July 7, 2014

1941. A Letter Home After the Attack on Pearl Harbor

The United States Enters World War II

December 19, 1941

Dear Folks,
I have been holding off writing this letter for a number of reasons—mostly because America's declaration of war kept us so busy that there really hasn't been much time to do any letter writing. But I also have been so mixed up that I don't know exactly what to do about it all. We all, of course, were delighted to know that the Japs made it legal. The hypocrisy of the last year or so was beginning to get on everyone's nerves. Still there was a certain amount of sadness over the development—even the British to whom the declaration meant the most weren't half as joyous as Congress sounded over the radio. They know the sacrifices that war means.

My current problem is what am I personally going to do about it all. Like anyone who understands the issues at stake. I want to get into it—but I'm damned if I want to be what the British call a "Whitehall warrior." That is, a one-pip soldier who fights the wars behind a desk or in the cafes. On the other hand I don't suppose I could get much of an assignment because of my eyes—so I'm up a creek. I've talked with the military men here about it and their general opinion is that American newspapermen are doing as good a job here as they could ever do at home. But you still get the feeling of being a slacker. So I don't know what to do. I also got an offer of a good job that is now hanging fire—if the thing hasn't already fallen through. You should keep this in strictest confidence so don't spread it around where any of the Kansas City newspaper crowd will get hold of it.

Anyway, it seems that the Newspaper Enterprise Association—which has a vague financial connection with United Press, offered me a job which pays about $15 more weekly and almost full expenses. In all it would mean about twice as much as I presently am making. I would write a column—about five of them weekly for about 500 newspapers. The job has a future because they build you up as a columnist and keep your name going. It would be a good setup if it came through—but I don't think the UP will let me go—and I'm not sure I want to abandon spot news reporting at just this period in history. In the long run it might not pay out.

Anyway, I can't tell just what is in the air but it looks sort of like the thing won't go through now. I don't suppose I'd recognize the old home town now that we are in it. I want you to write me giving me a picture of the setup—just what the middle-westerners thought of the declaration—are they really mad—do they think it is only a war against Japan or do they recognize the world-wide scope of the fight? What do they think about their sons joining the fighting forces etc. etc. The British have been very decent and now everyone seems settled down to the job of kicking the hell out of the Axis. I want to help all I can. I'm still covering the American embassy and doing feature stories.

Incidentally, we're expecting one of the biggest stories of the war to break within the next week or two. You probably will have heard of it by the time you get this—I can't even hint what it is and we're supposed to shut our eyes when we even think of it.

I think I told you that Bill Dickinson and John Parris have moved into the flat with me. We are having a fine time and get along swell. John is from North Carolina and speaks like a Georgia cracker. All of us work such screwy hours that no one interferes with the other and we hardly see each other except at the office. I think our neighbors think we're nuts. I also want to thank you for the swell jacket. I already have worn it for walks in the country and am the envy of all the local yokels for miles around. It was damn nice of you all and makes me feel ashamed of myself. Incidentally, with the establishment of American censorship, our letters will be upheld somewhat longer than usual since there will be the usual ironing out to do in the censorship system. I told you I got a letter from John Malone who it seems is with the Army in Dutch Guiana guarding bauxite mines. Dave Hamlin is working in Logan Utah for a radio station, I understand. That's about all the news I know. I'm remaining in good health and am hoping for some sort of an X-mas although I'm still making book on my working during the holidays.

There shouldn't be a hell of a lot going on, though—but you never can tell. I'll keep you informed of my movements and what goes on. Meanwhile, let me hear from you. Your letters sound mighty good.