07/12/2011 § Leave a comment
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, in which 2,402 Americans were killed, and 1,282 were wounded. Japanese planes inflicted heavy damages to the US Pacific Fleet stationed in Hawaii, particularly to her battleships: all eight were damaged, four were sunk, and two were never to be raised again — the Arizona and the Oklahoma. In an instant, the isolationism that had dominated US politics and popular sentiment vanished and America was galvanized to war.
The following day President Roosevelt requested (and immediately received) a Congressional declaration of war on Japan in what has become known as his Day of Infamy speech. That same day, the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center), dispatched their fieldworkers to collect “man on the street” reactions to both the attack and the declaration of war. By February 1942, fieldworkers had recorded over twelve hours of opinions from more than two hundred individuals across the country. Touching on topics such as race relations and national pride, the interviews are a revealing look at the American state of mind in the wake of Pearl Harbor.
Head here to listen to these interviews for yourself, courtesy of the US National Archives. You will find them cross-referenced by subject, name and location.
Personally, I found these interviews to be quite the rabbit hole and I am sure you will also find this to be the case. I have a close connection to the Pacific Theatre, as both my grandfathers served there and one of my grandmothers was born and raised in Guam. I have been to the USS Arizona, the battleship still quietly sleeping at the bottom of Pearl Harbor with over 1,000 souls entombed. It is amazing to have the opportunity to hear exactly what Americans thought and felt in those bewildering months, without the filter of nostalgic memories.
USS Arizona, sinking in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
She was born in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.