December 13, 1941 – almost a week since the U.S. got involved in the War, it was now a World War. And suddenly, America was preoccupied with reports, stories, facts and figures. What were we supposed to do now? Prior to this, America took tacit interest in what was going on in Europe. Most Americans felt it was “their war” and not ours. And even though the reports were harrowing and at times grim, there was enough perceived distance, along with a certain “maybe tomorrow” attitude over our eventual involvement that it seemed far enough off not to be too concerned.
That changed. And from our Declaration of War on December 8th onward, we took every report, every bulletin and every claim with dead-seriousness. News reports of victories were stressed – our defenses in the Pacific were impregnable – even our Russian friends were gaining huge advances against the German armies on the Eastern Front. But despite that, there were still reports, as the one regarding Japanese engagements in the Far East, that it was so distant as to not be all that important – but those were becoming fewer and farther between.
The concern on this day, as it was on previous days, was the threat of an attack on American soil. Civil Defense was running at fever-pitch. Reports, mostly unconfirmed, of enemy planes spotted over the West Coast prompted a wave of preparations and precautions. Some seemed to border on paranoia – the report that all telegrams sent to Mexico were to be censored because one telegram sent from California to Mexico City was in Spanish only added to this sense of fear and dread.
News of Draftees being called up – and those not of draftable age or exempt from armed service were urged to enlist in Civil Defense creating a new sense of alarm to go along with this new determination that we were in the war, and would be in the war for a long time.
And that was how the news went, this December 13, 1941 as reported over the Red and Blue Networks of NBC Radio.