Pearl Harbor Page

December 7, 1941

“Where were you when you first heard the news about Pearl Harbor? What was the reaction of the people around you? How did it affect your life?”

These are the questions I have been asking my cousins and other relatives.

I have received some really interesting replies in the form of short memoirs. It is obvious that Pearl Harbor had a profound effect on everyday-life in America as it was known at the time.

I thought these memoirs were important as reflections of the times and should be posted for others to read.

I am going to post them in no particular order, except that the ones I received first are at the top. New ones will be added as I receive them.

A few of these will be from friends, people who are not related to me. All of them offer insights that will help us understand the trauma suffered by ordinary people due to the invasion of our home territory.

It is important that you and I tell our stories, for our children and our children's children, and all the generations to follow.

Each of our lives is a life that has never been lived before and will never be lived again. We have a responsibility to write about that life.

Karen McCann Hett
June 25, 2004


These are my recollections and reactions when I first heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

I was only fifteen years old at the time, living in Houston, Texas. That Sunday afternoon I had ridden my bicycle to the Delman Theater to see a movie. On leaving the theater, as I rode the two miles home, the news of the Pearl Harbor attack was everywhere. Radios blaring, and “EXTRA” newspapers were on every corner.

For the remainder of the evening I, as well as my mother and father, stayed glued to the radio. Few comments were made, only the desire for more information. The news was scarce and vague, so unlike the coverage on television for an event like 9/11.

Monday, December 8, 1941, was a school day. This was my first year to attend Lamar High School; I remember I was in my math class that afternoon when President Roosevelt gave his famous speech, declaring war on the Japanese empire. All of the classrooms had speakers from a public address system originating in the principal’s office. A radio had been placed in front of the microphone in order to allow everyone in the school to hear the broadcast. There was little emotion from students and teachers, as best as I can remember. Just a very somber atmosphere prevailed as the president delivered his speech beginning with the words, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a day which will live in infamy....” These words I still remember coming over the speaker system.

The immediate impact of such catastrophic news did not have the impact on my family that it had on so many. My father was too old for military service, and I was too young. This was the case with all of my relatives. The dire consequences of the president’s words did not have a significant impact on my life until many months later; like four gallons of gasoline to run the family car for a week.

Thoughts of war that were on my mind in 1942 were quite different than thoughts of war today. In World War II we had an enemy and we knew what he looked like and where he was located, as well as why we were going after him. The attack on the World Trade Center did not give us such a clear picture of our enemy.

I find it interesting that yesterday, just before commencing to write my recollections on first hearing the news of Pearl Harbor, I checked my e-mail and found one forwarded to me by my daughter-in-law. It reminded me that on the Pacific side of the new World War II Memorial in Washington, D. C., the speech that President Roosevelt gave declaring war on the Japanese empire is etched in stone in its entirety; except that the last four words, “so help us God,” were left off.

Carlton Cranor
June 19, 2004
Descendant of Andrew Viser through his daughter, Sarah S. Viser who married James McCan


I remember it very distinctly.

We were living in Dallas. My dad was taking my brother and myself to an air show in Grapevine, which was between Dallas and Fort Worth. I was eleven years old at the time.

On the way there, my dad was listening to the radio when the news of Pearl Harbor came on. I had no earthly idea where Pearl Harbor was, and the "attack" meant absolutely nothing to me. Japan? I am not sure that I knew where it was at the time.

We proceeded to the airstrip where the air show - with barnstorming and daredevils - was supposed to take place. You have to remember that airplanes were not so common in those days. When we arrived, the air show was canceled. There was talk over the PA system about what had happened, and several of the airplanes took off in a blaze of glory "To get back home so the pilots could volunteer to defend our country."

This impressed me tremendously, after my father explained to me why the air show was canceled.

I suppose, as I have honestly never thought about it until this moment, that this was the motivation that shaped the lives and careers of my brother and myself. We both ultimately retired from the Air Force--we both flew B-52's. My brother was a pilot and I was a tail gunner.

James Howard
June 10, 2004
Descendant of Andrew Viser through his son, Peter, and first wife, and through Peter’s son Peter Horace Viser and Ann Oxford


I was thirteen years old, living in Port Barre, Louisiana, with my father Clarence Barrett and my mother, Gertie Barrett. On December 7, 1941, I was in the 8th grade and was at my friend Doris Beauxis' home. We were playing some kind of game on their living room floor.

Her dad was in an easy chair reading a newspaper, and the radio was on; an announcer broke into the music and said, "The Japanese have just bombed Pearl Harbor."
"We are at war!"
Mr. Beauxis said "Where is Pearl Harbor?
And I, being good in geography, said, "It's in Hawaii."

I ran home to tell my parents and they were as shocked as everyone: stunned, and amazed.

