This is a day to honor the men and women who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor. I have difficulty holding back my tears. I was 10 years-old on December 7, 1941, living in Sioux City, Iowa. I had the chickenpox, and I was listening to Elmer’s Tune on my new victrola, an early Christmas gift because I was sick. When the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor came over the radio, it felt like time stopped. My life as I knew it was reset to zero.
My father immediately tried to enlist in the Army, but was a year too old to fight. The country was gearing up for the war effort, and jobs were rumored to be opening up around the country. Everyone said stay away from the west coast, because the Japanese might attack there next. But my mother loved the idea of Hollywood, so we set our sights on California. My dad and four friends crowded into his green ’39 Ford and drove non-stop to San Diego to find work in defense plants.
My mother and I stayed behind in Sioux Falls with no money to pay the rent on our small flat. We moved to a rooming house—one cramped room across the street from a roller rink—and lived from hand to mouth. The roller rink sign flashed in the window all night.
Dad didn’t like San Diego, and when jobs didn’t materialize, he left his friends and drove to L.A. At last he found a job in L.A., and after six agonizing months, sent for us. Our train was continually sidetracked by troop trains, and took five days to reach Los Angeles’ Union Station. It was warm, there were palm trees, and everyone seemed to be wearing sunglasses. Despite the hardship and terror of the war, it looked like heaven. I took to L.A. like a fish to water. For me, like so many, WW II was a defining moment in life and history.
Ironically, today President Biden confronted Vladimir Putin of Russia over the threat of Russia’s imminent invasion of Ukraine. On the anniversary of the last world war, it feels like we’re on the doorstep of another. Biden has taken a hard line, as he should. Now Putin needs to decide if he feels really lucky. I don’t think it’s a good idea to play brinksmanship with Joe Biden.
There has been scant mention of Pearl Harbor on tv today, and that is sad. We might learn something about the future, if we only would pay attention to the past. RIP brave souls entombed in Pearl Harbor’s warm waters. Your sacrifice was not in vain.
Hon. Col. Mamie Van Doren