The Charlotte News

Monday, December 8, 1941


Site Ed. Note:

"This is a sorry sight."

"A foolish thought, to say a sorry sight."

This date, the President went to the Congress with his brief but eloquent words, words which have lived as long as any President's. The result was an immediate, nearly unanimous, declaration of war. The Senate vote was 82-0, with thirteen absent from Washington and one vacancy. Even Robert Rice Reynolds was present and voted for the declaration. The House voted 388 to 1, with the rest not present. The only dissenting vote was cast by Jeannette Rankin, a Montana Republican pacifist who had also voted on April 6, 1917 against joining the World War. This time, she echoed visions which bordered on insanity, asking her fellow members to recall the erroneous reporting in the previous months on the Kearney incident, that the whole attack might be a fabrication by Roosevelt to get the country into war. Montanans cringed by their radios as she fell back into smiling silence. Even dedicated isolationists Ham Fish and Joe Martin exhorted House members to vote unanimously in favor of the bill.

The President's words, not a fabrication, are set forth at the bottom of the front page, continued on page eleven.

By Monday, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok, Malaya, Manila, Guam, Wake Island, and Midway, had all been attacked and overwhelmed by Japanese forces.

The editorial page today tells much of the basic back-story of that which preceded the attack of the previous day. We also learn that the public learned of the attack at 2:22, 59 minutes after it actually began.

Secretary Hull had the word imparted to him by the White House at about two o'clock, five minutes before Nomura and Kurusu arrived, twenty minutes after their 1:45 appointment which they had requested a little earlier, 42 minutes after the attack began. The final delay no doubt was because they first had to receive word from Tokyo that X-Day was going smoothly, that word coming in the form of the public news dispatches themselves. Although the press was charitable, Kurusu certainly, who had signed with the Nazis and Italy the Tripartite Pact of mutual support against any neutral who interfered with any co-signatory's interest, knew, and knew well all along what his mission was in the United States. He was told of it, no doubt, by Togo before he ever departed Japanese soil in mid-November. He accomplished his mission well.

Hull, the reports said, responded, after reading the reply, that it was the "damnedest bunch of lies" he had ever read, shook hands with Nomura and Kurusu and politely asked them to leave his office. Talks which had begun the previous April at his apartment at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington were now at an end.

The first shots fired in the war with Japan came as depth charges dropped by the U.S.S. Ward on a submarine sunk at 6:40 near the entrance to Pearl Harbor. Its new commander, Lieutenant Outerbridge, reported the sinking at 6:53, precisely one hour before the attack began: "We have dropped depth charges upon sub operating in defensive sea area." Admiral Kimmel was alerted at 7:00. No action was immediately taken, however, as false reports of submarine activity and firing on phantom shadows, fish, had been received previously. Most critically, Lt.-General Short of the Army, in charge of air defenses, was not apprised of the attack, thus not affording him opportunity to scramble his planes or even disperse them from their bunched patterns on the field at Hickam and Wheeler.

The rest of the newspaper of this day fairly tells the story of the previous day. We cannot summarize it, nor shall we try. Those dedicated reporters and newspapermen of the day did a more than ample job under the strict pressures of time and deadline, by the lights of their fingertips and weary eyes. We cannot hope to equal it by digest.

We only add a few facts regarding the toll, as yet unknown on December 8. The official death toll was 2,390 Americans killed. Only 55 Japanese airmen and nine of ten men in the five midget submarines died out of the 650 men involved in the attack. Half of the American dead, 1,177, were aboard the U.S.S. Arizona. Another 541 were on the Oklahoma. When the capsized West Virginia was set aright, it was determined from marks on the bulkheads that some of the men remained alive until at least December 23, the day after the Task Force of Nagumo arrived safely back in Japan.

Forty-nine of the dead were civilians, twenty of whom were Japanese. The civilians ranged in age from three months to 59 years. Eleven were age 16 or younger.

Fifteen Navy men received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Ten of the recipients were killed in the attack.

The first ship hit, parked on the north side of Ford Island, was the light cruiser Raleigh, astern the Utah hit almost simultaneously. Twenty ships lost men. Only five ships were completely lost. The other thirteen ships or cruisers sunk or damaged were repaired and re-floated, including even the Oklahoma, though unlike the others salvaged, it never again saw service.

The last of the 321 surviving Japanese planes left the area of Oahu at 9:45, with first wave Commander Fuchida bringing up the rear. Thus, the entire attack took a little under two hours. All of the surviving fliers were back on board the six carriers, moved somewhat south to within 190 miles of the target, by between 10:30 and 1:30. Nine planes in the first wave were shot down. Twenty came down in the second wave.

