Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941. I remember the day well: To me, it was a quiet, peaceful, ordinary Sunday morning. I was riding my bicycle along the sidewalk. The air was brisk, yet the California sun shone strong and brightened the blue sky. Neighbors were mowing lawns, some were washing cars, radios were playing music from different stations, which sounded confusing as I passed from one yard to another. Then, quite suddenly, all music stopped. And all the radio stations converged into one voice that amplified like a loud speaker down the street – "Pearl Harbor under attack..."
Knowing that something was wrong, I stopped in my tracks and looked around. One neighbor dropped his hose and ran into the house, letting water gush into the gutter. Another stopped cutting her roses and dashed into her house, letting the screen door slam behind her. Dad, who was mowing our lawn, left the mower idle while he ran into the house to gather around the radio with Mother in time to hear the famous words spoken by President Roosevelt, "This day will go down in infamy."
I wondered what it was all about.
My brother, who was 12 years my senior, came roaring up the driveway on his motorcycle, leaned it on the kickstand and sprinted up the back steps into the house. Jamming his gloves into the rear pocket of his pants, he leaned on the mahogany dining table, crossed his arms across his chest, and listened to the news report.
He looked at Mother, her head bent, and her eyes watering as she bit down hard on her lower lip to prevent tears flowing. Dad sat deep in the feather-filled cushioned chair next to the radio. They did not speak as the news told of the disaster at Pearl Harbor.
I stood by watching and listening with my 7-year-old eyes and ears, still wondering what it was all about. What and where was Pearl Harbor? Why was it under attack and by whom?
Then my brother reached over and turned down the volume on the radio. "I know you've had enough shocking news for one day," he said, "but I'm going to enlist."
Mom and Dad stared at him in disbelief.
"If I don't enlist, I'll get drafted," he continued, "and if I'm drafted there is no choice of which service I'll go into – and I want to fly! I'm signing up for the Air Corps!"
When no one said anything, he added, "The flying club in high school was a wonderful opportunity for me. Those Gliders and Piper Cubs would hardly be classified as planes today, but I sure had fun in those flying machines."
Mother pulled a dining-room chair away from the table and sat on it. "We're proud of you, Son," was all she could say.
Dad pushed himself up from the cushioned chair, dried his eyes, and walked over to my brother. He patted him on the back, but could not speak. They gripped hands, then before leaving the room, Dad finally said, "I'm sure the Air Corps will welcome you."
And they did. After a year of arduous training, he became a second lieutenant and copilot on a B-17 Flying Fortress.
Several months after my brother left for training in the Air Corps, my little Japanese girlfriend and her family were taken away to a detention center. It was not easy for me to comprehend why. I never heard from her again.
At school, our teacher pulled down the big map over the chalkboard and showed us where Pearl Harbor was located. We could barely see the small Hawaiian Islands out in the Pacific where bombs were being dropped.
Looking back on that day, we had no idea that an unbelievable era was beginning in the history of our country and the world.