Friday, December 7, 2012

December 7, 1941, A Day That Will Live in Infamy

The morning of December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan, in a sneak air attack on Pearl Harbor, effectively eliminated the Pacific Fleet of the USA.   It was a battleship and a combat plane force that had been transferred there eighteen months prior by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a presumed deterrent in the east to Japan’s seemingly endless offensive that had raged on almost unrestricted throughout the Pacific rim since its 1937 invasion of China.  Not only was the bombing of Pearl Harbor a defining moment in history, but it was also the event that triggered the involvement of the USA in World War II. 

        Marlin Landon (Bob) Gaffin had been drafted into the Army under the 1940 Civil Service Act.  At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was still in training camp at Ft. Thomas, Kentucky.  Bob was to later serve throughout the war under General George S. Patton beginning with Operation Torch in Africa and culminating with the clean-up of Berlin at the end  of the war.  The letters exchanged among him and his family and friends are a vital adjunct to my latest novel, Guardians and Other Angels, letters that give the reader an unprecendented insider's view of the times.   The following excerpt of the novel includes two letters relevant to the Pearl Harbor Bombing:

                                                                                                                                                 Monday Morning, Dec. 8, 1941

Dear Son.  I will try to write you some this morning.  I was so nervous yesterday I just couldn’t write and not much better this morning.  But the children are all gone and I am here alone so maby I can write some.  Bobby we heard down at church last night that war had been declared.  It sure does worry me.  I just can’t help it.  They tell me if I don’t be careful I’ll go crazy.  But I don’t know.  They surely can’t take you though untill they get you trained.  Of course I know that I am just one Mother in thousands.  We will just have to trust in God.  Of course you know that we are praying for you, and that will help you along.  Herman preached last night.  He surely is a good man.  Well Bobby you didn’t say what they fed you.  But I suppose you have enough to eat and a good place to sleep.  If this country is in war now I expect they will call all those boys back that they let come home, won’t they?  Roma told you what Howard said.  I think that is the word he used (Detachment) Corps.  I think he said it was in the Infantry.  Berlin & Irene said that Bill told them you sure was a fine looking soldier (Ha ha).  Well Bobby I will have to close as it is almost mail time.  So write often and we will too.  There are so many people wanting to write to you when you get settled I don’t know how you will answer them all.  So Good by a(nd) good luck and R(em)ember Mother as always [is] always thinking of you and loves you.  So as always Your loving Mother & all


                                                                                                                                                                           Ft. Thomas Ky.
                                                                                                                                                                    December 9, 1941

Dear Mom & all:

                I will answer your letter I rec’d today and was more than glad to hear from you and Roma.  I got a X’mas card from Clarine & a letter from Dot too Mom [Dot is Bob’s girlfriend.  Clarine is her sister].  I sure like to hear from everyone.  I guess it’s our only mean’s of communication.  Well Mom I guess we are in a war again.  Japan declared war on the U. S. Sunday eve. at 1:30.  Followed by the bombing of Guam, Honolulu and other U. S. property in the Pacific.  104 American soldiers were killed & a U. S. ship sunk with 350 on board.  Germany the kingpin has taken action against America and is Declaring war.  Roosevelt is Declaring war on Japan.  Plane’s and ship’s of the U. S. were rushed to the danger point at once, and enemy plane’s were reported over the West Coast last night at 5:30 A. M.  The citizens blacked out San Francisco.  No bombs were dropped.  My guess is they [the Japanese or the Germans] were taking picture’s, drawing map’s and fixing for a future attack.  I hope I’m wrong.  We are being issued the strictest of order’s here, to be ready to leave here for camp anytime.  Maybe a week or in the next 10 minutes.  All furlough’s have been canceled, until further order’s.  All reserves discharged were ordered to report to their draft board’s at once.  I could run on & on Mom telling of things that took place in the last 48 hr’s.  I’ll maybe get to see everyone in 6 mo. Mom.  I hope before then.  But it may be yr’s [years].  But it takes the courage and unfaltering faith of the pioneer Mom to face such a crisis as this.  So have courage Mom as we of the Army have and we will pull through.  God is our shephard.  So we will have to do the best we can.  Tell Roma I was glad to hear from her, and tell everyone Hello for me.  And that I will write to everyone when I get settled.  And I appreciate your prayer’s Mom a lot.  Don’t worry to much.  I can take care of myself.  Oh yes, about Bill [Greene – my paternal uncle].  I guess he is doing pretty good now.  I was over there Sunday all day, and as soon as war was declared he wanted to come with me.  So he came over Sun. night & enlisted.  He won’t be examined until the last of the week.  Don’t tell Eva or Alderson [(Greene) – my paternal grandparents] yet.  It will worry them.  And Bobbie Mendenhall is here in the same barracks with me & Woodrow W. Hoop of Peebles.  Well I’ll close for now Mom.  Wishing all of you luck.  So answer soon.  XO Your loving Son, Bob.



  1. Riveting reading Linda! Keep up the awesome work!! - C

    1. Thanks for checking in and leaving your nice comment, Christina.

  2. Outstanding. This was a very hard thing for America and Americans to go through. More so since it was on Our lands. In the history book I have written, Beads on a String-America's Racially Interwined Biographical History, I also discuss the Interment Camps and their effects.

    1. Ey, Thank you for stopping by and leaving your nice comment. I am also very interested in the internment camps. I will look for your book. Thank you for telling me about it. Have a great weekend.