Commentary: How Pearl Harbor unifed America

The Belleville News-DemocratDecember 7, 2010 

"December 7th, 1941, a date that will live in infamy," as President Franklin D. Roosevelt characterized it, was a complete shock to metro-east residents and to the young men from Southern Illinois who were serving at Pearl Harbor, some of whom were injured in the attack.

But the Sunday morning surprise attack on the U.S. naval base in Hawaii also galvanized a nation, which already had been slowly gathering itself for war.

The Monday, Dec. 8, 1941, editions of the Belleville News-Democrat and the Belleville Daily Advocate carried giant headlines about the attack. There were war reports on Japanese invasions in areas of Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, stories of reported air raids on the West Coast of the United States that turned out to be false and air raid alarms in New York City.

Apparently, there was none of that panic in Belleville.

"The news was received with calm here," the Daily Advocate reported, though noting that there was a deluge of telephone calls to county officials.

The military jumped into action, sending guards to the Cahokia and Venice power plants. There were soldiers at the McKinley, Merchant, Lewis and Clark and Daniel Boone bridges, and local police at the Municipal, Eads and Chain of Rocks bridges. Many vital manufacturing plants already had been assigned guards the week before the attack.

"Scott Field was on a war basis within a few moments after word was flashed that hostilities had begun in the Pacific," the Daily Advocate reported. Those on furlough were recalled and later, Christmas furloughs were canceled.

Just in case, I guess, "Tesu Uyeda, head of the Japanese Tourist Bureau at St. Louis, was taken into custody by federal agents last night in the Bridlespur Hunt Club, in Huntleigh Village, (Mo.)," the Daily Advocate reported. "Uyeda is manager of the club. Where Uyeda was being held and by what government agency were not disclosed.

"Police were watching two restaurants and a photo studio operated by (Japanese) at St. Louis. There ware only 46 Japanese nationals in the St. Louis metropolitan area, the FBI reported."

War pressure had been building for quite a long time. In the papers before the attack, the relationship between the United States and Japan was called an "uneasy peace." Newspapers had lots of stories about preparations that began before Dec. 7, 1941.

A story announced that 22 local industrialists would be going on Monday to a meeting of the national Office of Production Management in Springfield to explain the new material allocation plan for items such as steel.

Meanwhile, men rushed to serve.

To read the complete column, visit

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