Pearl Harbor Remembered
By Cleveland Seniors
70 years! How the world has changed in the 70 years since the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
We talked to some local people about their memories of that day. Here are some excerpts of what they had to say.
One woman remembers being a young girl at the time.
"I was at home with my family listening to Irish music on the radio, when they cut in and told us Pearl Harbor had been bombed. We didn't know what to do - I was only eleven years old, but I was sure we were going to be bombed and we were all going into battle. I had to do something, but I had no idea what. So I prepared as best I could. I cleaned all of my drawers and organized all of my things. I was going to be ready if we were invaded.
The next day was a Holy Day - Mary's Day - the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. As Catholics we all went to Mass and afterwards everyone stood around together outside. The adults were all talking very seriously and the kids were all looking up to see if there were planes coming to bomb us."
The burning wreckage of the U.S. Navy battleship USS Arizona (BB-39)
at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii December 7, 1941.
"Sure, it changed our lives a lot. But not as much as places like England and Europe who were being bombed all the time. I was pretty young - only 8 - so I don't know a lot of details. But everyone was always serious and scared.
All of a sudden there would be a loud shrill noise - a siren it was. Then there would be an Air Raid Drill. Everyone had to turn off all of their lights and pull their shades down, so the enemy couldn't find us. No one was allowed outside. There was a neighborhood man who would come around and make sure we were all following the rules. It was very scary."
Everyone seemed to remember the drills. The other thing they remembered were the rationing and shortages. Everyone was allotted a certain amount of food stamps and gas cards and somehow they had to make it work. Nylon stockings were unavailable - nylon was needed for the war. Meat was sent to the troops. There were year long waiting lists for new cars and a new pair of shoes was like gold.
Grace explains the feeling.
"There were no protests in the streets. Everybody was proud of the USA. Even Hollywood supported the country. Many of them did USO shows. Bob Hope was never home for the holidays. He was always off entertaining the troops. We all banded together.
I got married in November, 1941. My husband went to the war. So did my cousins, brothers, uncles and friends. Some came home, some didn't. We were proud as could be of each and every one of them. It was such a different time."
USS Pennsylvania, behind the wreckage of
the USS Downes and USS Cassin.
As serious as everything was at that time there was also a special feeling of camaraderie. Here's how Laura describes it:
"Pianos were very popular at the time. That was a big form of entertainment. After Pearl Harbor we still stood around the piano but now the songs were all about the war and very patriotic. We didn't have a television so we went to the movies a lot. There was always a newsreel before the feature that kept us informed. We all read the newspapers and listened to the radio too. Even little kids wore buttons on their coats calling for the death of "the rats": Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo.
Sometimes I think we all got closer because we had a common enemy."
All of the people we talked to remember sending Care Packages. Some contained toiletries and Band-Aids while others sent cookies and food from home. They all knew anything from home was welcome.
Many women started working outside the home for the first time. Working ten to twelve hours seven days a week in a factory was not unusual.
Of course this meant children learned to do things they never had to do before. Cooking, cleaning, even shopping fell in the hands of people in the home.
Mildred remembers another change:
"All of a sudden stars started showing up in the windows of people's homes. If I remember correctly, a blue star meant they had someone in the service, and a gold star meant someone died. Some houses had a lot of stars - I guess those were the ones with a lot of sons. Course women went in the WAVES and WACS too, but I didn't know any. It was the boys that I remember going.
And then one day when I went to Church there was a plague up on the wall and it listed the names of the guys from our church and our neighborhood who had died in the war. I couldn't believe it. I knew some of those guys - or their families. Then every week when we went to church the plague had more names.
We started hearing stories about what I call real heroes. The guys who were at Pearl Harbor. The ones who were shot down on their last trip - or even their first trip. The ones who had permanent disabilities as a result of their service. And the women who were left at home with little kids. These are heroes. We all prayed like crazy for all of them."
Inside the shrine room of the USS Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor - To the Memory of the Gallant Men Here Entombed and their shipmates who gave their lives in action on December 7, 1941, on the U.S.S. Arizona" — inscription in marble with the names of Arizona's honored dead
December 7, 1941. President Roosevelt declared it to be a Date That Will Live in Infamy. How right he was.
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