After the war started, like all towns and cities all over America, a War effort was started: Rationing, Gas Stamps, Newspaper drives, etc. Wonder of all wonders, Port Barre, whose Bayou Catabala cut it in half, was selected as a training ground for Black Troops. They were posted on guard duty over the one bridge that spanned the dirty bayou. We children who had to go to school almost two miles away on the other side of the bridge were frightened, yet curious about all these men in green uniforms, carrying rifles, and full gear.

Suppose the Government thought the Nazis and the Japanese were going to sneak into the United States via the Atchafayla River and Wetlands and capture South Louisiana? After all we were only fifty miles from Baton Rouge, and a hundred or less from New Orleans!

June 23, 2004
Mary P.
Descendant of Revolutionary War Soldier Reuben Barrett through his son Joseph and wife, Rutha Cabiness Moore


    On December 7, 1941, I was nine years old. My Dad was a member of the CCC Camp building the Percy Quinn State Park located between McComb & Liberty, MS. That day I was playing on an old tire swing in the front yard of the house, and Dad was listening to an old Philco radio, which was powered by a car battery.

I do remember that when the announcement was made, we all gathered around trying to hear and grasp every word before the battery would run out of power and go dead.  I also remember asking my Dad if he would be “Going to War.” He said he was forty-six years old, but, "if they need me I will go." He was not called up, but I remember his leaving to work "in the War effort" on the riverfront in New Orleans.

During that time housing was extremely scarce, but we were fortunate enough to get a house in a Wartime Housing Project, where we lived throughout the war years.

My fondest memories during those war years was my Mother telling me to put on my roller skates and go to several neighborhood groceries because they had received a shipment of sugar, flour, butter or some other rationed items, and she had some ration coupons that could be redeemed for the items. Every once in a while there would be Nylon Stockings that Mother would want me try to get. I remember getting some funny stares from the women who were there also.

Those war years were a time of pride and prayers for our country, a time of fear for the lives of loved ones serving, of joy when they came home; and it was a time of stress when they left, for it could have been the last time you ever saw them. But through it all it was a time of family closeness and pulling together as a nation. If only we had that same commitment today.

June 25, 2004 
Glenn Morris
Descendant of Reuben Barrett through his son, Joseph


The squeaky little radio seemed to come over the airways a bit louder as it announced:  "We interrupt this regularly scheduled program to bring you this news bulletin:  THE JAPANESE HAVE JUST BOMBED PEARL HARBOR!"   

I caught my breath, grabbed my husband's arm, who was sitting on the floor beside me reading the Sunday morning paper.  "What did they say?  What do they mean?  Where is Pearl Harbor?  Should we do something?"  

In his gentle voice, he reassured me that we had nothing to fear and that Pearl Harbor was in Hawaii.  He did fold up the paper and set it aside so he could hear all that being said about the strike on America.  I can remember him saying, "Well, we're in it now.  We cannot let Japan get away with this."  

His friend, Bill, who also happened to be his best man at our wedding, and our host along with his wife, Annie, shook his head, and agreed with Scott.  

I had visions of him joining the armed forces and leaving me before we had really begun our married life.  I held on to him fiercely as if that would make everything go away.  I wanted it to so badly.  I couldn't stand the thought of him leaving me to go fight in a war somewhere.  It was so unfair.  Suddenly, it dawned on me that  thousands of husbands, brothers, fathers and sons had been killed in the sneak attack by the hateful Japanese.  I began to make plans in my mind about what I would do when he left.  Go home to Mother and Daddy, I suspected.  

That never happened.  Scott tried to enlist in every branch of the service but he had been labeled "4F" by the army, and nobody would touch him.  I couldn't help but feel sorry for him, but secretly I was glad.  I wouldn't lose him after all.  

My feelings, sitting there on the floor, that Sunday morning, reading the funny papers, ran the gauntlet of emotions:
Unbelief.  No one would dare attack the United States.
Fear.  What was really going on?  Where?   
Guilt.  Thinking of not wanting Scott to join the service.
Dread.  Wondering what was to come and how it would affect us.
Sadness.  Thinking of the lives lost, and many more that would be, before this was all over. 
And how this would affect America as we knew it.

The happiness came later.  When Scott was not accepted into any branch of the service, and I got to keep him home with me. 

In fact, we had 52 years of happy married life before he died in 1992.

June 10, 2004
Texas Researcher and Writer of Genealogical and Local History


For some reason, I don't remember anything about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Maybe being only one-and-a-half has something to do with it.

I do remember my dad talking about how they found out. We, my mother and dad, Dr. I. P. Barrett and Blanche Holden Barrett, and my twin brothers, Robert Edward and William Holden Barrett, were at my mother's parents, Dennis Oscar Holden and Ophelia Mae McIntosh Holden, near Tolar in Hood Co., TX.

We lived in the Riverside (northeast) section of Fort Worth and would spend the weekend at my grandparents, or drive down for Sunday lunch when time permitted.

