That Sunday began like most Sundays. We boys were up early in the morning to read the Sunday funnies and then the rest of the Racine Journal Times. After breakfast, my two younger brothers and I walked in our Sunday best clothes to the nearby Bethel Methodist Church for our 9:30 a.m. Sunday School. It opened with a general meeting for all the kids, where we heard a Biblical message and sang old favorites, like “Jesus Loves Me” and “What a Friend We Have In Jesus.” After that, my class of 8-10 boys headed for the church balcony where Bob Walquist, our Sunday School teacher, taught us that day’s lesson. I never found these lessons that inspiring, but going to Sunday School was simply part of what happened on Sunday.
After my mother returned from the 11 a.m. service (my dad rarely went to church), we had our traditional full Sunday dinner with all of us sitting around the dining room table. My grandmother had probably helped prepare the dinner because walking to church was too much for her, and we had no car. After dinner Forest and Harlan usually went out to play with neighbor boys but only after obeying my father’s command, that they sit on the front porch for the required 15 minutes of “rest” (to let their food digest). I usually stayed inside glued to the radio in the living room, listening to the marvelous Sunday afternoon radio broadcasts of classical music.
With the arrival of the football season, my brothers and I would huddle around the radio—huddle so as not to disturb unduly the rest of the family sitting around the living room talking and reading—to listen to the Green Bay Packer games. Like most kids in the neighborhood, we were Green Bay Packers fans and waited anxiously for the 2 pm. radio broadcast to begin. In that pre-television age, radio announcers faced the challenge of describing in words the py action so that listeners could visualize the game on the field.
It was probably sometime during the first quarter of the game that Sunday when a serious voice interrupted the broadcast with a special announcement. The announcer said that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor early that morning, inflicting considerable damage and injuring many American military personnel. We were told to listen for further announcements. Later that day we heard reports of Japanese submarines off the coast of California, shelling on the Oregon coast, and still later reports of Japanese attacks on the Philippines, Singapore, and other spots in the South Pacific.
You can’t imagine how stunned we were. Though the brutal Japanese war against China was well known, and there were intimations of a growing conflict between Japan and the US after we cut our oil exports to Japan, the idea that war could occur was inconceivable.
Little did we realize how the events of that day would change our lives and those of all Americans. We remember hearing President Roosevelt the next day addressing Congress and the American people, calling for a declaration of war against Japan. He described the surprise attack on December 7, 1941 as “a day which will live in infamy.” And so it was. A major portion of our Pacific naval fleet sunk, many of our airplanes destroyed, more than 2400 servicemen killed, and another 1,300 wounded.
And so the war began on December 7, 1941. It became a successor to “The Great War” that was going to be “the war to end all wars.” What became World War II led to the demotion of The Great War to World War I. Our war with Japan continued in earnest, ending only with the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945, almost four years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
About the Author
At age 92 I decided to showcase my recent and current writings on a variety of topics outside of my career interests as an economist. My wife Sally’s dementia, my experiences of war, and my interests in improving higher education all compel me to write.
For most of the last decade I maintained a low profile, necessitated by my wife Sally's suffering from a decade-long siege of vascular dementia. After she passed away several years ago I wrote about our experience, in the belief that this would be helpful to the many others who suffer from dementia and their family caregivers. I am currently seeking a publisher for my book manuscript: The Forgotten: Dementia and the Right to Die.
Over the past few years I began working on several other writing projects that are described more fully elsewhere in my blog. These include a nearly-completed book manuscript on my "expected proficiencies approach to the college major'' as a vehicle for reinvigorating liberal education. I continue to write on the shortcomings of UW-Madison's affirmative action policies and programs that over the years have been renamed "diversity and inclusion" policies and programs.
Within two weeks of my graduation from UW-Madison in June 1950, the Korean War broke out. I was drafted and expected to be sent to Korea to join our fighting forces there. But instead I was sent to Turkey for 18 months. How lucky I was. I am also writing a memoir of my Korean War military experience when I served as an U.S. Army adviser in our military aid program in Turkey.
Until I began branching out beyond economics, I failed to realize what a profound effect the Great Depression and World War II had on me as I grew up. I have already captured some of these recollections, with more of them to follow.
With that introduction, I turn you over to my blog entries as well as my other writing projects described more fully elsewhere in my blog. Best wishes ~ W. Lee Hansen
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Award-winning author W. Lee Hansen, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Full bio.