Once back aboard, the airmen of the First Air Fleet implored Vice-Admiral Nagumo to allow a second ambush, to achieve the objectives of taking out the 4.5 million barrel oil storage tanks and the ship repair facilities. Admiral Yamamoto left the decision to the discretion of Nagumo who determined it unwise, too risky. He believed he had accomplished the mission set forth. He turned his fleet north by northwest and began the fifteen-day charted zig-zag for Japan--the bottom line trace of the gas pump, or, as you please, oilcan.

The U.S. Fleet, however, with the Enterprise and Lexington and their accompanying complement of destroyers and light cruisers having been at sea during the attack, as well as the ships quickly repaired and set afloat again, was not out of commission for the minimum six months established as the primary goal for the mission. The mission, therefore, despite all the planning of mice and men, despite all the clever execution against the wind, employing all that it could muster to itself of the will of the Three Sisters of the Throne of Blood, miserably failed. The incredibly stupid always do. The little soft-shoe "poet" with the Josephine complex back in the homeland, however, thinking her heroes had bagged at least one carrier, counted it a good day for Empire.

Moral: Next time, stupid, write a real poem or simply keep your idiotic little thoughts about dying with honor for the homeland to yourself.

The other pages covering the story are: two, three, six, seven (got milk?), nine, ten, twelve, Section Two, and Pictures.

The last two pieces of the editorial column, "Censorship..." and "Little Things...", cause us to wonder whether or not we grew up in an atmosphere, in a world, precisely grown wary from the results brought on by that Sunday in December, 1941, and indeed still live with its dastardly consequences to this day. Even if old enmities have long ago been laid away, we still collectively carry the burden of mutual distrust of those of another look, another language, another sound, another culture, another country, another state, another town, another school, another house down the street, another within our own house, ourselves between the dark of the moon and the light of day.

The lone "Visitin' Around" abstract today tells unwittingly much of the world then and of that to come.

The piece from Business Week informs that the Nazis were rationing cigarettes: only six to ten for men, half that for women, per day. Add that supposed "hardship" to the familiar sophistic notions being set forth in the letter to the editor re gun registration, and it is no wonder probably that the world was in the shape it was. Guns, said the letter writer, kill fewer people than automobiles. And we don't register fireplace pokers and razors. And...

Also, this date, the United States Supreme Court delivered the opinion in the case of Bridges v. State of California, 314 U.S. 252, a case on which Cash had made early comment February 4, 1940, after its initial decision at the state level adverse to the Los Angeles Times, upholding convictions for contempt based on editorialization against the granting of probation to convicted labor agitators premised on the idea that the editorials improperly commented on a pending decision before the courts and thereby interfered with the administration of justice, potentially influencing a judicial decision by threatening future adverse editorials in case of lenience shown the defendants. The Supreme Court reversed and struck down the convictions on the principle that the editorials were protected by freedom of the press, that the editorials were to be expected given the anti-labor history of the Times, and threatened therefore no more than was anticipated; that to allow that such threats interfered with justice was to impute dishonor to the courts.

In other words, if a court may be menaced by words into denying probation to defendants, it is a disreputable institution unworthy of respect; since the converse must be imputed to the judge, the paper was free, post-conviction, to criticize the decision as it pleased.

Justice Black delivered the opinion of the Court, precisely consistent with the position for which Cash had argued in his piece criticizing the California Supreme Court decision 22 months earlier.

In California on Sunday, it was reported, blackouts were ordered in coastal areas near naval bases and on the Golden Gate Bridge. On approaches to the Bay Bridge linking Oakland and San Francisco, at a time when drivers drove in both directions on the top deck, all automobiles with Japanese aboard were stopped and searched.

By the next day, Hitler would declare war on the United States, keeping his recent promise to Ambassador Hiroshi Oshima of Japan, keeping his promise for Japan having done his bidding, to keep the Reich rolling, to keep the Allies busy elsewhere fighting the Yellow Peril while he fought the Reds.

The nation went to bed this night with a bitter 44-month struggle ahead, yet one now at last united after two years of ambivalence and discord since the beginnng of the war. It would cost over 250,000 American lives. But in the end, this was a struggle which was worthy. It was a time to fight, not for pacifism, lest the world be turned into one large concentration camp and furnace for the unworthy deemed so by the insane of the Nazi Reich and the feudalists now comprising Japan's Diet and Cabinet, its Premier, and even its Emperor, no less insane than Adolf Hitler. The one caution was that in so struggling, the country must not become as that which it was united now in fighting, that in order to destroy that evil, it would accomplish the malefactors' purposes of destroying itself in the process. It nearly did. But for the Supreme Court and brave leaders through time, through several decades hence, both civilian and in government, it might well have.

The Bible quote of the day cited a verse from its last chapter. A couple of verses later, it says: "And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun..."

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