On Sunday December 7, 1941, my buddy and had gone to the moving picture show at the TIVOLI theater which was at Ninth and Main streets. The main feature was BIRTH OF THE BLUES with Bing Crosby, Mary Martin, Brian Donlevy, Carolyn Lee and Rochester, as well as selected short subjects of a MERRIE MELODIES cartoon, latest news,sports review and of course prevues of coming attractions. We paid a dime for our ticket and went up to the balcony where we took seats in the center of the front row behind the railing. We always sat in the balcony as the line of sight to the screen was at a slight downward angle. Had we stayed on the main floor the the usher would have seated us in the first row since we were not accompanied by an adult. Here you had to crane your neck up to see the screen and if you were either side of center the images on the screen were distorted. There were no ushers in the balcony. About 1 PM Central Standard Time the house lights dimmed and the movie started. It had been showing for a short time when the screen went dark and the house lights came on. There was moaning and groaning from the audience. The manager, Mr. Chandler, who was a large heavyset man, got up on the stage and in a stentorian voice announced - I will never forget his words - "Ladies and gentlemen I regret to inform you the Japanese have just bombed Pearl Harbor." The reaction from the audience was vocal but in a different tone than before. Many got up and left the theater. My buddy and are standing leaning over the rail with our hands cupped around our mouths megaphone style shouting "TURN THE MOVIE ON." We are eleven years old and had no idea where Pearl Harbor was or the seriousness of the situation. When it appeared that those that were going to leave had done so the lights again were dimmed and the show continued. When we had seen everything we left and went up to 11th and Main streets to BOWMANS INN. It was painted white with red trim and lettered on the front window was "HAMBURGERS 5 cents BUY 'EM BY THE SACK" We went in and had a burger and root beer for a nickel per item. When I got home my Dad was in his chair in the living room hunched down over the radio on the side table. I could tell from his concentration and expression it was not a good time to talk to him. I found my mother in the kitchen, where she usually was, and asked her what was going on. She had been in her late teens during World War One and started telling me what we could expect. She got to a part where she said that certain commodities and foodstuffs would be scarce or impossible to get and remembered that they could only get brown sugar not white. I got upset and almost cried. - I did not want brown sugar on my oatmeal!
This all happened in Richmond, Indiana
What a recollection of that significant day from a small Midwest town youth.
Scott, Thanks for sharing your recollection of that historic announcement from your perspective.
My father's high school buddy is on the Arizona.
The only time my mom saw my father cry was when they went to the AZ monument.
Dad has long since passed. The only thing he would say about WWII is "I was there". I can only image what he saw and or did.
I miss him.
Thanks, Scott for sharing your memories
Do you remember any T's in regular use in those days? Did you get one later in high school?
Were you more directly involved in the military when the Korea conflict started?
Thanks Scott, great story. Sent chills up my spine. Virtually no one in this and the two previous generations, myself included, really has any idea of the gravity of a situation like that. I'm all too afraid we're about to find out.
My father's recollection of Pearl Harbor Day was similar. He said he and my grandparents had gone to the movie and the announcement was made while inside. After the movie, he said my grandfather's first order of business was to buy a newspaper to try to get more information.
My grandfather had 6 brothers. He was next to oldest. The oldest was too old to go. My grandfather was almost too old, but was drafted in '43 or '44. All 6 of the ones of service age served. Two in the Navy, one in the Marines, Two in the Army and One in the Army Air Corps. One did not make it home. Killed in France. Their small town North Georgia newspaper featured an article about the six brothers all serving.
On a trip there a few years ago our tour guide told us that Japanese tourists don't take the harbor tour because it isn't taught in their schools and most don't know what it is. Sure enough we go in to see the film before the tour and there's what appears t be a Japanese family sitting 3 rows in front of us. As the film progressed and led up to the attack I watched the father sink lower & lower in his seat! He literally disappeared! I spotted them leaving just as the film ended. I guess it's true. They didn't know what it was about.
Scott P, Thank you for sharing that. Such stories need to be told.
