My parents had been married less than three months on December
7, 1941. My Dad was in the Army Air Corps, and they were living
at Mather Field in Sacramento, California. They had invited two of
Daddyâ€™s friends from base for dinner and were just sitting down
to eat when the call came.
The U. S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii had been attacked
by the Japanese navy!
The attack was intended to prevent the U.S. Pacific Fleet from
interfering with Japanese plans to exploit the natural resources of oil
and rubber in Malaya and the Dutch East Indies. It was made by
353 aircraft under the leadership of Admiral Yamamoto,
commander of Japanâ€™s Combined Fleet, and was launched in
two waves from six Japanese carriers.
Four U.S. battleships, the backbone of the Navy, were sunk and
four more were damaged. An additional three cruisers, three
destroyers, one minelayer and 188 aircraft were damaged or
American losses totaled 2,402 killed and 1,282 wounded.
Japanese losses were minimal.
The surprise nature of the attack, coming before a formal
declaration of war, caused U.S. citizens to turn abruptly from
isolationism to direct support for participation in the war.
When word reached Mather Field, my Dad and his friends were
recalled to the base. The war, which had seemed so distant, was
suddenly uncomfortably close to the California shore .
And when word reached Great Britain, Winston Churchill later
recalled: â€œIn all the war I never received a more direct shock.
As I turned and twisted in bed the full horror of the news sank in
upon me. There were no British or American capital ships in the
Indian Ocean or the Pacific except the American survivors of Pearl
Harbor who were hastening back to California. Over this vast
expanse of waters Japan was supreme and we everywhere were
weak and naked.â€�
When word reached Germany, Hitler stated: â€œThe fact that the
Japanese Government, which has been negotiating for years with
this man [Franklin D. Roosevelt], has at last become tired of being
mocked by him in such an unworthy way, fills us all, the German
people and all other decent people in the world, with deep
satisfaction.â€� Germany, which had a treaty with Japan,
immediately declared war against the United States.
Suddenly the U.S. went from isolationism to involvement in a two-
I wasn't born until the next year, but the shadow of Pearl Harbor
was to lie across my early life.
This issue of the website treats the two great leaders of the war
years, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, whose masterful
use of the English language inspired many; a study called "Fearing
Fear," on the place of fear in our lives; and a human interest story
about a Japanese-American minister who greatly influenced my life
and who illustrates the plight of a generation of Japanese-Americans
I'd love for you to email me about war stories of your own or of
relatives and friends, or your thoughts on fear, racism or any other
topics this month's website brings to mind. Just click on my
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