Remembering Pearl Harbor
December 7, 2010
I have been asked by a caller to my Sunday noon show on WABC Radio, to say something about the date, December 7.
This gentleman, who has been a regular caller, is very well educated and has been a high school teacher for many years.
He was the first person I recall warning us about Barack Obama. This was even before the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.
He warned us about the political legacy Barack Obama was inheriting from his communist father. He was also concerned about the question marks in Obama’s history.
All of this listener’s concerns have proven to be well grounded. So, when this gentleman, whom I know only as Bernie, made this request, I felt obliged to honor it.
Although there was a very short time remaining in the program, I did my best to verbally sketch some thoughts about this day that was supposed to live in infamy.
However, since I have as much time as I need for sharing reminiscences with you, dear reader, I will indulge myself and you.
I do recall that day quite well. I was 12-years-old and had gone to the York Theatre in Elmhurst, Illinois with my father.
We lived, at that time, in the Galewood section of Chicago and it was only an 11 mile drive from my parents’ home to the motion picture theatre.
My father had retired from the music business and was a projectionist at the theatre. At six o’clock, my father was relieved by another projectionist and we walked down the stairs leading to the lobby of the theatre.
By the way, if you are a stickler for the important stuff, the movie they were showing was Gene Tierney in the western “Belle Starr”.
Once we got down to the lobby, we knew something was amiss. There was a paper boy with many copies of the Chicago Tribune, and he was shouting: “Extra! Extra! Read all about it. Japs attack Pearl Harbor. American Pacific fleet badly damaged. Congress to meet in special session tomorrow to hear President Roosevelt ask for a declaration of war.”
I knew I would never forget that day and indeed I couldn’t forget it even if I tried.
My father and I drove home in silence. We were both shocked, but my father was not really surprised. He believed that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was eager to get the United States in the war.
He felt that the neutrality act was phony and Roosevelt’s meetings with Winston Churchill was ample evidence that the administration was waiting for the right opportunity to get the U.S. in the war.
After we got home, we ate dinner and a couple of my uncles came over to listen to the radio and console one another. As a 12-year-old, I was expected to remain quiet and just listen.
My mother, who cried over a sunrise or sunset or anything, was crying because she was concerned about all the people who would be killed in such a terrible war.
My father and his brothers were talking about what would happen and my uncle Leonard, being a dentist, was sure he would be called up and he was. He became a captain and was assigned to German prisoners of war. He said he delighted in working on the “Krauts.”
But, before I could get involved in any further discussions, I was told to go to bed because the next day was a school day, and so it was.
On that Monday at school we were told there would be an assembly for the entire student body and no one was fooling around as kids usually did. Instead, the teachers, the students, the janitors — everybody was different and frightened until one kid by the name of George Pepperdine said, “Isn’t it exciting to be in war?“
Well, that was one way of looking at it. Exciting or not, none of us knew what to expect, how long the war would last, and who would win, but we were all expecting the winner to be America.
After all, the Japs caught us when we were at our best. We would be unified and we would not quit until the Axis surrendered.
No one doubted that even for a minute. Those of us who were lucky enough to have lived through that period can only tell the story about those that did not.
The real sadness is what we have become since that great day when the Japanese signed the unconditional surrender documents aboard the USS Missouri in 1945.