Rabbit Hole: Interviews After the Day of Infamy

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.

All images via the US National Archives.

Related: Happy Liberation Day: Battle of Guam – July 21, 1944

Down the Rabbit Hole: Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information

23/08/2011 § Leave a comment

Granted, I tend to feature a lot of sepia and black and white photography, due only to my personal preference.  (This is my own little dictatorship, after all…) But every now and again, I do come across color photographs that I like just as much.  In my recent travels through the Library of Congress I found a cache of photos that had my attention for hours.

Photographers working for the U.S. government’s Farm Security Administration (FSA) and later the Office of War Information (OWI) between 1939 and 1944 made approximately 1,600 color photographs that depict life in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Roy Stryker led the FSA unit during its active years and played a key role in the OWI unit in 1942-43.

The 644 color photographs produced by the FSA are less well known and far less extensive than the unit’s black-and-white photographs. Most of the color images are 35mm Kodachrome slides; a few are color transparencies in sizes up to 4×5-inches. The FSA color photographs depict life in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, with a focus on rural areas and farm labor.

The 965 color photographs from the OWI are color transparencies in sizes up to 4×5-inches. The photographs depicted life and culture in the U.S., with a focus on factories and women employees, railroads, aviation training, and other aspects of World War II mobilization.  (Via the Library of Congress)

Now, these photos aren’t new to Blogville, but I was entranced and still wanted to share a few with you.  The people are arresting and the landscapes are beautiful, especially when presented in lush, Kodachrome color.  How can you not look at these pictures and wonder about these American lives, lived 70 years ago.  Why are they wearing what they are wearing?  Where did they come from?  Where did they end up?

If you’d like to do your own wandering through all 1,600, you can find them here.

Happy Liberation Day: Battle of Guam – July 21, 1944

20/07/2011 § 5 Comments

First US flag on Guam on boat hook mast being staked in ground by 2 US officers on Guam 8 minutes after US Marines & Army assault troops landed on Central Pacific island during WWII.  Taken July 20, 1944, via LIFE.

July 21 marks the 67th anniversary of the Battle of Guam, considered the official date America regained possession of the island of Guam, during World War II.  Guam, the largest of the the Mariana Islands, remains a US territory to this day.  Lasting over two weeks, the battle was difficult, but the victory was decisive.  The day is celebrated as Liberation Day in Guam.

Now, why do I know this?  Purely self interest.  Because my paternal grandfather fought in the Pacific Theatre during World War II, was stationed in Guam, met my grandmother-to-be there (a pretty native Chamorro hula girl), and fell in love.  Unfortunately, I was never able to meet my grandfather, as he passed away when my own father was a boy, so I did not get to hear his wartime stories.  I did, however, hear stories from my grandmother, who has also passed, about her harrowing experiences during the Japanese occupation.

And so, I wanted to share a bit of history as I remember both my grandparents and celebrate the liberation of a place that I am yet to see with my own eyes.  Of course, I’m also deeply thankful to the servicemen and women like my grandfather who sacrificed so much to recapture this tiny speck in the South Pacific.

Happy Liberation Day!

Photos from the LIFE Archives from the Battle of Guam

Last image via US National Archives.

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