The North Bend Eagle


Day still lives in infamy 70 years later

by Katie Mattson
Published 12/7/11

Dec. 7, 1941. A day that began no differently then any other, but before its end would mark a shocking event that forever changed the United States.

It was on this date that the Imperial Japanese Navy staged a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. Five U.S. battleships sank or were severely damaged. Several hundred warplanes were destroyed and more than 2,400 people died. In a historic speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called it “a date which will live in infamy.” Until that time Roosevelt had resisted joining the war effort in Europe and had even made public speeches about not sending American men to “fight a European war.” But all that changed when the choice as to whether or not the U.S. would join the world-scale efforts was made for us.

As the United States prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, a few North Bend area residents who lived the experience were asked to recall where they were and how life changed after the most devastating foreign attack on U.S. soil up until that point.

Mildred Emanuel, 91, North Bend

“It was just an ordinary Sunday. We attended mass and after had Sunday dinner. I got together with some of my girl friends in the afternoon and was looking forward to a date that evening - a movie in West Point.

“In the house my dad had the radio blaring as usual with war news. Typical of a 21-year old, my attitude was a bit ‘fiddle-dee-dee-dee’ like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. We had been hearing about the European war for two years already and it seemed so remote. Plus the exact news of what had happened hadn’t quite broken to us.

“After the movie that night we stopped by the local cafe and met with my older brother, Al, and his date. Al was very concerned and alarmed. It was actually from him that I heard about the attacks and about war being declared. On Monday - listening to the radio - reality set in that it could involve my brothers, my boyfriend, the neighbors, cousins. And eventually it did. Two of my brothers, my then fiance, a third younger brother, were all sent overseas with military forces in the occupation of Europe. I remember that there were only two others from this neighborhood sent away, because in a farming community feeding the troops was a very important war effort as well, so many farm workers were exempt from the draft.”

Cecilia Powers, 90, North Bend

“I was actually in the West Point hospital recovering from surgery on Dec. 7. As you can imagine, I don’t remember a lot from that day and I didn’t care too much. Someone came to visit and told me about the attack. This was before Greg and I were married. I didn’t have anyone close to me in the service at that time. After that, however, lots of our friends began getting drafted and I started to take an interest in news about the war efforts.”

Gene Emanuel, 82, North Bend

“I was beginning high school at that time. I remember it was the day before a Holy Day, and I heard about the attack on the radio. Couldn’t hardly believe it. I didn’t think that the enemy would be attacking us. Afterward, I listened to the news intently, and read the papers thoroughly.”

Jean Groff, 90, Morse Bluff

“In reality I don’t remember how I heard about Pearl Harbor, I really don’t. I was in school in Kentfield, Calif. at Marin Junior College. The day itself doesn’t stand out, but I do remember a lot about what happened after...the blackouts, gas shortages, not being able to take certain types of transportation. It changed life.”

Even those old enough to remember Pearl Harbor are few and the personal experiences were different for everyone, the aftermath was the same - a country thrust into war and its people forever changed.

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