From the Japanese prospective, stories about Pearl Harbour, Bataan and Nanjing were regarded as "Fake News"
We have a Gentleman I know from my area of Ohio that sat-in with the dance band from the U.S.S. Arizona on the night of December 6th. Cal ( now 97 ) played Bass for a friend that couldn’t make the show that night. They won the competition, and the band got to sleep in on Sunday morning! If he didn’t have duty on the West Virginia the next morning, he would have stayed on board the Arizona with his friends. The rest is history.
These are very sobering stories. Most of us can only imagine how this shook our country to the bone.
Thank you all for posting them.
I was only six months old, so I don't remember the day. I do remember some things from later in the war, like soldiers marching down the street next to our house, and big formations of planes flying over.
The Pike in Long Beach was an amusement area next to the beach. It had the Cyclone Racer (an old time wooden roller coaster) and other rides, including a carousel. Beside the carousel was a throw-a-baseball-at-a-target booth, and the targets were big caricatures of Hitler, Tojo, and Mussolini. You were supposed to throw baseballs in their mouths. At three years old I found those big faces pretty scary, and I got an extra tight grip on my horse when the turning merry-go-round brought me by them.
I was 7 years old on that day. My parents and my sister and I were at our Aunt and Uncle's house for Sunday fried chicken dinner. My uncle had the radio on and was listening to a charity football game being played between two baseball teams. I think the Yankees and the Red Sox. I happened to be standing next to the radio when John Daily broke in and announced the bombing. I remembered how shocked everyone was.
We had dinner then headed home. My Dad stayed up all night listening to the radio. It was a scary time.
Sunday, December 7th, was exactly six weeks to the day after I was born, so I don't remember much from the day itself. My dad was in the Army reserves and was recalled to active duty in early 1941, which is why I was born in North Carolina instead of Missouri. He was away for much of the war, first in Trinidad and then in the Philippines.
I was 5 years old when our neighbor across the road was going from officer’s training school to the South Pacific.
He had a weekend stopover in Honolulu.
We knew he was there that weekend, so when we heard the news we thought of him.
His brother and farm partner came to our place and we all worried together about what may have happened to Claud.
Well Claud spent the night in a building that did not get bombed.
He survived the war but died of a heart attach at 37 some years later. I remember that night even better, as
He was our neighbor again with a wife and two little kids.
His was the first military funeral I had ever been at.
There was a 5 or 6 gun salute.
I was 14 or 15 .
And this is what was said on December 8th. I just thought this belonged here, On this Pearl Harbor Day.
We lived in Wichita during the war and my main recollection is of the blackouts. There was a big fear that the Japanese would try to bomb the Boeing Aircraft factory We would sit in the dark and eat popcorn which my mother would make in the dark. Ed
My dad's oldest brother was on the Arizona. When the telegram arrived to let the family know he was missing in action, the family was instructed not to tell anyone any details of where he was stationed, etc. Dad dropped out of high school and sold his '26 roadster to join the navy. One other brother was already in the army, and another brother joined the army in 1942.
I don't remember December 7th so much but I do remember the 8th well. I was 4 years old and went to school (Kindergarten) that morning. While waiting for the school to open, the older kids were hollering that the Japs were coming and that we would all be killed. I was crying as were the other young'uns. My father's youngest brother fought in the Marines on Tinian Island. I wouldn't even ride in a japaniese car for many years after the war's end.
-For those of us born later-
My grandfather was called up in his forties as a physician...pretty old for service. He was shipped to Corregedor then Bataan. He spent the war in a series of prison camps and survived a death ship to Japan.
I was too young to understand what he went through, but do recall being annoyed when I could not watch "Hogan's heros" on TV when we visited.
When he returned, he set up practice and was a beloved pediatrician in Canton, Ohio and loved by the community (I do remember that). Interestingly I met some men he helped save...all remember him reading the bible to them for comfort when there was no anesthesia or painkiller, which was most of the time. When he returned home he never set foot in a church again, with the exception of my baptism.
I live near a Japanese Relocation Camp now. My family and I just visited...everyone expressed shock and disgust when they saw it. I took a different view: The Japanese had detailed maps and locations of the ships around Ford Island. That didn't come from satellite photos...that came from human intelligence. With that knowledge and knowing that there were plenty of "Japanese Schools" and strong Japanese allegiance in Japanese communities all through California, given the times and fear, I can absolutely understand a national mood for relocation. I'm not condoning it from my two-generation removed perspective, but do understand it given the times.