After lunch on Sunday, my dad went out to the car to find out football scores. I assume these were the college scores from the night before. Of course the only thing he heard was news reports about the bombing.

My dad was thirty-nine and my mother was forty-one at that time.

One of the things I do remember about the war was rationing and oleomargarine. As I remember it, oleomargarine came in sticks just like butter, but it was white. Included in the box, with the oleomargarine, was a packet of coloring that could be mixed in to make the oleomargarine look like butter.

One of my uncles, Donald Leland Holden, was stationed in Africa. He worked for General Motors and was sent to Africa to help with the GM military vehicles. While there he sent me a "Victorygram," similar to a telegram. It was in a small envelope, about 2 1/2" by 3". I still have it.

June 26, 2004
James P. Barrett
Descendant of Revolutionary War Soldier Reuben Barrett, through his son, John Barrett and second wife, Rebecca Stanton


I don't have much of a story, but I was almost three and I was at our house and heard my daddy and Uncle Fred talking about Pearl Harbor and Daddy maybe having to go back in the army. We were standing at the barn lot gate, and I can remember grabbing Daddy's leg and holding when they were talking about him going. He was forty-four and had two children, so he didn't go . He had been in the first world war. My cousins Jean and Joan can tell you more than I can. Their dad and his two brothers went in.

We lived on the old Madison County, Mississippi, home place and farmed; also, Daddy operated a bulldozer for Madison County. Our farm was about four miles from Good Hope Church where my Great-grandfather Reuben Gatlin Barrett preached; of course, he died in the late 1800's.

I remember all the rationing of sugar, gas, etc., and us using syrup and honey to cook and sweeten with. I still use cane syrup now and prefer molasses tea cakes to sugar. We were very poor in some eyes. We raised all our food except sugar, salt, tea, and coffee. We had hogs, chickens, and milk cows; and Daddy was the best hunter and fisherman in the country. I can remember going to school with my syrup bucket and biscuits with big pieces of ham. and the town kids laughing at me. That’s when I found out we were poor.

Looking back now we did fine; we had fruit trees which bore peaches, apples, plums, cherries, muscadine, persimmons, and all kind of nuts. We didn't get electricity until 1954, and then only after me and my brothers cut the right of way eighteen feet wide for one mile.

This is getting away from the subject, sorry.

My cousins, Jean May and Joan Blanks, came to the country to play with us occasionally when we were young , they are my second cousins. Their dad and his two brothers went into the army and fought in the war.

I don't remember Mama talking about the war at all, other than the rationing. I remember my cousin coming to see us in his uniform; he was Joan’s and Jean’s dad, Roy Barrett.

Also my half-brother Henry Leland Barrett came to see us; he was in the Navy.

This the reason I remember Pearl Harbor; I have told that story all my life.

June 2, 2004
William (Bill) Barrett
Descendant of Reuben Barrett through his son, Joseph.


Our country was notified on December 7, 1941 that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor, a military base in Hawaii.  I was 7 years old, and was not fully aware of the impact that the war would have on us, but, as my sister Martha noted, we knew that something ominous had occurred because of the gravity of our father’s voice when he said, “We are at war.”

That was on a Sunday.  On Monday we had to go to school, and our principal called an assembly of all students, and told us that our country was at war.  We listened to a radio and heard President Roosevelt give his famous speech about the “day of Infamy.”  He would say “All we have to fear, is fear, itself.”

The small airport in Hatch was shut down for the duration of the war.  Many of the young men enlisted in the armed services, and those not granted deferments were soon drafted.

Farming was considered vital to the war effort, and some of our young men were given deferments, but eventually most of them were drafted, and farming was relegated to those not eligible for the armed services due to physical disabilities, or a classification of 4-F.  Those accepted for war duty were classified 1-A.  Farming was such an important economic factor in Hatch that many women were recruited to harvest the crops.

All of the civilians that we knew were asked to make some sort of sacrifice, and a nation-wide plan of rationing went into effect.  Every person was issued rationing stamps, and some of the products that I recall being rationed were sugar, shoes, and meat.  I was a vegetarian at that time, a fact that probably pleased the rest of my family.  We were entitled to two pair of shoes per year – a pattern which seemed to outlive the war.  My father was supporting five children.  Tires were rationed, as was gasoline; but Daddy was in a delivery business, and was exempt from such tight restrictions.

News of the war was available on the radio, and my father would hover over his little brown radio in the kitchen, listening at noon to hear of the day’s events.  He was not pleased with President Roosevelt, because Daddy was a Republican, and President Roosevelt was a Democrat.  Daddy was passionate about his Republicanism, and I recall two events which made my father very angry.  The Malta conference in 1945, and when President Roosevelt selected Henry Wallace to be his running mate.  Daddy was so angry that he threw his little brown radio across the room!

