are some who lost loved ones and relatives because of this war giving the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. So on this 78th Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, please take a minute to say a prayer and thank you to all those brave men and women who did their patriotic duty when it was most needed. Just like September 11, 2001, December 7, 1941 is a day we should never forget.
Art Koch, National Features & DVD Editor, NightMoves Magazine and AAN