My family, of course, thought I was horrible (and of course, none of them were from that grandfather's side of the family, either).
I think what is really sad about Corregedor,and Bataan is the fact the big boss when warned in advance said our tails are in the air and we are ready!! Ready Hell!!! I think the free world at the time was very lucky the Japs did not hit the oil storage on Pearl!! Bud.
It was all before my time, but I would not apologize for any of it. Internment camps. The A-Bomb. None of it. You did what you had to do. If people had the mindset they have today, back then, we would never have won the war. I can't believe some of the CRAP I hear about nowadays.
I was in Corpus Christi High School-North Side Junior High School when this took place. We did not have a radio, an Uncle did, and told us about it. Corpus went crazy, there we were, on the beach, waiting for it to happen to us! Word was put out to bring your deer rifles and anything else that would shoot, and be ready. That night, most of the male population, including us, were down on the water where the T heads are now, and watching and waiting. The Shore Patrol from the Naval Base were there, and most Law Enforcement. It is hard to imagine now, that we felt this way, and look at how difficult it would have been for them to come around through the Gulf to do that. Anyway, we borrowed a car with a radio and listened that day and night. The next day, Monday, they had an Assembly in School to hear Roosevelt's speech. A lot of the Senior boys didn't show up, they had already gone out to the Base to enlist, and before the Speech was over, the majority of boys had left and headed that way. They began to turn us away pretty quick, just too many. They culled me the next day because of my size, teeth, and they knew full well I was too young, which is why I wound up in the Air Corps later on. So much happened so quick in those opening days, and we were so ignorant really of what was happening, but everyone took it dead serious. There is no way I can tell you how very patriotic we all were during that time. I think back on all my friends who volunteered those early days, went through Basic and Boot and came home on leave, just little bitty boys, shipped out, and then the telegrams began to arrive, so sad.
Thank you Mr. Puryear!
I was 9 years old. My father was driving his 1938 Packard up Snelling Ave. in St. Paul Minnesota. I was with him, my mother, older brother and younger brother. Dad turned the radio on at bout 1 pm or so and we heard it was announced that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor.
My father then had two brothers serve in the coming war. The oldest brother had served in WW!. The youngest brother was a geographer and served in Washington DC making maps for the armed services. He helped map the Normandy beaches for D Day. My older brother served in Japan in 1948-50 and I am a Korean Conflict veteran 1950-53.
Both my dad AND father-in-law were there. I have them both on video talking about that morning. My father-in-law was in Tokyo harbor when the peace was signed. He always said, "I was there when it started and I was there when it ended." Both of them were very proud of their "Pearl Harbor Survivor" status. God bless all who were there, especially the ones who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
One comment on some of what Scott C brought up about the internment camps. When I was young, twenty years later, my dad (through his business) knew a Japanese family fairly well. We went to their place, a small farm in what is now the middle of Silicon Valley, several times. They were very nice people, that had mostly spent the war in an internment camp. The old man talked freely about it. None of them expressed any animosity about it, and in fact, they said it was the right thing for the nation to have done. The one son that did not spend the war in that camp had enlisted and fought in a Japanese unit in the European front. Very difficult duty.
May God Bless the souls of all those whose lives were lost on this day, 76 years ago, at Pearl Harbor.
May our heroes rest in Peace...
We should be very careful about criticizing those today and in the past. Remember, we were for the most part against entering WWII because it was "their war." It took Pearl Harbor to rouse us to action. The Japanese made a huge miscalculation there that we would roll over and didn't have the courage to fight. After all, that was what they were seeing. By not knowing history we are bound to repeat it.
noteworthy also was the fact that a US all-Japanese infantry regiment, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team became the most decorated unit in Military history.
There is a memorial to all who served, and likewise, a memorial to all who died, that came from our internment camp.
After being warned did or did not Mcc Auther say they were ready and then all of those planes were wrecked on the ground instead of fighting in the air? After all this time we can't question??
