Remembering Pearl Harbor

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

On the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Steven Gillon, professor of history at the University of Oklahoma, author of Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation Into War, and resident historian for the History Channel, talks about the ensuing 24 hours and takes calls from WWII veterans.


Steven Gillon

Comments [18]

Natalie from Brooklyn, NY

I grew up in a small town in northern NJ. On Dec.7, 1941, shortly after we had moved from the center of town to a wooded area above a golf course on the edge of town, we were involved in the usual activities of an early Dec. Sunday. My sister and I walked to Sunday School, then came home and helped with yard work or read favorite books. We had not yer gathered in the living room to turn on the radio and hear favorite programs like Jack Benny. At 4 o'clock a former neighbor and baby sitter drove to our home and burst in upon us to relay the shocking news. It was a somewhat dreary early winter day and I remember the overall quiet as Mrs. Prina (Prinie) spoke to us. I cannot remember what followed although my father left his job as an engineer with Con Ed and went to work as technical superintendent for a plant that produced copper cable for the Navy and my mother became an air raid warden for our street.

Dec. 07 2011 12:08 PM
Rosemary from Long Island

I was 8 years old on December 7, 1941 living with my family and grandparents. My father and two uncles had been fishing on that Sunday and had just returned home when the news came on the radio. My grandmother cried as she listened. My two uncles and father grabbed brooms and began to march around the dining room table hoping to ameliorate my grandmother's tears as the awful news unfolded. They also knew that war meant that they would be serving in the armed forces.
Even as a child, the gravity of the news registered. Our family had four uncles and an aunt serve during the war. My father tried to enlist but was rejected due to his poor eyesight. Two uncles landed in France on D Day and fought in the Italian campaign. Both were wounded. I treasure the souvenirs they sent my sister and me from the countries they fought through. I plan to pass the souvenirs along with their provenance to my grandchildren. I regret not saving the Vmails my uncles faithfully wrote to my sister and me during their four years of service. My memories are as vivid today as they were 70 years ago. I can still hear my grandmother crying and see my uncles and father marching. Experiencing the country at war was probably the underlying reason I opted for a degree in history and ultimately taught the subject for several years.

Dec. 07 2011 10:57 AM
Mary from New Jersey

My late mother remembered hearing the radio broadcast about Pearl Harbor while on call as an operating room nurse at St. Joseph's hospital in Paterson, NJ. She was listening to Bishop Sheen at the time, when the broadcast was interrupted. She knew immediately that this was very, very serious.

Dec. 07 2011 10:29 AM
David from Long Island City

My father was a kid growing up on Maui on Dec 7 1941. He could see the smoke from the Pearl Harbor attack over the horizon. Cut to 9/11 and his son saw the smoke from the WTC from his office in midtown.

Dec. 07 2011 10:28 AM

Ann - listening to an all-girl orchestra. i don't know if i'm a feminist, but that's just Great!

Dec. 07 2011 10:27 AM
Adam from New Jersey

Also concerning the football game, my father used to say that Adm. Halsey was at that game and that he got called on the public address system before the general announcement was made. Not sure if that is apocryphal or not.

Dec. 07 2011 10:24 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

We are not the same people that we were back then. Oh sure, for better and for worse. But the things for which we are now better, we would have eventually gotten to -- they were in the inevitable arc of our evolution.

But the aspects of our culture that we have lost -- those will probably never be regained.

Dec. 07 2011 10:23 AM
Suzanne England from Brooklyn

On Pearl Harbor day I was 3 years old and we were living with my grandmother in Coraopolis near Pittsburgh, PA. My uncle was stationed in Oahu in the navy. I recall hearing it on the radio and my memory is of the family being in stunned silence. Soon I understood there was great worry about my uncle. We did not learn that he was not harmed until two weeks later.

Dec. 07 2011 10:21 AM
Roberta Grobel Intrater from Brooklyn, NY

my parents were married on Nov. 23, 1941. They were driving home from their honeymoon at the Laurels, the Catskills hotel where they met, when they heard the news over the radio. My father told my mother he was going to join the Army medical corps the next day. She was devastated, but sign up he did. The lease on the newly rented apartment on Ocean Parkway was cancelled, as was the furniture they had purchased for their new life together, and my mother continued to live with her parents. My dad was stationed with a hospital unit in Wyoming, which received patients from the Pacific front for the next 41/2 years. Their lives, as so many other, was changed dramatically by this events.