The picture show had newsreels which showed news clips of the war. We were able to see what President Roosevelt looked like, and also Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Emperor Hirohito, Tojo, Winston Churchill, and other names of interest at that time. (Incidentally, great care was taken not to reveal that President Roosevelt was crippled.)  We learned two new words: the Axis were our enemies, and this was Germany, Japan, and Italy. Allies were our friends, and this seemed to be everyone except the aforementioned countries.

Many popular songs were written about our GI’s, as we called our soldiers, and USO’s supplied entertainment to help their morale.

The war lasted four years, and fortunately for Americans, the battlegrounds never reached United States soil.  Many, many lives were lost on both sides.  We began to see victory in May, 1945, when Germany surrendered.  We dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, and Japan surrendered nine days later.

We were in Ruidoso, NM when we found out that we had won the war.  It was such a joyous occasion, with people dancing in the middle of the street.  Parades were held all over the country welcoming our boys home.

This was the one war in my lifetime that united the country, rather than dividing it.  Patriotism was at an all time high, and we were one nation, under God.  It is unfortunate that we in the United States have become so fractious – and most likely will never enjoy the same pride and unity again.

June 27, 2005
Patty Sharp
Member of our Georgetown Writing Group


My family lived extremely interesting lives during this part of our history and were involved in many and varied activities.  Fortunately I remember a few and the people who came in to our lives made lasting impressions on all of us.  
 The attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. declaration of war occurred the year after my birth.  I vaguely remember the war but my sister, Mary Ann, nineteen years older than I and my brother, John, seventeen years older, have been instrumental in keeping it all very personal for me. They are both still living and remain very alert and in good health.  

"Sister" had graduated at age twenty from Stetson College in Deland, Florida and was teaching history at Redland High School, our local senior high located between Miami and Homestead, Florida. "Bubba," my brother John, was a sophomore at the University of Florida.  Daddy was a tomato farmer and packing house owner while Mother was busy as a volunteer and home maker.

My brother tells me that when he heard that Pearl Harbor was attacked, he was in his ROTC Class.  It sent shock waves through the university especially since it was an all male school at the time. He called home, and my parents encouraged him to come home as planned for Christmas break, and then he and my father would make the decision as to which branch of service he would join rather than waiting to be drafted.

Ironically, my future brother-in-law, who was in his senior year at U.F., was also heading to South Florida to make that same decision with his parents. As it turned out, my brother wanted to join the Navy but ended up being accepted in to the Army Air Corps two days earlier. Thus, he jumped at the chance to become an aviator.  My future brother in law, Harvey Rue, joined the Army and was commissioned a second lieutenant.

I am not sure of the time frame at this point, but after France was invaded and occupied by the Germans, the future French pilots were sent to what had become Homestead Air Base to train along with our U.S. Army Air Corps.  Some of these pilots brought their wives with them, and several of those families moved close by our home. Mother and Daddy and my sister quickly befriended them and many interesting things occurred as a result of these friendships.

  Children were born to some of the couples and I remember attending my first Catholic Christening.  My sister and one of her single friends dated two of the French officers.  Sister dated Francois Darcon and Margie, her friend, dated Phillipe DeGaulle, son of the then-General Charles DeGaulle (later president of France). 

Many of these young and handsome men along with American pilots stationed at our base came often to our home.  I don't know how they managed but they brought gifts to my parents including French wines, silk stockings and perfumes for my mother and sister.  Two of my favorite gifts from these charming aviators were ceramic or porcelain animals and a tiny French/English dictionary. 

Sister has often commented on how wonderfully those young men treated her and her friends and I do remember how much my parents enjoyed having them around.  It must have made up for my brother's absence as he was off training at other bases, some in Florida including Miami Beach . He served most of his time in the states working with the new cadets in training.  I mentioned Miami Beach as an interesting side note...the hotels were taken over by our government and used for housing the G.I.s until they were to be shipped out.

A couple times during the war, my mother and sister and I drove from Homestead to Palm Beach where we would meet my sister's college room mate who would drive down from Ft. Pierce, Florida to meet us.  We would stay at the George Washington Hotel overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. Palm Beach was about as far north as we could drive without going over our gas allocation.  Daddy had his own gas tank in our back yard since we had farm equipment, so that must have made life much easier for us.

At any rate, there were tales of German submarines sending some of their men ashore.  That was scary in itself but having lived here in Palm Beach County myself for the last forty years I have read documentaries regarding this.  Apparently a few came ashore, passed themselves off as Americans and even drank with the locals in some of the Palm Beach night clubs and bars. 

Because of the need for vigilance along the East coast towns of Florida, each municipality had their own air raid warden.  I'm not sure what his title was but since my father had already served in World War I and since he owned his own business, he was chosen to enforce the black outs which had become compulsory for all of us.  That was frightening.