I think it's one thing to be ready for war, and another to know that a country who is not presently your enemy, and is meeting with you in talks in Washington is simultaneously launching a surprise attack. The biggest anticipated risk was from local population, not a country 4117 miles away by sea. I can absolutely see why the planes were in the center of the field...best way to keep an eye on them. Tragic mistake.
My grandfather, on his way to Corregedor via troop transport around October 1941, sent one of his last letters as a free man to my grandmother. It said "prepare for war". As a doctor armed with only a side arm and few medical supplies, he certainly wasn't sent to the Pacific ready for war.
We get nostalgic about the "good old days" and think everything was better long ago. Some things were better, and some things were worse. Doc Whitmore told me when he went in the army at the beginning of the war they had him treating mules because the white officers didn't want black doctors working on people. That's one area where it seems we actually have made some progress.
The most quoted remark attributed to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the man who planned the Pearl Harbor attack was, "I fear all we've done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."
The war in the Pacific was mostly about airpower. The end goal of our infantry and sailors was to secure airfields within striking distance of mainland Japan. Once that had happened, the rest would be a matter, not so much about whether we'd win, but how long and how many American lives it would take (By the time of the Okinawa campaign, we were suffering 1,000 casualties PER DAY and the rate was ACCELERATING).
That the Japanese got as far as they did with the weapons they had seems a mystery—at least in light of 21st-Century hindsight. Everyone who knows anything about military aviation knows the mantra: Higher, faster, further.
We use advanced technology and metallurgy to chase those performance goals and if you don't have the tech, you do a little creative "squeezing" and wind up trading something you really need for something you really need much more badly.
And so it was with the Zero, which though a new design at the time of Pearl Harbor, didn't have an engine any more powerful than that of the obsolete P-40. In the case of both the Zero and Tomahawk, supercharging was a joke and so was the spec that claimed either airplane had a ceiling above 30,000 feet. But the P-40 had an excuse: It was old. It was little more than an obsolete inline engine grafted to an even more obsolete P-36 airframe.
With a draggy, not especially powerful radial engine optimized for around 16,000 feet, the Japanese had to make significant sacrifices for the Zero to work, so no radios, no armor plate, no self-sealing fuel tanks. Structural strength was given away to make the airplane as lightweight as possible and if it got tagged, it got blown to tinsel. Its aerodynamics weren't particularly sophisticated; in fact, above 250 mph, the airplane had very stiff ailerons and it dove like a feather in a breeze. Tests of a captured A6M2 Zero Model 21 showed a level top speed of 326 mph at 16,000 feet and 315 mph at 25,000 feet. Compared to the Chance-Vought Corsair, those performance numbers are pitiful. Imagine for a moment what it would have been like to substitute the Zero for Messerschmitts and Focke-Wulfs in the air battles over Europe, at altitudes where Thunderbolt and Mustang pilots would have enjoyed not only a speed advantage of at least 100 mph, but a cockpit heater/defroster that actually worked in minus 60 degree temperatures.
The Japanese didn't have turbochargers because they didn't have the high-temperature metallurgy to make them work, so their bombers were slow, medium-altitude sitting ducks that could carry only minimal defensive armament. If the Germans didn't have anything to compare with the B-24 Liberator that Ford manufactured in overwhelming numbers, the Japanese CERTAINLY didn't.
So, how did the Japanese do as well as they did with the aircraft available to them? Audacity—and superior tactics (which worked until Americans caught on to the fact that a left turn was a poor evasive maneuver against a Zero and that maintaining a minimum airspeed of 250 mph was pretty good life insurance). Then there was inexcusably poor management. Curtiss stopped building P-47 Thunderbolts after having produced only 354 units—and then, instead, continued producing the obsolete P-40. Bell Aircraft should have stopped production of their thoroughly useless P-39 and, instead, manufactured... well, just about anything else. Yeah, for a while there, we were actually helping the Japanese win the air-war.
The Zero was a good, not great, fighter. It was elegant, not sophisticated. If the F6F Hellcat, with its mediocre top speed of 380 mph, absolutely slaughtered the Zero (and I'd call a kill-to-loss ratio of 19:1 a slaughter), then the Zero had absolutely no business being in the same sky as a Corsair.
