Pearl Harbor One Year Later: How We Remembered THAT Anniversary

Culture Watch

Mr. Mattocks is an intern at HNN.

How did Americans, one year later, remember Pearl Harbor? Differently, it turns out, than we, one year later, are remembering 9-11. Then, officials used the anniversary as the occasion to ask Americans to make sacrifices like giving blood. The War Department used the anniversary to provide information previously withheld from the public about the losses at Pearl Harbor. Newspapers took the opportunity to sell war bonds. School children dispatched messages to our fighting forces overseas. No one debated if the war had changed America. It had and everyone knew it.

The one-year anniversary was observed over two days: Sunday Dec. 6th, because in 1941 the attack came on a Sunday morning, and Monday Dec. 7th, because Dec. 7th was "the date which will live in infamy." The Sunday observances mainly took the form of religious services; Monday's events extended "to the armed forces, to civilian auxiliaries, to schools and to a variety of civilian organizations, all resolved to rededicate themselves to winning the war which started a year ago."


On Saturday Dec. 5th, The Navy Department issued an official accounting of the events of Pearl Harbor, providing detailed information about the event, damages, the death toll, and repairs. After only one year, the "most extensive, difficult and complicated salvage and repair job ever undertaken" was nearly completed. The speed of recovery was psychologically important for U.S. morale as a symbol of the country's ability to bounce back within a year after the surprise attack. The full statement of naval losses--greater than previously disclosed--had been withheld for almost a year for reasons of security. A full disclosure would have given "a blueprint to the Japanese in a touch-and-go naval war."

Also on Dec. 5, the Buffalo Evening News devoted all its display advertising space for the sale of war bonds and stamps. About 350 advertisers participated.


On Sunday, Dec. 6th, a Pearl Harbor parade in Brooklyn drew unexpected crowds. "Ten thousand men, women and children turned out with bands, delegations of fire and air wardens, American Red Cross units and other auxiliary services. They paraded down Eastern Boulevard to the reviewing stand at Schenectady Avenue, where Charles W. Murphy, chairman of the district office, expressed his surprise at 'such a turnout.' They were just local people, he said, coming out to hear their own local speakers talking about patriotism, war bonds, scrap collections and doing their part in the total war program."

In a letter made public on Dec. 6th, 1942, President Roosevelt stressed unity as "the spearhead of victory." The president noted that "The dominant note of our common war effort is unity, unity of our people, and unity of the United Nations." In the letter the president quoted Milton in his emphasis on the U.S. as "the arsenal of Democracy."

Japan observed the anniversary optimistically, declaring in a radio broadcast--recorded in the U.S. on Dec. 6 and also sent to the Japanese people shortly before-- that the destruction of America was certain. "The leaders of America are truly running their nation in a laughable manner. Though they may be high in producing capacity, without the more essential qualities, such as lofty war ideals, America cannot win over us."


Ceremonies throughout the country marked the anniversary of the infamous date; among them were presentations by the "Boys Clubs of America, the Children's Aid Society, the Council for Human Rights, the Victory Congress of the Spanish Speaking Peoples, the Women Flyers of America and other political, labor, civic and occupational bodies. Ship launchings and the appearance of topical books also [were] specially timed for the day."

The United Jewish War Effort held over 200 meetings across the country on Monday, in commemoration of Pearl Harbor.

In New York, the Red Cross made Dec. 7th 1942 "Manhattan College Day"; more than 150 students visited the Blood Bank Center to donate blood. At the college more than 1,100 attended a student Pearl Harbor rally.

According to one account of activities in New York:

Today in the [New York] city's school system, classroom work will be by direction of Superintendent John E. Wade, 'so that on the first anniversary of this day of hallowed remembrance we may stand for a moment in meditation on the courage and sacrifice of those who now, on land, at sea and in the air, hold aloft the flag of the United States of America.'

Victory messages from the home front to the fighting forces on land, on sea and in the air, throughout the world, will be dispatched this evening at a meeting of
the Minute Men of America in Town Hall.

