Seventy-eight years ago today . . .

Seventy-eight years ago today, Sunday, December 7, 1941, my dad, Mack Mulkey, a recent college drop-out working at the local Dr Pepper plant, drove a borrowed pickup truck the fifteen miles down Highway 356 from his home in Dallas to Irving, Texas, listening to the Washington Redskins-Philadelphia Eagles football game on the vehicle’s newfangled in-dash radio. Though a football fanatic with unfulfilled gridiron aspirations of his own, Mack’s thoughts wandered from the game toward the beautiful young woman, Callie Sue Tilghman, a high school senior and sometimes fashion model, he was going to visit. Suddenly a special news announcement interrupted the game, as well as his reverie:

We interrupt this broadcast to bring you this important bulletin. Washington, DC—The White House announces Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Stay tuned for further developments.

After this startling announcement, the broadcast of the Redskins-Eagles football game resumed but was soon interrupted again by a breathless radio reporter based in Honolulu, Hawaii, near the scene of the attack:

We have witnessed this morning a severe bombing of Pearl Harbor. The city of Honolulu has also been attacked and considerable damage done. This battle has been going on for nearly three hours. It is no joke. It is a real war.

Mack arrived at Callie Sue’s door ashen-faced and heavy-hearted, not yet fully comprehending how his life and those of millions of others were about to be radically transformed. The young lovers listened to additional radio reports, ate a subdued Sunday dinner with Callie Sue’s grandmother and aunt, then snuggled quietly in the living room trying to make sense of the alarming events and the looming prospect of war.

The next day, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke to Congress and the American people—to address the shock and apprehension many citizens felt as well as to rally the nation and move it toward a united response to the attack on American soil:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. . . .

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

The U.S. declared war on Japan that day and on Germany and Italy in the days that followed.

Recent Posts