Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941 – otherwise known as the Day Of Infamy. A surprise attack on the U.S. Naval base in Hawaii by Japanese carrier-based fighter planes and bombers. The act which drove the U.S. into joining its other allies and ushering in our complete involvement in World War 2. Shortly after the initial attack came news of others throughout the Pacific region, including Guam and Manila in The Philippines. The initial attack brought heavy losses in lives and a heavy toll on our Naval force. Reports were coming in so thick and fast that it was hard to keep track of what was going on where. With the news reports also came the commentaries, once it was determined regularly scheduled radio programming was abandoned, and it was speculated these attacks had been planned for weeks, if not months in advance and that it implied something bigger was in the offing.
The fears were it meant an invasion of Hawaii, and further fears that it meant an invasion of the mainland U.S., as radio reports from ships between Hawaii and the California coast indicated sightings of submarines and Japanese warships.
In the first few hours, and indeed throughout the first few days, it was unclear as to what extent this attack was taking place – what was the primary objective.
Emergency measures were implemented – cities were blacked out, all military personnel were ordered into uniform and to their respective bases and everyone waited for the next shoe to drop. Suddenly, every city and town in America went from peace to War within hours.
It’s ironic that, some 60 years later, another surprise attack brought about the same confusion, the same fears and the same responses. Although in 1941, the thought of War had been the prevailing eventuality for a long time. In 2001, the act of Terrorism took everyone by complete surprise. But the loss of life and the fears it meant something darker and more dangerous were the same in 1941 as they were in 2001.
As a reminder of uncertain days, and how they have occurred in history, here is the initial (and very bad sounding) bulletin, followed by better sounding reports as the story unfolded on December 7, 1941 via NBC Radio.