Mother and several of her friends would report to Homestead Air Base a few times a month to make bandages for the American Red Cross.  I got to help with that and I remember wearing a little Red Cross apron and cap as did my mother.

I also remember the rationing and the tin foil shortage.  Gum was wrapped in paper and any tin foil we got we rolled in to little balls.  Margarine was white, and yellow food coloring was provided to make it look more like butter.

The old radio at our house was quite large and held its place in an important part of the living room.  Everyone gathered around it several times a day for updates.  I remember the "news reels" that were shown before each movie at the local "picture show."  It was as updated as possible regarding the war, followed by a cartoon and then the main feature.  Homestead Air Base had its own theater too because I remember seeing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs there for the first time among a room full of G.I.s.  

 There are other things that come to mind but I should probably conclude by telling you that although South Florida, like the rest of our country, lost many of our boys,  thankfully God spared my brother John and protected my future brother in law, Harvey, as he fought the long hard winter Battle of the Bulge.  He has passed away since and I'm sorry I did not take the opportunity while I could to discuss this more with him.      

My father in law, Dr. Allen M. Logan, was one of two doctors in South Dade County, Florida.  He not only delivered me and was our family's doctor but he served on the draft board for the state of Florida.  My husband John and I have two of the letters of appreciation he received.  One is signed by President Franklin Roosevelt and one by President Harry Truman.  

 I do remember the war's end and the celebration we shared for days that followed. And, Karen, and cousins, I am enjoying reading your accounts of Pearl Harbor and what followed and look forward to reading more about our Barrett legacy.

June 28, 2004
Nancy Brown Logan
Descendant of Reuben Barrett through his son, Joseph


I remember the day that lives in infamy, but I remember the days and months that followed far better. My family lived not far from the town square in Huntsville, Texas. My father owned a barbers shop, and mother took care of the family. We were a close family; I am the youngest of ten kids. Two of the boys were in that war. Slick had joined the Army before Pearl Harbor and Roy, my brother just three years older than me, joined the Navy after. My sister, Altha, went to work in the Brown Shipyard, and my sister, Ina went to work as a Rosy Riveter for Lockheed.
I heard the news on the radio, as did everyone else in those days, no one had a TV. The news reports were scariest and vague. The coverage today on television is fast, and you have to take everything they say and think about whether it is true or just an opinion. Today, as in 1940’s, sometimes the facts of the story come later. The consequences of the war came later. The words that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor stunned everyone, but my mother was already worried that this would mean some of her boys would be going in harm’s way. It was a very somber day at our house. My mother’s friend came over that night; her son, Arthur, was in the merchant marines. All they could do was console each other.

The next day at school, we were all called to assemble to hear President Roosevelt say, “ December 7, 1941 will live in infamy.” Many months later these words were much more significant for me. I could now see what great peril our country and our way of life was in. I had seen pictures of the devastation at Pearl Harbor on the newsreels at the Town Theater. At home we were faced with rationing stamps for sugar, flour, shoes and four gallons of gas a week. Even elastic was rationed; my mother had to put buttons on the girls’ panties. She put coloring in the oleomargarine and put it in a butter mold in an effort to make my dad think it was real butter. Everything was going to our boys fighting over seas. The kids would go out on weekends to pick up scrap metal for the war effort. We also planted victory gardens. We were all doing our part to fight this war.

I am glad it was my generation that this happened to; we were children of the depression. We were a hardy people used to doing without. We were poor. Most people were poor. I am not sure my grandchildren could do without the comforts of today, but we did fine. In fact, I think it made us stronger, and love each other more. We were thankful for what we had. We were part of that great generation.

June 28, 2004
Billie Jo Gray
Descendant of Reuben Barrett through his son, David


December 7, 1941, was to be a special day for me. I was a teen-aged girl in the tenth grade at Jackson, MS. A handsome, blond boy had noticed me in the hall at school and asked me for a date to go with him and some of his friends to visit the National Park in Vicksburg on Sunday. I was so excited, he was called Cotton because of his blondness, he was a senior and he owned a green convertible. Not all families had cars back then and certainly not many High School students. Dressing and primping took all my time and the radio was not on.  

Finally they all came and three couples piled into the open car for our trip. Winters come late to central Mississippi, if they come at all, and the weather was pleasant. I do not recall the names of the other people, except Eddie. Eddie was raging, ready to fight. He said he was going to join the Navy the next day. That is when I learned the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.

We felt shock, anger and apprehension. There would surely be war. Pearl Harbor was the only topic of conversation all day, not much attention was paid to the monuments of another war that dot the Park.  

Monday, school went on, but not as usual. All we could talk about was war. A radio was brought into the class so we could hear our President speak. He began "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." He went on to say the Japanese had also attacked Malaya, Hong Kong, Guam, the Philippine Islands, Wake Island and Midway Island. There was severe damage to American naval and military forces at Pearl Harbor. Very many American lives were lost.  