The Boy Scouts of Manhattan will start a daily ceremony of raising the American flag each morning and lowering it in the afternoon in twelve parks and public squares in the city.


"Costly though it was in lives and material, in prestige and vanity, Pearl Harbor was a lesson we had to learn. The learning of it marked the turning point from a vacillating America to an America strong, united, determined and resolute." - Colonel Roane Warning, National Commander of the American Legion.

"One year of almost incredible military and industrial effort is transforming America into the most powerful warrior nation in all history." - Eric A. Johnston, president of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States.

"Somewhere ahead lies victory. It does not look like a hurry-up job. We must fight our way there." - Lieut. Gen. Joseph T. McNarney, deputy chief of staff of the U.S. Army.

"We solemnly vow to our martyred countrymen in Europe and to those who are still fighting behind the enemy lines, that we shall weld an ever firmer unity among ourselves for the victory of the United Nations." - Organizations of Americans of Czechoslovak, Italian, Hungarian and German ancestry in Yorkville, issuing the statement as "Americans who stand together in this fight."

"We do not pray for an armistice which is followed by barter and compromise. We had one of those twenty-four years ago." - Joseph F. Flannelly, administrator of St. Patrick's Cathedral, NYC.

"If the threat of despotism is removed from the earth, then these dead will not have died in vain." - Rev. Ralph B. Nesbitt, 5th Ave. Presbyterian Church, NYC.

"Pearl Harbor destroyed our differences, unified our nation and consecrated our sacrifices." - Former New York Governor Herbert H. Lehman.

"The present war has taken away most of the significance of Nov. 11, Armistice Day of the first World War. When this war is over there will be one and perhaps two or three other armistice days, marking the end of hostilities in the various major theatres of this global struggle. None of them could possibly carry the powerful emotional stimulus that is embodied in Pearl Harbor Day." - Dec. 5th editorial in the the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Iowa, proposing Pearl Harbor Day as a national holiday, "so that we as a nation may never be caught asleep again."


"Pearl Harbor Day Finds Nation Sure Of Japan's Defeat." New York Times, Mon. Dec. 7, 1942: pp. 1, 8.

"Navy Statement on the Pearl Harbor Attack." New York Times, Sun., Dec. 6, 1942: p. 69

"Fleet's Recovery Marks War Year." New York Times, Sun., Dec. 6, 1942: p. 69.

"Roosevelt Hails Unity For Victory." New York Times, Mon., Dec. 7, 1942: p. 8.

"Japan's Duty Held U.S. Annihilation." New York Times, Mon., Dec. 7, 1942: p. 9.

"Pearl Harbor Day Proposed As Holiday." New York Times, Mon., Dec. 6, 1942: p. 69.

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Dominic W. Moreo - 9/13/2002

Intern, indeed. If dealing with a morning paper like the NYT, one must consult the following day, say, December 8, 1942, to find out what happened on December 7th. But today growing up in instant 24/7 cycles, it is difficult to understand the snail like pace of the press.
So FDR attributed the "arsenal of democracy" to John Milton late of the 17th Century! And our intern bought it! But FDR got it from ...who got it from....the originator. Check it out.

Yumitsu Takaishi - 9/13/2002

I understand that America has to fight against terrorizm in order to protect America itself.I also agree with your hostility to terrorists,but do not acccept your behavior in Afganistan.
Japanese army attacked Pearl Harver in December 1941.That hurt the pride of American nations."Remember Pearl Harver."has chenged to"Remember 9.11." you are going to do the same thing you had done in world war 2. You must not forget you had burned eighty thousand citizen people to death only through two hours bombing attack at Tokyo by 240 B29 on March 10 1945.Do you repeat that tragedy again? Do you want to make your country insane by bearing huge number of murders in your own country?
Do you believe that America is quarified to blame Iraq, North Corea and Iran for their dangerouseness? As far as I am concerned,America can not solve the troubles we are fronting now by uaing military power. It surely will make another troubles one after another. Don't you think you should choose another cleverer way to be respected by aii over the world?