Coming to grips with Pearl Harbor and its aftermath

By Terry Economy | Dec 07, 2011

December 7, 1941, a day of infamy, as the president at that time, Franklin Roosevelt, called it during his speech to Congress in declaring war on Japan, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I was only six years old at the time and did not realize that it would change my life, as well as the lives of hundreds of thousands of other Americans.

During our youth years, we all seem to remember an important event. This is true in the case of my memory of Pearl Harbor. My older brother, Richard, sister Virginia and I were at the Strand Theater in Rockland on a Sunday afternoon, Dec. 7.

I don't remember the movie that was showing, but I do remember that during the movie the film stopped and the lights came on. Then Danny Dandaneau, the Strand Theater manager, appeared on the stage and said something like: "Pearl Harbor has just been bombed and is under attack by the Japanese. All military personnel in the audience should report to their base immediately."

Rockland at that time had Navy and Coast Guard bases.

I was sitting next to my brother, who was 28. I do remember that he squeezed my hand after the announcement. I wonder now what went through his mind. Because of Pearl Harbor and World War II, five years later I would lose the only father I ever knew. My father had died in 1936 when I was a year old and my mother never remarried. Richard sort of became a father to me in my early youth years.

He had joined the Army in 1943, fought in Italy, then was part of the D Day invasion on Omaha Beach. During the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, he received frost bite in both of his legs and spent over a year in a U.S. Army hospital in France. During his stay, we received many letters from him assuring us that he was "OK."

During World War II, I had three step-brothers who had joined the service. James was in the Navy, Richard in the Army, and Christy in the Marines. I was one of a few kids in my neighborhood who had relatives in all branches. We were a three-star family. We displayed a little flag in our window at 9 Prescott St. with the three stars on it, and I was so proud of my brothers fighting for our country. I was one of the few kids who had three caps to wear: Army, Navy, Marines.

But it all changed on April 17, 1946. Richard, who, was released to come home in March 1946, died of a embolism one day after being home for little over a month. Our family had not seen him for three years. I was only 11 when he died and I felt very bitter for a long, long time trying to understand why God took away his life and the only father I ever knew. Then, as I grew older, I had to come to grips that I wasn't alone. Thousands of others had also lost their loved ones during World War II. And I had to accept and live with it. And I did.



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