Monday, December 7, 2015

12-7-41 as it happened on American Radio

This collection of audio from December 7 and 8, 1941 gives us a good feel for what it was like that day. The nearest approach we Americans of the 21st century have to this is, of course, the attacks of 9-11-01.

I say 'nearest' because the ferocity speed and success of Japan's early moves in the Pacific War were such as to distress and fill with foreboding of Imperial victory over the U.S., not merely in its far flung territories, but perhaps at home. The west coast felt vulnerable. Pearl, Singapore, the Philippines, all fell quickly. The wave seems unstoppable.

This collection is a mix of news and entertainment programming of the day, with interruptions, bulletins, speculation, and the palpable realization that the U.S. would be fighting in the Pacific and Europe at the same time. Listen, and remember those who died that day.

A good overview from the Modesto Radio Museum

For most Americans, news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came as an interruption to their favorite radio programs on an otherwise tranquil Sunday afternoon on December 7th, 1941. An Associated Press bulletin at 2:22 PM Eastern Standard Time first reported the attack to mainland news organizations and radio networks. After confirming the initial bulletin with the government, the major radio networks interrupted regular programming beginning at 2:30 PM, bringing news of the attack which was still in progress.
In  New York City,  station WOR broke into the local broadcast of the Giants and Dodgers game while CBS informed listeners of the attack at 2:25 PM EST.  NBC broadcast their first bulletin nearly 4 minutes later at 2:29:50 PM . Within minutes the CBS radio network broke into normal programming with more information read by announcer John Daly. 
Honolulu NBC radio affiliate KGU, provided the first and most comprehensive radio coverage of the event. What was not known at the time was that Japanese planes, still swarming overhead in Honolulu, had used the station's signal to guide their planes to Hawaii.
While the attack was still in progress a reporter for KGU radio climbed to the roof of the Advertiser Building in downtown Honolulu with microphone in hand and called the NBC Blue Network on the phone with the first eyewitness account of the attack,  "This battle has been going on for nearly three hours... It's no joke, it's a real war" said the reporter.     Ironically, a Honolulu telephone operator interrupted the broadcast after 2 ½ minutes declaring a need for the line for an emergency call.

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