December 7, 1941. Sunday afternoon. I was out in the woods roaming around with my buds anticipating Christmas and Santa. I came home late that day. My mom and dad were sitting quietly listening to the radio. That was odd. My parents were ALWAYS working at something. I asked them what was going on. They told me, “The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor and killed a lot of sailors.” What? We didn’t even know where (or what) Pearl Harbor was! But we listened to the radio for the rest of the evening as the news came in.
The next day, the president, FDR, (everyone in the south thought of Roosevelt as sitting on the right hand of God) made his famous speech in congress calling the sneak attack of the Japs on Hawaii as “A day that will live in infamy.” Almost immediately a country that had watched the Nazis rolling over Europe and was “lend-leasing” tons of war materials to Britain, was at war on two sides of the globe.
It was a scary time. A Japanese submarine rose to the surface off the California coast and lobbed shells into Oakland. There was a serious thought that the Japanese would invade our west coast. The enemy did come close. A Nazi sub in the Gulf of Mexico sank merchant ships leaving the Mississippi delta. The same thing happened off the northeast coast of the U.S. We hung black cloth over the windows at night because “black out” conditions existed.
Almost immediately America mobilized. The Ford Motor Company quit turning out cars, converted the assembly lines, and ultimately reached an unbelievable miracle of turning out a B-24 bomber EVERY HOUR, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In almost every house little “Blue Star” flags started appearing in front windows indicating that a member of that family was in the military. Sadly, many of those were replaced by a Gold Star when that family member had died in the service.
For a little over four years this country went from peacetime to defeating both Germany and Japan. And we did it without confiscating any territory, but just because it was the RIGHT thing to do. And then those vets came home. They didn’t talk about the war. They went back to school, got jobs, married their high school sweethearts, bought a little house and raised some kids. They were good patriot citizens.
Those old vets, now in their 90s, are dying at a rate of 3 or 4 thousand a year now, and soon they will all be gone. But we should never forget – they really were THE GREATEST GENERATION. This nation can do anything when it is the United states of America.