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Joan’s Journals and Historical Events

Joan often mentions events of the day in her journals. 

Here she writes about hearing of the famous Hindenburg disaster.

Thursday 5/6/37, Age 14

Hello!  The German zeppelin Von Hindenburg crashed not three hours ago at Lakehurst, New Jersey.  That great new sister ship to the Graf Zeppelin!! Just burnt up like that.  The radio announcer said it was ‘cause the lightening set fire to the explosive hydrogen in the ship and then it exploded.  Airships seem to have a curse or something – to everyone except the Graf Something disaster has happened.  Now the Graf is the only one left.  The Herald Examiner said 100 people were killed, but as it’s a Hearst paper, 50 is a safer guess. They always exaggerate!  Ho-hum—must read about Renaissance art now— um—um.

Good Night!

The announcer’s eyewitness report is heartbreaking and famous.  Listen to it here.

Sunday, January 9, 1938

“Last night we went to show and saw Norman Alley’s Bombing of the [USS] Panay.”

Read about the Panay bombing and its importance in the lead-up to Pearl Harbor.  To see the newsreel Joan saw, go to this site.

Winston Churchill gave many important speeches that people heard on the radio.  Joan tells about a number of them, though she didn’t really seem to admire him, calling him “pigface” more than once!

This famous photo was taken by Yousuf Karsh from December 30, 1941.

Thursday, April 24, 1941, Age 18

Churchill’s speech: Sat with the book open on my lap as he talked. Mom was listening too, and Daddy, cross-legged on his chair . . . “We shall not fail and we know we shall conquer or die.” And Athens is fallen early this morning and the African battle is losing. But “we shall not fail.”

He feels there is hope and help from America, from the West. . . . And you know I always think “pigface” when I hear him, but today he said again and again in sibilants that hissed across the Atlantic, “we shall not fail”…

Maybe England shall go down. I was thinking of Cicero today as we heard Churchill. And how those brave words would sound when some schoolboy is translating them, a thousand years hence. Maybe England shall fall. I guess so. I don’t know.

You can read and hear some of Churchill’s speeches.

First of all, you may want to investigate the Churchill Centre and Museum at the Churchill War Rooms, London.

 May 19, 1940. Churchill’s first speech as Prime Minster (section of audio speech).

June 18, 1940.  Churchill’s most famous speech:  “Their Finest Hour.” (section of audio)

Jan. 20 1941.  “Sail On Oh Ship of State.”  Here is a section of the audio version.

Broadcast from February 9, 1941.  “Give Us the Tools” section of audio.  Here is the entire written speech.

April 9, 1941.   “Everything Turns Upon the Battle of the Atlantic.”

Joan admired the President of the University of Chicago, Robert M. Hutchins.

She relates how he gave a number of speeches, some of which have since become famous.

Sunday March 30, 1941, Age 18

Hullo.  Heard Hutchins today on the radio—spoke from Chapel.  I meant to go and hear him but didn’t arise early enough.  He was good, he was wonderful.  He was right.  “The proposition is peace.”  Probably most people won’t agree with him—again…

Another important speech Hutchins’ gave is here.  It is the convocation address from June 14, 1941, shortly before the war began.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave many important speeches and fireside chats during his long   presidency (1932-1945).

Here Joan tells of one speech he is to give.

Monday, September 8, 1941, Age 18

. . . Roosevelt to speak tomorrow. “Important,” they say. It was to have been Tuesday but on account of his mother’s death they put it off. . . . They say he’ll say, “Shoot without being fired upon”—to our ships. I dunno. Well, we shall all die; somewhere over the far hills death is already written for such as us. . . . I am young, but an ancestress of mine may have died younger. . . .

Here’s the speech he actually delivered on September 11, 1941.

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