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December 7, 1941

Joan, age 18, Sunday December 7, 1941

Well, Baby, it’s come, what we always knew would come, what we never quite believed in. And deathly calm all about it. No people in noisy excited little clusters on the streets. Only silent faces on the streetcars and laughing ones in windows….Today Japan declared war on the United States….

She bombed Pearl Harbor and the Philippines while her diplomats were talking peace to Roosevelt. This afternoon at 2:30. My God, we never knew! Ruth and I went to the country.  I churned butter and went for the well water with Ruth like Jack and Jill. As I churned, I could see my image—in my red jerkin and light sweater and pearls in the mirrored curved face of the pots, in the kerosene lamp. Three images, all churning and I looked out at the peaceful frosted autumn hillside… And the earth was turning and it had happened…The cheery rattle of the dishes and our laughter and the crackle of the fire…. We went out to the pasture and brought back the horses and saddled one and rode him in turns…till we froze and came in.

            Right then most people knew. Not we. One of the fellows drove us into the city and then Ruthie and I took the streetcar and saw a bright headline. U.S. and Japan near war. And waited in a quiet tavern for another streetcar and got on and gasped to see in black placid letters as though it had been said before: “Japan Attacks U.S. We are at War….” And [we] saw two Japanese on the streetcar, gravely watching us….

United States National Archives

United States National Archives

3 responses »

  1. It is scary to read this even today.

    • I wholeheartedly agree. It sent a chill down my spine reading this again. I guess that is because we know what came next. Susan: I will reblog once I get to December 1941 in Norah’s diaries! She mentions the US entering the war, amidst noting a family bereavement and her quest for more clothing coupons. But – more later. Thanks for this.

      • I’d love to hear what Norah says so we can hear the perspective from England–despite the tragic bombing, was there a bit of relief that the U.S. HAD to get into World War II now? Or was there not yet the realization of what it all meant? Can’t wait! Thanks!!

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