Friday, December 9, 2011

Pearl Harbor Day Reflections

When the Twin Towers were struck and fell on my birthday ten years ago, 9/11 was immediately being compared to another Day of Infamy sixty years earlier. What’s striking about the two events is how differently the news reached us. In 2001 Americans across the land were glued to their TV sets seeing replays of the horror and hearing commentaries of related unfolding events as they happened, with varying degrees of accuracy but instantly. With Internet access we could also watch reactions from around the world. Information about the 1941 attack came home to us in a far different manner, as this book excerpt shows.

During World War II my father-in-law Wilmer A. "Bud" Wagner kept a diary which years later he assembled into a book, with the help of his son Lloyd. And There Shall Be Wars is 536 pages in length with 178 original photos and illustrations. In many ways it is a remarkable document by the second man from this region of the country to enter the army, serving for the duration in North Africa, Italy and all points in between. The diary entries were made throughout, but the book’s additional value comes from the commentary added nearly fifty years later. Here is the excerpt from Pearl Harbor Day through the ninth. The italicized portion is commentary from the book.

Sunday, December 7, 1941
Slept until 9:00. Made my own breakfast, which was fried eggs, bacon, and toast.
Went to church in the Service Club. Good service by Chaplain Walker.
By the time church was out, so was the news of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Probably this will affect my life very much in the future.
Will go to the Service Club and to church again. Nice today.
Chaplain Walker gave a real good sermon tonight as well. There were only 8 of us there. I got both of the Lucas brothers to go, and Sheppard.
Undoubtedly, we will be on the alert or affected in some way. Some discharged fellows are to report back to their local boards.
Off today. Talked and listened to a lot of the fellows' ideas as to how this will affect us in the future. There haven't been any specific radio reports on Pearl Harbor attack that I've heard, but some information comes now and then.
Our first quesion is, "Just where is it?" Of course, in the Hawaiians, and from all accounts so far, it was bad. It puts all of us in a much more sober mood.

Monday, December 8, 1941
The United States declares war on Japan. We hear the news on noon. I am on duty with Ceno.
We have an alert tonight at 5:00. The 125th Field Artillery of our Division is starting to pull out of Claiborne. I'm wondering what the folks at home are thinking. I bought another diary book tonight.
I'm still the newest cook in the kitchen, but Tarman likes me pretty well. I do my job and somewhat more, so there are no complaints.
I don't care too much for the Philippino cook.
He seems he might be a bit tricky, but then it might just be a strong desire for a drink. All our bottles of extract are taken care of by the Mess Sergeant, but the Philippino seems to find something to drink.
An alert is always a lot of work, but Tarman told me later that he caught the Captain's wink, and only loaded a few things on the kitchen, formed a convoy, drove a few miles, then came back to camp.
The Philippino will drink lemon extract as readily as Otto did.

Tuesday, December 9, 1941
Another alert at 12:30 a.m. Hard to get up, but off-duty cooks always
have to help load. Most of our personal things go along as well, except for our foot lockers.
Had a bad headache. My things are in a mess. We left at 1:30. Got somewhere around Leesville to the firing range at 4:00.
Tarman and I put up our tent together. The situation is non-tactical, so we built a big bon-fire tonight.

As we gathered together around our fire, and after, we had an arousing talk by Captain Genung. Some of the things he said were, "This is it, men. We go for the duration. You will learn to bayonet the Japs and Germans as they sleep in their tents. It's all-out war now. Be prepared to go and do what you are told."

After that, we wondered if the Germans could see our big fire, and maybe come and bayonet us.

The United States and Great Britain had both declared war on Japan. In his address to Congress, President Roosevelt described the events at Pearl Harbor as the forming part of a "date that will live in infamy." Roosevelt did not ask Congress to declare war on Germany or Italy. Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands, The Free French, Yugoslavia, and several South American countries all declared war on Japan. Also, China declared war on Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Some sobering facts had come in since Sunday's attack on Pearl Harbor. At 07:55 local time, Japanese carrier aircraft attacked the main base of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. There was complete tactical and strategic surprise.

Six Jap carriers were sent with a total of 423 planes. Two waves of attacks were sent in. All eight U.S. battleships in port were damaged, five of them were sunk. Also, three cruisers and three destroyers were sunk. We lost 188 aircraft to the Japs' 29.

Words and accusations were flying. The Admiral in charge of the Pacific Fleet would be dismissed because of having all Anti-Aircraft (A.A.) guns locked in peace-time. Then it was Sunday, and many officers and crews from ships were ashore.

We had a lot to talk about, and wondered at how many more mistakes we would be going through for the "duration?" There were some. And those who made the mistakes were sure to try to cover them.

All in all we were able to say, as we could many times in the future, that "Error is Error, and Truth is Truth."

If you or a loved on has an ongoing interest in World War II history, this book would make a great addition to any library and a nice Christmas present. It is still available at Savage Press.


Jessi said...

Thanks for sharing this excerpt. Sorry if i missed it, but where was Mr. Wagner stationed on December 7?

ENNYMAN said...

Thank you for the comment. In 1941 he was stationed at Camp Claiborne in the States. The U.S. was gearing up for the European theater at the time. The book includes his crossing of the Atlantic on the first convoy of U.S. troops to head to Europe... fighting in North Africa and beachheads at Salerno & Anzio in Italy, followed by the long, drawn out fighting up the peninsula.