South Floridians remember where they were when Pearl Harbor was attacked

We asked Sun Sentinel readers to recall where they were that fateful Sunday, 70 years ago. These are some of the responses:

On a sunny Sunday, six young men, including myself, all of us 19 to 21 years old, had chipped in 5 cents each to buy gas for a beat up 1934 Ford owned by one of the boys.
We were driving by the Polo Grounds in New York where a football game was in progress when we heard an announcement on the loud speaker: “President Roosevelt has just announced that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor”'
In the hushed silence that followed his announcement, one of the boys in the car said, “Our lives will never be the same again.” And it never was.
— Jerome Hayflich, Boca Raton

I went to my 84 year-old dad to ask him if he had any recollections of Pearl Harbor. His reply startled me, since he had never spoken of it, but he said: “Like it was yesterday.”
With tears in his old blue eyes, he told me he was 14 years old and riding in the back seat of a car headed from Quinebaug, CT to the State Theater in Hartford, CT with his older sister and her new husband. Their habit was to take a drive on Sunday afternoons to go see such performers as Fay Kaiser or Tommy Dorsey. They were on the way, listening to the radio, when the announcement came on that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. My aunt immediately got upset and my dad, not understanding, asked her what it all meant. She said my Uncle Gabe would be drafted and have to go to war. And so he did.
Uncle Gabe made it back and they lived happily for many more years. He and his wife, Eileen, are gone now. Maybe that's why daddy remembers that day so fondly and clearly. Gabe and Eileen took him everywhere, since his mom died when he was very little. After all these years, daddy still gets tears in his big, blue eyes when he remembers. Who knew? Daddy went into the Second World War but after reaching Japan it was soon over and he came safely home.
Thank you for asking people about that day. If you hadn't, I would never have heard his story. What a blessing.
— Priscilla Dunican Waller for her father, Thomas Dunican, of Coconut Creek

On Dec. 6, 1941, my husband Bill and I, together with another young married couple, spent the day, along with thousands of other holiday shoppers taking in the sparkling sights and joyous sounds so unique to Christmas in New York City. We slept late on Sunday and were joined by our friends for lunch at a small family restaurant in the basement of an old brownstone house close to our apartment. After lunch, our husbands returned to our apartment to listen to the radio broadcast from the Polo Grounds of the football game between their favorite New York Giants and the Brooklyn Football Dodgers.
My friend and I walked up Broadway to see "Gone with the Wind" for the second time since it opened in 1939. That afternoon, the movie was interrupted by a news flash announcing the early morning bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Following the announcement, the lights went on. I remember feeling like I'd been hit over the head with a blunt object. For a moment people were too stunned to move or talk. Then, all around us there arose sounds of disbelief, anger, grief and panic. My friend and I were among those who only moments ago had wept for the young soldiers in the movie who lay dying on the battlefields of the South. We now wept for young soldiers and sailors perishing on the decks of burning battleships and drowning in the bloody waters of the Pacific. We stumbled out of our seats and up the aisle, eager to return to our apartment and share our emotions with our young husbands.
The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, which resulted in the sudden loss of hundreds of service men, as well as many planes and warships, shocked and angered the American people.
They could no longer look the other way. Overnight, the United States was plunged into a global war which would eventually deploy our land, sea, and air forces in the Pacific, the Atlantic, North Africa and Europe.
— Lorna Trauth, Delray Beach


I am an 84-year-old snowbird and a veteran of the U.S. Navy. My memory of Dec. 7 goes back to the Polo Grounds in New York City, where I was watching the New York Giants play the Brooklyn Football Dodgers (yes, the Dodgers had a football team back then) with my father. No announcements were ever made at the stadium, but during halftime, many servicemen and newsmen were asked to call their offices.
One in particular that I remember was Col. William Donnavan, later head of the OSS/CIA, also known as “Wild Bill” Donnavan. There were no transistor radios in those day, but somehow the news circulated around the stadium during the second half, and someone said the Japanese had bombed Dutch Harbor. I had no idea where that was, and remember asking Dad. Later we heard it was Pearl Harbor, but I still did not know where that was.
After the game in the car ride back to Long Island and listening to the car radio with all the news, I can still recall sitting the back seat and thinking as a 14 year old how this was going to affect me.
— Arnold Wolfe, Delray Beach