Many of the boys suddenly became men way too soon. Education was put on hold and they went to fight for our country. Eddie was the first to go and Eddie was the first to die. We all wanted to do our part for the war effort.  

For months and years we accepted rationing of sugar, butter, coffee, meat, shoes, gasoline, fuel oil, silk, nylon, tires, even the color green since green dye contained chromium that was needed for the war. Victory gardens were planted in back yards to provide vegetables. Canned goods were scarce because the cans were steel. Toothpaste came in metal tubes and you had to return an empty tube to buy a new tube.  

There was an air base built at Hawkins field. In 1942, this became the home of the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School. Officers and men from the Dutch East Indies were stationed there. Once Princess Julianna came to visit, the Royal Dutch Standard flew over Hawkins Field and nowhere else on Earth. There were accidents and casualties as the Flyers trained. A large plot was sectioned off at Cedar Lawn Cemetery in Jackson where the men were buried. This section is officially Dutch territory.  

News came from radio broadcasts, newspapers and newsreels at the movies. Each day we looked with dread at the list of casualties of our hometown men. So many did not come back. I later learned that Cotton got home safe and sound.  

We got older, met new friends, went to work and some got married. There were men from many States stationed nearby. Camp Shelby was at Hattiesburg. Camp McCain was at Grenada, named for a famous Mississippian, John S. McCain, Sr., a distinguished Navy flyer and grandfather of Sen. John McCain of Arizona.  

No longer were people born, lived their entire life, and died, in the same community. The men returned from the war, went to school, raised a family, and became known as the Greatest Generation. They do not feel that way though. They felt there was a job to be done and they did it. There was unity, patriotism and an eagerness to help bring peace to a torn up world.  

When terrorists flew into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania on 9/11, I had feelings of shock and dismay just as I did on that long-ago Sunday in the Park.  

Yes, I remember Pearl Harbor.  

June 28, 2004
Gerry Dickens
Descendant of Reuben Barrett through his son Joseph and wife Rutha Cabiness Moore

The following memoirs are submitted by Joanna Scherer Schmidt, a member of our Georgetown Memoir Writing Group, and a retired public school administrator. The women she profiles are either relatives or long-time friends.


Every generation seems to have at least one major turning point that affects lives and causes lifestyle changes. Sometimes these turning points are the result of earth shattering events. Such an event occurred on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Because of this attack, the United States declared war on Japan and the stability of life in America was torn asunder. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with three women who remember that time. Their experiences, though different, encompass the same anxiety and trauma that was shared by Americans everywhere.

Anita was a young bride living on a ranch in the Texas Hill Country when the war broke out. She remembers that on the day of the Japanese attack, she, her husband and his parents were busy butchering a hog.

During the afternoon, she received a phone call from her mother in Georgetown telling her that her brother had been taken to the emergency room with a head injury. While he was working in the barn, a double treeused to harness animals to a wagon or farm implements, fell on him causing a gash in his head. Later in their conversation, she told Anita that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. At that point, Anita was more concerned about her brother than the bombing.

Things changed rapidly, however. Her life and the lives of all Americans became more difficult. Gas, sugar, tires and silk stockings were all rationed. Anita shared her rations with neighbors in need. She and her husband often rode in a horse drawn wagon to visit neighbors. At other times, they walked the miles to the social gatherings that were their entertainment.

They had no radio, so news of the war was scarce. Many of their friends and relatives joined the military. Anita recalls how difficult it was to see them leave. Later, when her husband was drafted, the war became even more real.

Fortunately, the peace treaty was signed just before he was to be shipped abroad.

Dawn remembers Pearl Harbor Day as a time of shock, unbelief and of thinking that the world would surely end. She began her teaching career in an elementary school in San Antonio in the fall of 1941.

In the Spring of 1942, she postponed her teaching career and began working in a war materials plant. She says she was a true “Rosie the Riveter”. After the war ended, she returned to teaching and worked for twenty seven years as an elementary school principal.
Dawn also recalls the war years as a time of shortages and rationing. She remembers that people did not complain about the hardships, but expressed a patriotism not previously displayed, and an attitude of “we’re doing it for our country”.

Many people lost loved ones, but they pitched in to help the war effort. Women who had been homemakers went to work and accepted the responsibility of running the country while their men were at war.

Emmie was a student at Santa Rosa School of Nursing when World War II began. She and a fellow student had decided months before that they would enlist in the military after graduation. After the attack, a new hospital was quickly built at Pearl Harbor to receive the war wounded.

From there, they were shipped to the Naval Hospital in California. Emmie and her friend enlisted and were sent to the Naval Base in San Diego in 1943.

They were stationed at the hospital there until their discharge in 1945. The young nurses experienced first hand the horror of what war did to the enlisted men of the United States. They treated the wounded and tried to do what they could to make their stay at the hospital as pleasant as possible.

