Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sunday December 7, 1941

I once asked my mother about her recollections of December 7, 1941 and she related how she heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Her family lived in Oak Park, it was less than a week before her seventh birthday and she was riding home from Sunday afternoon supper at the home of one of her Aunts in her father's Cadillac (one of his best friend's was in GM's Cadillac Division). The news announcement came over the radio as they drove north on Oak Park Ave. and she said that her parents were shaken, her father had to pull the car over while her mother broke down in tears.

My mother had a few uncles who went overseas including one who "flew the hump" and one who fought under Patton in Europe. I'll never forget the German Luger that one of my Great Uncles came home with. My Grandparents probably didn't think of it that afternoon but rationing was just about to start, those old War Ration Books can put that aspect of war time in perspective for us who did not live through it. Just about everything was rationed, gasoline and rubber were on top that ration list meaning that automobile use was very low. My mother has told the story of two older sisters who lived together in Oak Park who owned a very early electric car, because it did not use gas and it used hard rubber tires those two ladies were about the only people out on the roads of Oak Park until after the war. She said that you could walk down North Avenue and one of the few cars that you might see was that old electric carrying two elderly women in their driving hats, what an image.
Update: The Sun Times has an interesting timeline of the day's reporting from Chicago:
CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM Yellowed dispatches spell out how city reacted that fateful day
December 7, 2008
Sixty-seven years ago, Pearl Harbor erupted in flames.
In Chicago, another, much smaller fire was breaking out at the hands of the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941. At the Japanese Consulate at 435 N. Michigan, officials frantically burned official papers as reporters shouted questions.
ยป Click to enlarge image
An employee of the Japanese Consulate here destroys documents on Dec. 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. (Sun-Times file)
"I believe the bombing of Honolulu was a mistake,'' the Chicago consul, Kihachiro Ohmori, told them. "Personally, I bear no malice toward the United States.''

That account is included in a fascinating file in the research library of the Chicago History Museum -- a yellowing, 108-page collection, held together with a single copper clip, of the day's dispatches by the City News Bureau, the former local wire service. The collection begins with the humdrum details of Chicago: A tool-grinder is shot at 3940 W. Madison; a car accident occurs at 140th and Torrence.
The first mention of the Pearl Harbor attack comes at 3:25 p.m. -- a report that the head of the local Army intelligence office was en route to his office and that the FBI had no comment. Then:
5:33 p.m.: Bulletin: The Japanese consul is at his office.
5:43 p.m.: Local military officials gather at the downtown post office.
5:57 p.m.: Consul Ohmori responds "no" to the question, "Do you think Japan will win?" He also answers "no" when asked, "Do you think the United States will win?"
6:16 p.m.: Army Pvt. Edward Lesniewski, 22, of 10648 Ewing, home from Hawaii on furlough, says, "I don't think the Japanese caught us entirely by surprise. We've been training for such a situation too long.''
6:45 p.m.: Navy Rear Adm. John Downes said Great Lakes naval training station is ready. "The Navy has been preparing for any eventuality for many months. ... We have been attacked. We have but one recourse.''
6:47 p.m.: John M. Landers, AWOL from the Army, turns himself in to police at the Warren Avenue station, saying, "I want to go back" and fight the Japanese.
7:06 p.m.: Police Commissioner James P. Allman orders officers to guard "all institutions that may be subject to sabotage such as water, gas and electric plants.''
7:30 p.m.: Allman orders that all Japanese "meeting places" be closed.
7:52 p.m.: At a servicemen's club at 176 W. Washington, Martin Rich, 21, of Miami, declares, "We'll kick their teeth in.''
8:10 p.m.: Berry T. Ono, owner of two Japanese gift shops in Chicago, says the Japanese people back home don't want to fight, but "the military faction which is in power is pushing the country into a war that will bring it to ruin.''
8:38 p.m.: Police close Japanese Congregational Church, 214 W. Oak.
8:53 p.m.: Brig. Gen. John Clinnin, commander of the Illinois Reserve Militia, predicts the war will unify America: "Now there will be no racial or color discrimination. We're all in this together.''
9:05 p.m.: Local military recruiting officers say they are receiving hundreds of inquiries.
9:52 p.m.: Chicago Mayor Edward J. Kelly calls the Japanese "godless gangsters." Says Kelly: "They have forced the fight; they must take the consequences. Chicago is prepared and coordinated for this greatest of all crisis.''
10:10 p.m.: Four windows are smashed at Oriental Trading Co., 4133 W. Madison. "If they intend to take out their grudge on Japan by breaking out my windows, I'll just have to bear it,'' says the store owner. "I really don't blame them.''
11:25 p.m.: "Faith will carry us through this crisis,'' Justin W. Nixon of Colgate-Rochester Divinity School tells the Chicago Evening Club at Orchestra Hall.
Midnight: Officials say they will prevent saboteurs from derailing L lines "but declined to state the exact nature of those precautions.'' Federal authorities order railroads and bus lines to sell no tickets to Japanese.

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