Declaration of War Changed Siblings’ Lives

I would imagine that few Americans thought about the war in Europe before the Pearl Harbor attack.

Ordinary people had struggled through the Great Depression. Deep scars remained from those lean years, and some people continued to struggle. Besides, two oceans isolated our country from the conflict.

My family lived on a small, rented acreage without electricity. My dad had purchased a table-model, battery-­operated radio, and the mail delivery brought a daily newspaper. These were our only links to the outside world.

There were two daughters and three sons in our family. My sister and oldest brother had both married and lived in a nearby town. My brother and his wife were expecting their first child that December.

On Dec. 7, 1941 around 7:30 a.m. Hawaii time, the first Japanese planes dropped torpedoes on our ships. Dad was listening to a Sunday program on the radio, and Mom was resting. I was 13 then, and I had been outside soaking up some sunshine on an unusually warm winter day with my 16-year-old brother­.

Suddenly, a car skidded into our driveway and stopped. Our two married siblings and their spouses had driven out from town to tell us the news.

About that time, my mother­ dashed out of the house with a worried look on her face, and my dad followed her. They had just heard the news on the radio about the attacks.

The only one who wasn’t with us was my 19-year-old brother who had borrowed the family car for a Sunday drive.

I remember standing outside with my family wondering what the future held for us. Mom wrung her hands and fought back tears, fearing that my 19-year-old brother would be drafted immediately.

The next day, President Franklin Roosevelt gave his famous “a date which will live in infamy” speech, declaring war on Japan.

On Dec. 10, my parents welcomed their first grandson. The next day, Germany declared war on the United States, and shortly thereafter Congress recognized we were at war with Germany and Italy.

My three brothers each served their country in the armed forces. They all came home safe and returned to their civilian lives.

Thankful that her sons had come back unharmed, Mom took her flag with the three blue stars out of the living room window.

Sidell, Ill.