On the Sunday afternoon of December 7, 1941, my parents and I were listening to a radio program. This was interrupted by the news that Pearl Harbor had been bombed that morning by the Japanese.
We didnt realize at the time that it would escalate into World War II and would involve some sixteen million U.S. troops. Nor did our family know how much it would change our lives and careers.
My youngest brother, Paul, had graduated that March from flying school at Randolf field in Texas and was commissioned Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, at Kelly Field, Texas. By January 1942, he had been transferred to the South Pacific Theater where he was first pilot on a B-17 Flying Fortress with a crew of eight.
Although Paul was the only one on active duty, the lives of the rest of the family were also disrupted. My two older brothers, Martin and Charles, left their careers as an electrical contractor and a teacher to work on minesweepers being built at Huntington Beach, California. L. E., another brother, was transferred by Edison Company from Los Angeles to Cleveland, Ohio, for defense work. My sister Billie Lou, an elementary school teacher, left that profession to join the Red Cross.
I had been teaching on a three-year certificate and decided to enroll at Whittier College to earn my B. A. degree. In Whittier, I lived with a family who worked at McDonald Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, so I got a job there because I was able to ride to work with them. We all worked on the swing shift from 4 pm until midnight. I attended all my college classes in the daytime.
The war effort of my family at home was little in comparison to my brother overseas. He flew many bombing missions from Java to New Guinea. The Distinguished Flying Cross and distinguished Service Medal with two Oak awarded to him for his efforts in combat duty.
While stationed near Cairns, Australia, he was one of a crew of eight who volunteered to test flares. The plane caught on fire from a flare and was ditched in the ocean.
My parents received the missing-in-action telegram on August 7, 1942. They were inconsolable in their grief. Our close-knit family now had one missing member forever. Remembering Pearl Harbor is a sad memory for me because of my brothers death in the war. This it must also be for 550,000 other families who lost someone in World War II.