Pearl Harbor Attacked (December 7, 1941)
Many thanks to my mother for filling in for me to recount her memories of the day Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor, an act that drew the U.S. into World War II.
Sunday, Dec. 7 was a sunny, but cold, early winter day in Pittsburgh. After going to morning Mass and having lunch, Mom went visiting at a girlfriend's house where their socializing was interrupted by a news bulletin on the radio reporting on Japan's surprise aerial attack of the US Navy base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii shortly after sunrise. Shortly afterwards, her friend Ginny's brother-in-law, who was home on military leave, received a call ordering him back to base immediately. (The book At Dawn We Slept is one of many on the subject of this sneak attack.)
Because Pittsburgh was one of the centers of US military production, there were fears about it being bombed as well. This led to regular blackout exercises whereby residents were required, upon hearing air-raid sirens, to switch off all lights and pull down window shades. The goal was to make streets and landmarks harder to pinpoint in the event enemy bombers were overhead.
Mom's brother, my uncle George, was a senior in high school at the time, and upon graduation was inducted into the Marines and sent to Paradise Island for training. He then spent the next three years in the Pacific Theater repairing planes. And Mom, then a junior in high school (her "sweet 16" birthday was the following week, on Dec. 14), helped with the war effort by distributing ration coupons. Then, after graduating in 1943, she got a job documenting and tracking supplies of ammunition loaded onto supply ships sailing to Europe.
Although it was a time of great worry, Mom didn't recall feeling fearful but instead there was a sense of purpose and solidarity with neighbors and schoolmates as each made contributions to the war effort.
As recounted by Mary Frydlewicz
Although they had met several times before, my parents had their first offical "date" on December 7, 1941 which allowed my father to joke for the rest of his life that "Roosevelt wasn't kidding it was a day that would live in infamy". Both heard the news on the radio before meeting but I don't think it cast a pall so much as heightend excitement. As committed anti-facists (not to mention Jews) while not happy about the attack, they were heartened that the US was finally going to be committed to bringing down Hitler and his pals.
Fast forward sixty years and my mother, now in her 80s, has a direct window seat for to see the second plane hit and the towers fall on 9/11. She quickly let it be known that she had no tolerance for people who were choosing to leave the neighborhood temporarily (they were slightly beyond the evacuation zone) and doing what she called "hoarding" of groceries etc. It was as if the old wartime spirit had been reborn. Even so, when I asked her to compare Pearl Harbor and 9/11 she said "There weren't military vehicles on Hudson Street on Pearl Harbor Day".
Posted by: liz | 12/06/2009 at 03:48 PM