by hank mulder
"December 7, 1941...a date which will live in infamy." With these somber words, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt informs a stunned American public of the unthinkable, a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
It is a peaceful Sunday morning at the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, the American center for military action in the Pacific Ocean. The sun is beginning to rise over Oahu, Hawaii, and many of the islanders are waking up for their breakfast. No one is prepared for what is about to happen.
During the preceding 24 hours, a Japanese strike force under the command of Admiral Chuichi Nagumo had been bearing down on the US base in Hawaii. At the same time, other Japanese units will simultaneously invade the Phillipines, Guam, the Marianas, Thailand, Hong Kong and Malaya.
Now with complete surprise, a large number of Japanese naval aircraft having taken off from their respective carriers unleash a firestorm over the unprepared harbor with its fleet of floating naval armor. The carnage is beyond belief.
When it is all over, Pearl Harbor is almost completely destroyed. Four battleships are sunk and fifteen others are seriously damaged. 2,403 people are dead. Particularly devastating is the sinking of the USS Arizona. She is the pride of the fleet.
In the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, a reluctant America now decides to become fully involved in the War. For years to come, the events surrounding the attack and the unwillingness to acknowledge the threat beforehand, will be debated at great length.
The assault on Pearl Harbor is the culmination of many other events that marked the second year of the War in Europe. The population of the U.S. is now 133,402,471.
In 1941, women can expect to reach the age of just over 68 years while men can expect to live to an average of nearly 63 years. The median salary is $1,400. and a loaf of bread costs 12 cents. A pound of butter goes for 43 cents, a dozen eggs, 37 cents and a quart of milk costs 16 cents.
The popular singers called "crooners", include Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dinah Shore, Connie Boswell, Tony Martin and Perry Como. Other popular entertainers are Vera Lynn, The King Sisters and Tony Pastor. Big Bands are all the rage and include orchestras led by Charlie Kunz, Harry James, Freddy Martin, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman.
The Acadamy Award winning movie of 1941 is 'How Green Was My Valley. It features Walter Pidgeon and Maureen O'Hara in the lead roles. Also popular are 'Sergeant York' featuring Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan, 'The Maltese Falcon' with Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade and Mary Astor, 'The Lady Eve' starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda, and Walt Disney's animated 'Fantasia'.
Finally, there is 'Citizen Kane'. This controversial motion picture is the creation of Orson Welles who also stars in the title role. Agnes Moorehead is one of the co-stars. Rumor has it that it is loosely based on the life of newspaper tycoon, William Randolph Hearst. Hearst is furious.
To Other News
On March 7, New York City records an 18.1 inch snowfall. It is the third largest on record. On the 16th, a blizzard that hits North Dakota and Minnesota causes 60 deaths. On the 22nd, Grand Coulee Dam begins producing electric power.
On April 12, Charles Lindbergh leads an America First rally in New York City. Lindbergh's assertion that America should stay out of the war because "it is obvious that England is losing the war" does not endear him to many of his former fans.
Later in the year he states in a speech that "the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration" are trying to draw the U.S. into World War II. He urges Jewish groups to oppose the prospect of war instead of "agitating" for it.
On May 1, General Mills introduces "Cheerios" breakfast cereal to the American public. In a marketing stumble they initially call them "Cheerioats". Beakfast will never be the same.
On May 6, the Soviet armed forces get a new leader. His real name is Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili, but he has changed it to J. V. Stalin, "man of steel". The name seems to fit. Already the defacto leader of the Russian state he now assumes complete control.
On May 10, the German Luftwaffe strikes London with fire bombs. England's House of Commons and Holborn Theater are destroyed. Meanwhile, in one of the more bizarre events of the war, Adolf Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess, parachutes himself into Scotland on what he claims is a peace mission.
Battle of the Titans
Three days later, using a flotilla of eight battleships and battle cruisers, two aircraft carriers, 11 cruisers, 21 destroyers, and six submarines, the British in turn manage to locate and send the mighty Bismarck to the bottom off the coast of France. 2,300 German sailors perish in the attack.
On June 16, President Roosevelt orders the closure of all German consulates in the United States. June 22, Germany invades Russia. On July 26, the President freezes Japanese assets in the United States and suspends relations with that country. British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill introduces the "V" for victory salute.
August 20, Adolf Hitler authorizes the development of the V-2 missile. A liquid fuelled rocket with a warhead, the "V" stands for vengeance. On the 21st, the US launches its first Liberty-ship, the "Patrick Henry". On October 3, Adolf Hitler declares in a speech in Berlin that Russia has been "broken" and will "never rise again."
On October 27, the "Chicago Daily Tribune" delivers herself of the opinion that war with Japan is "impossible". In an editorial the Tribune declares that "She cannot attack us. That is a military impossibility. Even our base at Hawaii is beyond the effective striking power of her fleet."
While it becomes increasingly difficult to find any stories not related to the war, a monumental event takes place in the Black Hills of South Dakota. On October 31, the Mount Rushmore monument is finally finished. Honoring Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and 'Teddy' Roosevelt, it is completed at last, by Gutzon Borglum's son James. The senior Borglum had died eight months before, without seeing the final results of his years of toil.
On November 1, the Rainbow Bridge opens to traffic across the Niagara River. Situated a short distance below the spectacular falls, the elegant structure joins Niagara Falls, New York with her counterpart in Ontario, Canada. On the 26th, a Japanese carrier force secretly leaves base and moves east. Its destination... Pearl Harbor!
Also on the 26th, Lebanon gains her independence from France. On December 6, President Roosevelt sends a message to Japanese Emperor Hirohito expressing the hope that gathering war clouds will be dispelled. One day later, Pearl Harbor is utterly devastated by a Japanese assault.
Two days later in Ottawa, Canada he delivers yet another speech in which he intones, "Herr Hitler thought that England would have her neck wrung like a chicken. Some chicken, some neck."
The year is 1941! Looking back, it was an amazing year.