On Dec. 7, I was in basic training at Camp Lee, VA. when news of the attack came. I was cleaning windows in the barracks to earn a three-day pass. The next announcement was that all passes and leaves were cancelled. Al the events that followed are still very vivid in my 91-year-old mind.
— Felix Jacobs, Sunrise

On Dec. 7 at 8 a.m., I was standing on a hill about three miles from Pearl Harbor. It was called Red Hill and from that vantage point, we saw the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese planes.
— Paul S. Heaton, Hollywood

Yes, I know exactly where I was on Pearl Harbor Day. You see, I was born a month later, so I was in a "safe place" in my mother's womb. Had I known what was going on in the "outside world", I would have opted to stay where I was.
Despite being born into a world at war, I look back at my 70 (almost) years, as having been born into a "golden life". I have been soooo very fortunate to have been born at that time.
—    Robert Luka, Coral Springs


I was a high school freshman on Dec. 7, 1941. On that day, my parents sent my brother and I to the Sylvan Theater in Sylvania, Ohio. When we left the theater, there was a deadly hush in the air and people kept saying, “Have you boys heard the awful news? We are at war.”
I never dreamed my brother would enlist. He was underage and my mother had to sign him into the Navy. Later, he joined the Army to serve in Korea. I was drafted at 18 and sent to the European battlegrounds.
I am ashamed that I had hatred Big Time, in regards to our German and Japanese enemies. About 10 years ago, I partied in Hawaii with a Japanese honeymoon couple. We have remained close friends and gift exchangers ever since. There simply is no room for hatred when life is so short and peace is so precious. I thank God and our President for ending two of our three wars, and look forward to going to see a movie and not coming out to see people in pain over yet another insane war.
— Harold Flagg, Fort Lauderdale


For me, Pearl Harbor Day fell on Monday, Dec. 8, 1941. On that day, I was a sixth-grader, a couple of weeks short of my eleventh birthday, living in Manila, Philippines. I arose on that Monday -- Sunday in the U.S.-- to get ready to attend school, and as usual I turned on the radio to hear the latest news. Obviously, I was astounded to learn about the Japanese attack, and rushed to tell my father, who was shaving in the bathroom.
He found the news hard to believe and had to hear it on the radio for himself, as did my mother, who came out of her bedroom to listen. They drove me to school that day, on their way to work, but that turned out to be the final day of school. That night Japanese planes bombed the city, and less than a month later, my parents and I were imprisoned in Santo Tomas Internment Camp, from which we were liberated over three years later, in February 1945.
— Martin Meadows, Boca Raton

On Dec. 7, I was 12 years old. That morning, my parents and I were planning our automobile trip from New Jersey to visit California for the winter. The trip was to begin on Dec. 8. We had originally planned to leave in November, but my brother's wife was expecting. She delivered my nephew on Dec. 2.
We heard the news on the radio in our living room, and at first, we did not know where Pearl Harbor was located. When we learned later that day that California was threatened, my mother insisted we delay the trip.
On Monday, we continued to listen to the news, and my father and I convinced my mother that California was not in danger, so we planned to leave on Tuesday. We started traveling west, but each day the news became more grim about possible attacks on California. By the third day out, when we reached St. Louis, my mother was so worried that we headed south to New Orleans, and then on the Florida for the winter, rather than California. For years, I teased my nephew about his delayed arrival. If we started out in November, as planned, we would have been in California on Dec. 7. I did not get a chance to visit California until 1962.
— Robert Koltnow, Plantation

My father, who passed away several years ago, was serving on the battleship Oklahoma during the attack. That's the one that rolled over after being hit by numerous torpedoes in the first moments of the attack. He was showering. He wiggled out of a porthole and was wounded while he swam to the ship next door. He ended up making a career of the Navy for 31 years, retiring as a captain in 1970.
— Keith Brender, Deerfield Beach