Emmie made the best of circumstances and served her country proudly. She tells stories of adventures she and her fellow nurses had with patients in the wards.

One day, the nurses took a group of patients to the beach. They had a watermelon spiked with gin, and soon everyone began feeling happy and adventurous. The young men began playing on the beach, a problem since many of them were in casts, some full body casts. Sand got into the casts, and the next day they all had to be changed.

Pearl Harbor changed the lives of people all over the world. Like many women in the United States during the years of World War II, Anita, Dawn and Emmie gave what their circumstances and talents allowed. Their perseverance in the time of adversity was a strong influence in making them the strong women they are today.

Memoirs regarding events close to Pearl Harbor

by Don Stone

When I was seven years old in 1941, my mother Cheryll Wagner Stone showed me three one hundred dollar bills that she had saved from grocery money and photograph tinting. As hardly anyone had a bank account at the time, she kept these hidden on herself. This was carefully hoarded money to be used for a down payment on a house in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We had been living in a one room apartment near Hennepin Avenue and a short distance from downtown. Attached to the single room was a closet converted into a small kitchen which had a stove and ice box. During the summer, an ice man would bring ice up the stairs to our apartment carrying it with tongs over his shoulder. He would slam the one foot cube into the top of the ice box.

Mom finally found a house for sale on 3544 Longfellow Avenue with two stories, a full basement, a floored attic and a two car garage. Even the garage had a basement used for storage. We were really excited about our new accommodations. Mom arranged a contract to buy the house for $3,000 with $300 as a down payment and the balance to be paid in $25 monthly installments. Then, she decided to rent out one of the larger rooms upstairs for $25 per month. Among our renters in 1941 were a divorced Irish lady and her daughter Patricia. It didn’t take long for the beautiful Pat Moran to find a young blond boyfriend who happened to look skinny and pasty white.

The attack on Pearl Harbor took place shortly after we had moved into our new home. Up until that time, it seemed as if we had been living in an age of peaceful innocence. We knew poverty and eked our way along eating Wonder Bread, listening to the Lone Ranger on radio and spending an occasional Sunday afternoon watching two silver commercial planes take flight at Wold-Chamberlin Airport. The only other planes stored there were seven Piper Cubs owned by some local rich people who we thought were doctors and dentists.

December 7, 1941 changed our world. We found ourselves at war on two fronts. Wold Chamberlin Airport became a major naval air base having long rows of blue planes with fold-up wings. A captured German Messerschmidt was displayed for crowds to review. War Bonds were raised in the hangers as celebrities encouraged civilians to invest in our Country. Pat’s young boy friend volunteered in the Marines. When he returned home, he was bronzed, muscular and tattoo tough. He served in the Pacific, was on Guadalcanal and fought in other significant battles against the Japanese.

My family discussed the War every week as we met at either our new house, or with uncle Bug Wagner or uncle Russ Olsen. Soon thereafter, uncle Russ was drafted in the army and served fully four years including active duty in Italy and France. Uncle Russ returned home to his wife Rosy and their war baby Dickie.

At the home front, we had a scrap drive to relieve the shortage of metal, and there is a photograph showing me by a pile of scrap including the remains of an old iron push mower.

I am wearing a dark blue sweat shirt with white lettering across my chest stating “Remember Pearl Harbor.”

Don Stone
July 9, 2004
Friend; descendant of a Salem witch accuser
Member of Sons of the American Revolution in Conroe

My Recollections of Pearl Harbor
By Isabell Marek Kaltwasser

December 7th, 1941, was a Sunday which was destined to become an important date in U.S. history. I was twenty years old and still living at home with my parents. We had just finished our noon meal and were resting and listening to the radio when about 1:00 P.M. and announcer broke in with a news announcement – the Japanese Air Force was attacking the U.S. Naval ships stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; also strafing air fields and other military installations.

Of course, we all began to listen intently as the announcements came in fast and furious. It was about 7:55 A.M. in Hawaii when the surprise attack began which President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would call “a day that will live in infamy.”

O course as we listened, we realized that our country was finally at war and that things would become quite different in the days to come. There was an immediate blackout on the West Coast for fear that the Japanese would try to attack the mainland.

The next day following the attack on Pearl Harbor and after other attacks through the South seas – Guam, the Philippines, etc., President Roosevelt declared war against Japan and the Axis Powers.

Little did we know at the time that it would be four years – September 2, 1945 – before the war would end with the signing of a peace treaty with Japan. It was three days before my marriage to A.C. Kaltwasser.

Isabell Marek Kaltwasser

First Cousin, my mother's niece

Recollections of A.C. Kaltwasser

I was in my junior year at Texas A&M. My friends and I went to the movies that were shown at Guion Hall, which was typical of a Sunday on campus.

