“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941, a date which will live, in infamy.” Those words were spoken by President Roosevelt to a joint session of Congress in a declaration of war against Japan. On Dec. 11, Hitler declared war on America.

As a six year old, I didn’t understand the meaning of war. Pearl Harbor is a long way from New Jersey. In the passing of time, the war came into focus. Almost everything was rationed or scarce: including sugar, butter, shoes, nylon stockings, gasoline and even Double Bubble Gum. Money alone could not purchase many items; you had to have government Ration Stamps or Tokens. Everyone joined in an effort to support our boys over there. All the kids in my neighborhood collected rubber, tin cans, bacon grease, copper wire, tin foil and everything we could find for the war effort. The ladies rolled bandages at the local Red Cross. Movie stars led in the effort to sell War Bonds.

A local hero, John Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery at Guadalcanal. He made speeches to sell war bonds at our local factories. He was killed at the battle of Iwo Jima. A road off the I-5 at Camp Pendleton bears his name. Another hero, Bob Hope, spent every Christmas with our troops overseas. Movie stars and sports figures including Jimmy Stewart, Bob Feller and Joe Louis joined the military; some, includng Glenn Miller, lost their lives. I remember many patriotic songs, my favorite was, “The White Cliffs of Dover.”

The most feared person in America was the Western Union Man. When he rode his bicycle down your street, you prayed he wouldn’t knock on your door. He delivered Telegrams from the War Department informing you that your loved one was either missing, wounded, or killed in action. I saw many blue star and sadly, some gold star pennants hanging in people’s windows. Everyone had their ears glued to the radio to get the latest news from the different theatres of war. Although my mother never let on, I saw the expression of fear for her Jewish relatives in Eastern Europe. Finally, on Aug. 14,1945, President Truman announced the unconditional surrender of Japan, the war was over. Newspaper headlines said, peace. Hitler had commited suicide and we got Hirohito’s White Horse.

There were celebrations all over America and the World. Our boys were coming home. All of them gave some for our freedoms and some of them gave all. My wife’s uncle lost his young life flying over Germany as a B-17 pilot.

On this Dec. 7, the 80th anniversaary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, I will always remember those heros for their service to America in securing our freedoms. They were led by great leaders; Eisenhower, MacArthur, Patton, Halsey and Nimitz. They, are my heroes. In his farewell address at West Point, the final words of General MacArthur were, “Old soldiers never die, they just, fade away.”

May God bless and hold them all, in the palm of His hand.

Amen and Semper Fi.

Russell Roof

Yucaipa

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