In a world where we take instant communication for granted, it’s hard to imagine what those stationed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and their families went through to get in touch with one another in the aftermath of that terrible day.
Below Corporal Henry G. Rieth details in a letter to his family back in Boston the lengths he has gone to in the days after the attack in order to let them know he is safe. A subsequent letter vaguely touches on the after effects of the surprise attack including injured friends, heightened security and the loss of his possessions. Most importantly, he stresses that they should not worry about him and hopes that his absence will not spoil the upcoming Christmas holiday. Scroll down for full transcriptions.
Artifact Spotlight Stopped Watch Preserves a Moment in History
December 7, 1941, was a day that would live forever in the memory of any American who was alive and old enough to understand the magnitude of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Roy S. “Swede” Boreen not only remembers the attack first-hand as a survivor, he has a concrete reminder of the instant when everything changed.
When Boreen was interviewed by the Museumin early 2011, he donated the watch he wore on the day of the attack. The 21-jewel Bulova watch was significant because it had marked the exact second he hit the water to take cover from an enemy fighter – 8:04 am.
December 7, 1941, is a date which retains its unique power in the national consciousness of the American people because it marks our entryway into the Second World War and ultimately the pathway to the dominant position of the United States in world affairs, the Pax Americana of the twentieth century. The Japanese attack decisively ended American neutrality and our efforts to isolate the nation from the previous decade of troublesome world affairs. To many, it is the day the United States shed its innocence and naiveté, and shouldered the burdens of world leadership.
For most Americans, however, the Japanese attack was a surprising gateway to this destiny. Events in remote Asia were not seen as an immediate threat to the United States at the end of 1941. Instead, it seemed more likely that the United States would be drawn into war with Nazi Germany, as the American convoys carrying Lend-Lease to Great Britain came under fire from the German navy. Instead, war came to Americans in an unanticipated, blinding flash from across the Pacific, an attack that succeeded beyond the imagination of its planners in many respects, an attack that caught the American military unawares and in an embarrassed state and exposed condition. The story of the missed signs, misinterpretations, misunderstandings and many ironic passages which all combined to lead to Pearl Harbor is a vast tapestry.
On December 7, 2011, The National WWII Museum will debut a new exhibit that commemorates not only the 70th anniversary of the costly attack on Pearl Harbor, but also sheds light on the lesser known attacks on Guam, Wake Island and the Philippines that took place over the course of one day.
Infamy – December 1941will open to the public at 10:00 a.m. on December 7th, and will be on view through February 19, 2012 in the Joe W. and D. D. Brown Foundation Special Exhibit Gallery in the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
Today marks the 70th anniversary of Japan’s order to bomb Pearl Harbor. The surprise attack that eventually came on December 7, 1941 plunged the United States headlong into World War II. How will you commemorate the upcoming 70th anniversary of the “date that will live infamy?”
With the 70th anniversary of the “date that will live in infamy” on the horizon, we came across this graphic interpretation of one of our nation’s darkest days. See this and other pivotal moments in U.S. history depicted at momentusproject.com and let us know what events you think should or shouldn’t have made their list.
Posted by interactive content and community manager Kacey Hill
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world - why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today - so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.