When we came out of the campus theater, which was about 2:30 P.M., signs were already hanging on sheets from the dormitory windows that said, “Beat the Hell out of Japan.”

We realized that while we were in the theater, word had broken that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, and the U.S. was at war.

The next year the campus was gutted of students because so many had joined the military or were drafted.

By Dr. A. C. Kaltwasser, DVM
Husband of my first cousin, Isabell Marek


I was a little kid in the 3rd grade, much more in tune with crawdads and stilts than wars and bad news.  I had no idea what or where Pearl Harbor was, and the first word I heard was from other kids during recess on Monday morning.  How I could have missed knowing for that long is probably another story, but I did, and when I did hear about it nothing much changed for me, at least not right then.

By January things started to change.  I had two half-brothers quite a bit older than I, whom I adored and idolized.  They were my heroes.  The younger had served not too long before aboard the USS Pennsylvania.  In January the two of them enlisted in the Marines.  Soon they were gone, and things started to get more serious, very serious in fact, for me.

Much later I learned that a psychologist was looking me over because I would not go to school.  I would start to school and then start crying.  I probably missed about six weeks of school during the fourth  grade.  I was pretty unaware of what was happening with me, or else there are some times and situations I've repressed.  Our mother told me years later that I had become convinced that I would never see my brothers again.

Becoming involved in projects, collecting scrap metal, singing songs, knitting quilt squares, and many other activities, helped me cope with my fear and confusion.  After fourth grade while visiting my grandparents in southern Wisconsin I went to a band concert in the park.  Afterward I ran home joyfully to tell my mom that I had sung the Marine's Hymn all the way through without crying.

When the war was over, I learned that my fear of losing my brothers was not too far off the mark.  But a miss is as good as a mile.

By Jack Reynolds
Husband of Ginny McCann
Descendant of Andrew V. McCan


I was called to active duty in World War II by the U. S. Navy in the late fall of 1940. At that time, I had just completed my freshman year at Yale, at which time I had just served eight months in the NROTC (Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps). I had to report immediately in full officer's uniform to the Captain of a destroyer in Recife, Brazil, of all places. I flew there in a DC3, crossing the Amazon with the other Naval personnel.

We left the dock immediately the next day to report at an undisclosed position in the South Atlantic with approximately 350 ships of all types. The Captain immediately gave me the title of "Assistant Navigator" and put me in charge of the "CIC"...the Combat Information Center. Our task was for this convoy to proceed and land troops on the beaches of North Africa, which was then occupied by the Nazis!!

After five days out we were attacked by two fleets of German "U" Boats simultaniously. One "U" Boat fleet drew all of us to the starboard side of the convoy; meanwhile, the other "U" Boat fleet attacked us on the port side with torpedoes and sank the first and only aircraft carrier in the North Atlantic named the "Long Island."

By Peter W. Morton
October 25, 1904
Sun City Memoir Writing Class

On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, killing more than 2,300 Americans. The U.S.S. Arizona was completely destroyed and the U.S.S. Oklahoma capsized.

The attack sank three other ships and damaged many additional vessels. More than 180 aircraft were destroyed. The surprise attack came at sunrise. The next day, they attacked Guam and Wake Island; and the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain declared war on Japan and Germany.  

 Valerie Maris Taylor is in her 80's now. This is her memory the bombing of Pearl Harbor:  

At the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, my husband, Jack, was in the Army Air Corps stationed somewhere in the Carribean, Jamaica I think. He had been in Cuba.  Pearl Harbor was bombed the day before our daughter’s first birthday. War was declared on her birthday.

The bombing was a great surprise to everyone. I only had a radio, but it wasn’t turned off for several days. I was scared for my husband’s life. It never occurred to me that the USA was in any danger. Daughter and I were living in Baytown, Texas, in a garage apartment. We didn’t have a car, so we walked to the Post Office every day to get the mail. If there were no mail in the morning, we went back in the evening.

When we finally got mail from Jack, we would rest a few days. Then we would start our routine all over again. Daughter did walk the whole way; she LOVED it. She was 17 months old, when her daddy finally got to come home on leave.

Shortly after war was declared, they began rationing shoes, sugar, canned cream, etc. You couldn’t buy electrical appliances. I borrowed an old electric iron from my mother-in-law, and bought an icebox. I had a card to put in the window to tell the iceman how much ice to bring. 

I was only 19 years old and had been married for 22 months. I wasn’t really concerned about what would happen to me. The real concern was for Jack. I was worried they would bomb the island he was on which was the oil and gas depot for the planes.

Valerie's daughter adds: My dad came home from the war safely. He never talked about his time there but he had the confidence and bravado that is won by those who leave as young men and return as seasoned veterans. He also served in the Korean War and retired from the Air Force after twenty years of service.

Submitted by Jackie Taylor Switzer
from an interview with her mother in June, 2004.

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