And that's just the fighters. Compared to what the British and Americans had in heavy bombers that could range far and carry tremendous loads of bombs and guns, anything the Axis produced in quantity was pretty much a joke. Where the B-17 was the darling of the Army Air Force and became the immortal symbol of American WWII airpower, the decidedly unattractive B-24 was even better in many respects as it was faster and carried a significantly larger bomb load a significantly further distance—which is why, to a great extent, it replaced the B-17 in the Pacific Theatre. The Liberator may not have starred in any Hollywood movies, but it soldiered on and on and on, and like the P-40, though damned by words, was flown to glory. And then there was the B-29 Superfortress.
Most people believe that the destruction visited upon Japan at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unprecedented. Nothing could be further from the truth:
On March 9th, 1945, a seven-hour maximum-effort raid on the industrial heart of Tokyo was made by 325 American B-29 bombers, each carrying eight tons of bombs. Over 260,000 buildings were destroyed in an area of over sixteen square miles and the death toll reached over 83,000, exceeding by a wide margin the number of casualties to be inflicted in the atomic attack on Hiroshima, 66,000 people. Within hours, another 285 B-29 bombers raided Nagoya, the heart of Japanese aircraft production. On March 14th, 284 Superfortresses raided Osaka, Japan's second largest city. Over eight square miles were incinerated including the 150-acre Osaka Arsenal. In the following few days, over four-million pounds of incendiaries were dropped on Kobe, followed by a second bombing mission to Nagoya. In this way, city after city after city was hit, until the 20th Air Force actually ran out of M69 bombs. When these were shortly thereafter replenished, the devastation of conventional bombing continued.
On August 9th, a B-29 named "Bock's Car" dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki, where the death toll reached approximately 39,000, about half the number of deaths that took place on March 9th when 325 B-29 bombers attacked Tokyo (The casualty figures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as used here are those of the Manhattan Engineer District, published by the Worldwide School Library - 5421 California Ave. SW, Seattle WA 98136).
That the Americans were capable of devastating an entire city overnight was not a new revelation to the Japanese, it had been going on for almost six months by the time of the atomic bombings.
In retrospect, it feels strange to look back on such widespread tragedy and see it as a good thing, something that had to be done to save the world from the Axis, and it becomes natural, then, to drift off of my original point that neither the Germans nor the Japanese had anything approaching the kind of aircraft that could do this grim but necessary job.
Bob, That's a very enlightening history lesson on the last days of WWII with the Japanese. I especially appreciate the bombing runs and statistics on the Japanese cities other than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I had no idea of the bombing runs on their homeland for 5 months before they surrendered. They were either extremely stubborn or extremely proud to not see the handwriting on the wall.
Thanks for posting this enlightening history lesson for us all.
I was born in '43, and don't know of the day it happened.
My father had an electrical equipment repair business is Seattle. The Navy showed up at his business a few days after Pearl Harbor and asked questions about his businesses capabilities.
A few weeks later he and all of his employees were exempted from active service. The Navy provided all new machine tools and equipment. His shop was designated the "pan cake electric motor repair shop" Pan cake motors were used on the plane elevators that raised the planes from the belly of the aircraft carrier to the flight deck. Each elevator had 4 of these very special motors. The shop was ordered to repair any military material 1st and foremost. In fact when Navy ships were at the Bremerton Navy ship yard for repair, sailors with electric motor repair background were ferried over to Seattle to work in the shop. All during the war his shop ran 24 hours day 7 days a week.
Special tanks of chemicals and ovens were installed to boil and bake the salt brine out of the windings and housings for both the motors and controls. What we were not told was there was an intense salvage effort carried out on the sunken ships. This salvaged equipment was flown to Seattle and repair work was carried out, then the repaired parts were flown back to Pearl to be installed on the ships in dry dock being repaired.
With all the hysteria and being near Boeing and the Pacific Ocean, the Navy posted armed guards around my fathers business for some time after Pearl Harbor.
The family and neighbors never knew why my father and his employees were exempt from the service until well after the Japanese surrendered.
I have a faint memory of the horns honking and the neighbors out in the streets for VJ day.