I remember Dec. 7th, 1941

Carolyn Cary's picture

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This coming Saturday, Dec. 7, marks 72 years since naval air forces of the Japanese Empire attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii military bases early on a Sunday morning.

Japanese naval forces included four heavy aircraft carriers, two heavy cruisers, 35 submarines, two light cruisers, nine oilers, two battleships and 11 destroyers.

Over 350 Japanese planes were involved in the surprise attack. At the end of the day, over 2,400 U.S. military service members and civilians lost their lives.

The U.S. losses included four battleships sunk, four damaged and out of service for months, three cruisers damaged, three destroyers damaged, four other vessels sunk or heavily damaged, and 92 naval aircraft and 77 Army Air Corps airplanes destroyed. The United States declared war the following day.]

I clearly remember sitting in our living room in Akron, Ohio the evening of December 7th, 1941. I would have just turned 9 years old.

Entertainment at that time was a big radio that was pretty high and sat on the floor. Mother was listening to then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt make an announcement.

I don’t remember my dad being there. He was a steam engineer for Firestone Tire and must have been working a second shift.

I distinctly can remember the President saying, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Though I did not understand what those words meant at the time, I understood the expression on my mother’s face even less.

I didn’t know what the word “war” meant, but I could tell by her expression it wasn’t anything good.

My dad was too young for World War I and too old for World War II. But I remember the sacrifices homeowners made and all those ration stamps for everything, from sugar to tires to shoes to gasoline.

Fortunately Firestone Tire was just a mile from us, too far for Daddy to walk but yet didn’t take much gas to get there.

The only time Mother could get extra sugar was in the fall for canning fruits. The only time my sister, two years younger, and I could get a new pair of shoes was in the fall just before school would start.

I have to get amused when I lecture to the high school students now. When I tell them we could only have one pair of shoes a year, well, frankly, it just goes right over their heads.

Thanks to parents who were thrifty to begin with, we made it through the trials of World War II. Thankful, too, were my cousins and an uncle who all came back from fighting in that conflict safe and sound.

[Carolyn Cary is the official Fayette County historian and the editor of the county’s first compiled history, “The History of Fayette County,” published in 1977. She lives in Fayetteville.]

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