I had my eighth birthday the previous October. That Sunday, Dec. 7., my mother took me to the movies at the Broadway theater in Astoria, Queens, NY. It was a third-run theater, far down from the beautiful first-run houses in midtown Manhattan.
The movie we saw was “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” starring Spencer Tracy. It was real scary. I guess my mother liked my company no matter what was playing. When it was over, we came out to newsboys standing on the corner with piles of special editions yelling “EXTRA, EXTRA! JAPS BOMB PEARL HARBOR.” I didn't realize then that I should be more afraid of the outside event rather than the movie.
— Joan Weinstock, Sunrise


Remembrances of Pearl Harbor

I'll never forget that day in '41,
While listening to the football game,
They announced the attack by the Rising Sun ,
Our ships and planes, were destroyed and in flame.
Hickam and our Navy were not ready,
For this surprise from the Far Eastern skies.
Their diplomats were meeting in Washington, D.C.,
While their Zeros gunned down our G.I.s.
The "Day of Infamy" speech by F.D.R.,
Inspired and united us to reverse the tide,
Against the enemy from afar,
With determination and good old American Pride.
"Unconditional surrender" was the term that we set,
When we signed the treaty, our goal had been met.
Pearl Harbor would become a lifetime memory,
And an unforgettable W.W.ll victory.
—    Bernie Glickstern, Boynton Beach

I was six years old and remember that my uncle Harold Brown was in the U.S. Navy on the U.S.S. Yorktown at Pearl Harbor. He said he had to jump in the water and swim in burning oil. He had to swim through it and got scars all over his body. He survived but died a few years ago.
I remember the day after the bomb was dropped and it was over. The boys came home and every one was celebrating in the streets in East Flatbush, Brooklyn where I lived.
— Stanley Brown, Delray Beach

I was five years old on Pearl Harbor day. I lived in a very small town in Pennsylvania and my family and I were at my grandparents house for Sunday dinner. Suddenly someone said that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and we were at war. My mother cried.
I didn't know what any of that meant but I sensed that something bad had happened. Because my mother was crying, I started crying also and I felt terrible. I think this shows how even a very young child who not really understanding what had happened, was affected by the news.
— Anita Sturm, Boynton Beach


I was 15 years old on Dec. 7, 1941. I remember that the family came home from church and someone turned on the radio. The newscasters were in an uproar, reporting the attack on Pearl Harbor. I could see that my parents were worried - three of my four brothers were draft age. But I didn't know where Pearl Harbor was, and I didn't understand the significance of the news.
At my high school the next day, they called an assembly to hear FDR's "day that will live in infamy" speech. Since all the students couldn't fit into the auditorium at one time, we, the underclassmen, had to walk to a nearby church to listen to the speech. It seemed so ironic to be sitting in church to hear the President asking Congress to declare war.
During the war, my four brothers were all on different continents. My younger brother was only 13, so he was at home in America. My oldest brother was in North Africa, the next oldest in the Pacific and Asia, and the next oldest in Italy, a gunner on a plane that was bombing Austria. My mother wrote to each one of them every day. When the war was over she said she was never going to write another letter as long as she lived.
— Jan Washburn, Fort Lauderdale

I was born and raised in Washington, D.C. On Dec. 7, some friends and I were playing sand lot football. Our three girlfriends were in our car, which was parked on a hill overlooking the football field. Of course, they were listening to the car radio. Later in the afternoon the girls came running down the hill shouting, "Where's Pearl Harbor? The Japanese have just bombed Pearl Harbor."
I was 19 at the time and had never known or heard of Pearl Harbor, nor had my friends. Naturally it was not long until the newspapers and radio filled us in with all of the terrible details. Yes, it was a most memorable day.
I went on in the ensuing year to being accepted by the Naval Aviation Cadet Selection Board, completed the training, and became a single engine carrier pilot. Our Air Group 14 was on Maui when the war ended. My birthday is Aug. 16, the war ended Aug. 15; there were tears in our martinis!
— Bob Westmoreland, Pompano Beach