War Child: Being a Kid During World War II (Part 1)

Article by: Kim Feldmen, Guest Author

December 7, 1941 came as a shock to our nation. It probably shouldn’t have; Japan had run rampant over much of Southeast Asia for several years. But war in that part of the globe didn’t touch US.

On the day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt referred to as, “A Day of Infamy”, my brother, Harvey, almost 11, and I, just turned 7, were playing outside with a group of neighborhood kids. Several of the kids went into the house for a drink of water, and came out yelling and screaming “Pearl Harbor has been bombed!! We’re at war!!”

Of course, I had heard of World War I, and the United States had been involved with the war in Europe for a couple of years, but those things didn’t seem to touch the heart of America like the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Maybe it was because with the sinking of a major part of our Pacific Naval Fleet there was a terrible loss of lives on one day and in one place. My immediate reaction was, “What’s war?” and “Where is Pearl Harbor?” The answer to both questions would come very soon.

Our dad had just purchased a good short-wave radio. Harvey and I ran home and made the announcement we had heard and Dad immediately turned on the radio. I’m not sure if we got a direct pick-up from Honolulu, or if it was passed on from a West Coast station, but we heard a broadcast from Honolulu. The person trying to broadcast was half screaming, half-crying and trying to describe what he was seeing. The impact of that voice brought terror to me. I don’t remember all the words, but I will never forget the sound of that man’s voice.

Our family had always listened to the news on radio, but from December 7th, 1941 on, news time became the center of attention. As I recall, the evening news came on just at the time we sat down to eat supper, at 5:30 pm, so our evening meal was eaten in silence, except for the radio. Early on, the reports seemed to only be about losses of US planes and ships, but gradually we began to hear some encouraging news about battles at sea, and landing on islands.

Of course there was no television at that time, but movie theaters always showed two features, with some type of comical short film between. Within weeks of December 7th a news feature was added to or replaced the comical film between features. The news features were only in black and white, but they brought the scourge and fear of war home much more than TV can today. Close-up shots of a wounded soldiers, Marines, etc. on TV is hard enough to look at, but the movie news features were the full size of the movie screen!

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