Residents recall day of attack
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
Dec 07, 2012 | 1161 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pearl Harbor
In this U.S. Navy file photo, a small boat rescues a USS West Virginia crew member from the water after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. Two men can be seen on the superstructure, upper center. The mast of the USS Tennessee is beyond the burning West Virginia. On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese Imperial Navy navigator Takeshi Maeda guided his Kate bomber to Pearl Harbor and fired a torpedo that helped sink the West Virginia. President Barack Obama on Thursday issued a proclamation declaring Dec. 7 a day of remembrance in honor of the 2,400 Americans who died at Pearl Harbor. He urged federal agencies, organizations and others to fly their flags at half-staff.  AP file photo
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It was Dec. 7, 1941.

Harold Griffin and a group of his friends were playing a game of Monopoly, and listening to the radio. An announcer came on the air and brought them the news that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by Japan.

“It was quite a shock to hear they had done that. According to the news you’d watch, they were our friends and everything like this,” Griffin said. “It was just very much of a surprise.”

The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor launched the United States into World War II.

“And I said at that time, ‘I’ll be in the Navy as soon as I can,’” Griffin said.

Harold Griffin was 15, and living in New York at the time. He enlisted at the age of 17.

“I joined the Navy in ’43,” Griffin said.

He went on to serve for 21 years, through World War II and the Korean War.

“They started Vietnam and I said, ‘No, I’m going to get out,’” Griffin said.

Alice Griffin, Harold’s wife, said she cried when she first heard the news of Pearl Harbor as a little girl. She was playing outside with some friends, when her parents heard the news and told her about the attack. She was 8 years old.

“Our house was like a morgue,” Alice said. “It was so quiet all day long.”

She said she had never heard of Pearl Harbor before that day.

“Everybody (in my neighborhood) became closer,” she said.

Fear was also prevalent. Griffin said her older sister and parents helped her during this time.

“We were always afraid that they might attack us, that we might be bombed,” Griffin said.

Griffin remembers food and gasoline being rationed.

“Only people like doctors and nurses could get gas,” Griffin said.

The Griffins now live in Bradley County.

For those living in Tennessee in 1941, reactions were about the same.

Elwana Yeary, 90, lived in Morristown, but was on vacation in Miami on Dec. 7, 1941.

“I was in, I think it was Macy’s store when they announced what had happened,” Yeary said. “They announced, it over the intercom. I got so excited and scared to death, too.”

After the announcement, Yeary didn’t finish shopping. Instead she and her husband left. However, the couple finished their vacation as they had planned.

“Everyone was amazed. I think it scared everybody,” Yeary said.

Although he doesn’t remember much about the actual event, the attack on Pearl Harbor had an impact on Bradley County native Marvin Bacon’s life. He was 7 at the time.

“All my uncles had to go to war, and my daddy,” Bacon said.

He had seven uncles.

Bacon said he remembers taking a train with mother and brother to visit his father when he was stationed in Louisiana.

The family was reunited when Bacon’s father was able to come home because his mother got yellow jaundice.

Many years later some of his close friends spoke of when they were present the day the Japanese planes darkened the sky.

One friend rarely talked about his experience, and had been a prisoner of war sometime after Pearl Harbor.

Bradley County resident Leon Crisp, 88, also heard the news of the attacks on the radio. He said the event was talked about for several days afterward.

“I became 18 a little later and they drafted me in the Army, then they turned me down, told me I was flat footed,” Crisp said. “I’m against war, but as long as we have dictators and people who want to take over other countries, then it becomes necessary to fight.”

His brother joined the Army.

“He told me he was (with) the first troops to cross the Rhine River,” Crisp said. “It wasn’t no easy thing.”