Dec. 07 2011 10:21 AM
Nick from UWS

Brian, don't ask someone a question about their experiences and then immediately start interrupting them and rushing them along. Christ that's rude. If you don't have time for the answer, don't ask the question.

Dec. 07 2011 10:20 AM
Robert from NYC

I was born '46 but my mom (who is 90) just recited once again that day and what she was doing when Roosevelt came on the radio to announce the horror. It seems to have really imprinted on the minds of those who heard it that day, and rightfully so. We can relate via Sept 11, 2001.

Dec. 07 2011 10:17 AM
Jeff from Jersey; yes New Jersey

The listener who was at the football game that fateful day was watching the New York Football Giants versus the Brooklyn Football Dodgers. Please credit Len Berman Sports site for this information. All the best.

Dec. 07 2011 10:17 AM
Ruth from NYC

To put this in context: My father and his family, escaping occupied France, left Lisbon, Portugal, on the S.S. Excalibur bound for the U.S. on Dec. 5. They were on the open seas when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and consequently the entire voyage was under blackout. Occupied France had fallen to the nazi's in June of 1940.

Dec. 07 2011 10:16 AM
Melanie Teagle from Manhattan

Hi Brian,
Your guest mentions that it was dinnertime in New York when the news broke about Pearl Harbor. My dad grew up in New York and always admonished us the "lunchtime" was "dinnertime" when he was a boy. The evening meal was always called "supper".

Great show.

Dec. 07 2011 10:14 AM
Bob Abate from Yonkers

Over the years, I've had the good fortune and privilege of meeting and interviewing World War II Combat Veterans . One was Frank Allo - an eighteen year old "kid" from White Plains. I would like to share part of his written remembrance of December 7th ...
"More than a half-century later, it is not easy depicting the events of that day. The wounds and mental strain during those war years are very much part of my present being.
We lay asleep, oblivious to the world. The island was awakened by the drone of diving aircraft and the thunderous thuds of ground-pounding explosions in the nearby harbor. Our early Sunday morning quiet was shattered by spine-tingling shrieks as the first Japanese bombs streaked toward Pearl Harbor. My company was stationed at Hickam Field, next to the mess hall. We then realized that Hickam was being bombed. I
Suddenly the explosions were closer and stronger and I heard this dive bomber. The ground shook and I knew it was close ... when we went outside our tent, the mess hall was blown apart. They had dropped a bomb inside. It took a direct hit as early-risers ate their breakfast. The force of the blast blew the top of the building wide open and the roof's metal sheating rolled over the building's side in twisted disarray, resembling Popeye's opened spinach can.
Our first instinct was to dive for cover. The initial damage was devastating. In minutes, the airfield was totally destroyed. Suddenly, the official announcement came over the radio, "Air raid! Pearl Harbor! This is not a drill!" We just stood there. we were dumbfounded. Then, as the surviving soldiers ran across the adjacent baseball field toward their barracks, the Japanese planes strafed and bombed them. It was a total massacre. Bodies of the dead and wounded were everywhere. Parts of Hickam Field were strewn all over. Without ammunition, our rifles were useless against the flying planes fleeing by faster than a cannon ball.
I saw smoke coming up from Pearl Harbor. The battleships were parked two abreast so the outboard ships were the first targets of the low-flying torpedo planes. Hitting the outboard ships prevented the inboard ships from escaping. The USS Arizona took a direct hit and almost blew in half. Bombs penetrated the heavy plated upper decks as easily as a kid pokes holes in a cereal box top with a pencil, then exploded far below decks.
In the midst of the raging fires and smoke, the cries of the wounded mingled with the moans of the dying and the stillness of the dead appalled the living. Scores of survivors were seriously wounded, many in deep shock only later to be mercifully relieved of their pain and suffering by death itself.
The troops collected their senses and as true Americans, they assisted in saving whomever or whatever they could. Death was a part of growing up for countless young kids who became men that day. I was one of them.

Dec. 07 2011 10:13 AM
Joel from Nyack

I was 7 weeks old on 12/07/41 so have no memory of the day but I do have clear memories of the last few years of the war when I was 4 & 5 years old, living in a small W. Virginia town. I remember the black-out curtains, ration tickets for fuel, tires, butter, etc.

Dec. 07 2011 10:13 AM
John from office

Brian how was the recording made in that clip, on a record?? or some kind of tape??

Dec. 07 2011 10:10 AM
David from West Hempstead

Brian, you should bring back the transatlantic accent.

Dec. 07 2011 10:08 AM

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