I was seven years old when this news was broadcast on CBS:
We interrupt this programme to bring you a special news bulletin. The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by air, President Roosevelt has just announced. The attack, also, was made on all naval and military activities on the principal island of Oahu.
I still remember feeling that my quiet world of listening to Sunday afternoon radio shows had come to an end. Something terrible was happening and our lives would be inexorably transformed in every detail. It was my first experience with a paradigm shift of great magnitude.
As a seven year-old boy, my interests had been confined to home and school. With the outbreak of war, I became aware of other nations and of a whole lot of ugly events which had been previously hidden from me.
As the war went on, it was a shock to find out that atrocities had been committed for many years in the Far East and in Europe while we had been living splendidly isolated lives in middle America. While we had been working our way out of the Great Depression and struggling to live an upwardly mobile life, people elsewhere were being brutally oppressed and slaughtered.
By the time I was twelve, we were well used to rationing, scrap drives, and not seeing Dad for long periods of time because long hours spent on Defense work at his plant. It was then that I first saw those searing images of man’s inhumanity to man at Auschwitz, Belsen and elsewhere.
If America had not been thrust abruptly into war by the attack at Pearl Harbor, who knows what may have happened? Certainly there were those in the US who favored peace at any price. There were many like Neville Chamberlain who felt in 1938 that appeasement was an appropriate solution for warding off an aggressor.
Similar sentiments were rampant in the US until the events of December 7, 1941. There has even been the suggestion that FDR was fully aware of the looming disaster but could not mobilize public opinion because of strong isolationist sentiments in high places.
As the saying goes, “What does not kill you makes you stronger.” We seemed to have learned from our past experience that raving insanity in distant places is best handled while it is a small problem. Even though we don’t speak with one voice, there is the distinct possibility that the truth will emerge (via weblogs at least) and will continue to set us free.