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A look back at daily life in West Point the week of Pearl Harbor

December 6, 2012

Editor’s Note: This article contains headlines and excerpts from articles written in 1941. We apologize if the language is offensive to some of our readers. It is intended for historical analysis and does not reflect the feelings of anyone currently associated with the Daily Times Leader.

The two-time Little Ten Conference Champions Starkville Yellowjackets made front page news in the December 6, 1941 edition of the Daily Times Leader.
The powerhouse defeated Newton 26-14, and other than a few common headlines about Germany and Japan, no one could have fathomed the headlines that followed the day after.
On December 7, 1941 Japanese air forces launched a surprise attack on three different strategic locations, Pearl Harbor taking the worst of those hits. Hawaii was bombed, but every square inch of U.S. territory felt the effects of those bombs for the the next five years.
West Point lost soldiers. West Point families lost soldiers in the December 7 attack and the World War that followed.
“Japs at War with U.S.” was printed in a bold and large Hearst-like font size at the top of the December 7 edition of the Daily Times Leader, still a vital source for national and international news during the time.
“Roosevelt Summons Cabinet” was the line immediately below with a sidebar that read “Tokyo Reveals that Japan is Now at War with the United States.”
Readers had probably already forgotten about the small December 6 headline that read “Japan Recalls Two Attaches from Washington Embassy.” FDR’s “power cut plan” was a distant memory as Americans in small towns like West Point struggled to make sense of what had happened thousands of miles away.
Editor Edgar G. Harris and News Editor Sid Harris kept readers informed of the military buildup that followed.

The World Becomes Smaller

Lost in the shuffle were the day-to-day activities in West Point.
Mrs. FraFak Campbell and Mrs. Joe Duncan co-hosted a Christmas meeting at the New Century Club, but if the meeting did take place, it likely did not involve the normal chatter of the Christmas spirit like years before.
Travel was limited for many people in the early 1940s. Hawaii must have seemed an eternity away from West Point before that day.
The Daily Times Leader reports on December 7 that Mr. and Mrs. Forrest Carpenter “will spend a week in Cuba, Ala. with Mrs. Carpenter’s sister.”
Today’s drive to Meridian is a little over an hour, but it made news on December 7, 1941 that “Mrs. Fain Carpenter and daughter Mary Louise will spend the weekend in Meridian with Mrs. Carpenter’s mother.”

The War Closes In

By December 9, 1941, the Daily Times Leader was reporting that “Mississippi is Pledged to All-Out War.”
Further down the page reads, “Columbus Air Force Base Guard Doubled.”
The DTL did not leave out Franklin D. Roosevelt’s historic address to Congress, asking the body to declare war on Japan for the attack.
Peppered throughout the headlines were issues that still exist today. Issues of teachers salaries and pensions, the war in Libya and massive spending bills were spread around the talk of war.
By December 11, the West Point daily reported “Congress Calls New Axis Bluff: Nation Now at War with Germany and Italy.”
Also on that day, 90 year-old Eupora resident Jim Walton sent a telegraph to President Roosevelt, offering his services as a potato peeler for the Army.
“I am past 90 and answered the Confederate call ‘from 16 to 65 in late 1864,’” he wrote. “I am offering you my services as potato peeler so as to relieve some able-bodied soldier for active service in the American-Japanese war.”
On December 12, Mardi Gras is cancelled, the Army announces it wants more men, and J.W. Sanders celebrates birthday No. 92.
Meanwhile, the Delta State Teachers College “Basketballers” took down the Rebels of Ole Miss 30-29.
On December 15, the first West Point citizens get the worst news from Hawaii.
L.E. Nelson, the brother of West Point sisters Mrs. Andrew Horton and Mr.s Jesker Farr is reported to be presumed dead after his ship, the U.S.S. Cassin went into the sea on December 7. Nelson was from Alabama.
“He visited West Point a little over a year ago,” the paper reported, “ and he formed numerous acquaintances here.”

Lost Forever

Aside from radio broadcasts, most Americans in 1941 received their news from the local paper. Front-page pictures and wire stories from around the globe brought the most important events of the century to life for citizens in towns like West Point.
Technology has usurped print as the source for such news. Internet and television have rendered national and global news in small town papers irrelevant.
Even better developed means of travel has helped make the world smaller.
Our own 223rd Engineer Battalion received and will continue to receive much press in the last few months, as the soldiers have executed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003.
The Daily Times Leader hopes to provide a living historical record of the soldiers’ accomplishments so that 70 years from today, this paper might be able to offer its readers a brief glimpse into how this city made its mark on the world.

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