How the 'Day of Infamy' felt in Magazine

Mark Green
Mark Green

It is interesting to transport ourselves back in time to see if we can enter personally into historical events. I think it is fair to say that the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, was one of the most momentous events in United States history, and very likely the most significant event. The exact time of the attack was 7:55 a.m. local time. If my internet calculator is correct, that means that it was 12:55 p.m. in Magazine. A quiet Sunday afternoon had been blown to bits.

Although the scenes of that day were largely the same all over the nation, the reason that I picked Magazine is because it just happened that it was during my father’s senior year in high school. He was part of the 1942 graduating class at Magazine. In fact, he was the valedictorian and his twin brother was the salutatorian. So, the attack on Pearl Harbor happened during the first semester of Daddy’s senior year.

In order to picture what it was like in Magazine at the moment of the attack, one has to remember that Highway 10 was not paved, and that most of the senior class probably could count on their fingers the number of times they had been out of Logan County and the contiguous counties – and they might not have needed all their fingers. There was no internet and no television. The main sources of news were radios and newspapers.

In the case of an event of the magnitude of Pearl Harbor, most of the citizens of Magazine would have heard of it first over the radio or by word of mouth. The population of the town according to the 1940 census was 385 people. It does not take very long to pass the word among that small of a group.

Someone – who knows who the individual may have been – happened to hear the news first over the radio, and no doubt hurried to tell someone else. News like that is not going to lie dormant for more than a few minutes. One can imagine that within a very short period of time everyone in town would have known about it, and that it was the sole topic of conversation.

Of course, not everyone had a radio, and not everyone in the school district lived in town. So, it is very likely that there were a few students who had not heard about the attack until they arrived at school on Monday morning. What a way to start a week.

Before Monday was over, President Roosevelt had delivered his famous "Day of Infamy" speech to the nation over the radio. It is estimated that 81% of the homes in America listened to it. Also before the day was over, the United States had declared war on the Empire of Japan. Most of the young men in the class of 1942 would be involved, either directly or indirectly, in the bloodiest conflict in human history. Many of them never came home.