For most Americans, news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came as an interruption to their favorite radio programs on that Sunday afternoon on December 7th, 1941.
An Associated Press bulletin at 2:22 PM Eastern Standard Time first reported the attack to mainland news organizations and radio networks. After confirming the initial bulletin with the government, the major radio networks interrupted regular programming beginning at 2:30 PM, bringing news of the attack in progress. CBS broke in on the Redskins and Eagles football game.
On that December 7, 1941, Samuel Moore Collins/my father and some of his fellow cadets from The Citadel were enjoying a movie at a theater on King Street. They were at liberty from the college on this Sunday and looking forward to their Christmas break
At the King Street Newstand close by were comic books and ice cream for sale. The young men were looking forward to the ice cream, as they enjoyed the show.
And then the movie-showing was interrupted with news of the Pearl Harbor attack. Shock immediately consumed their minds; the cadets rose from their s eats as one and briskly walked out of the theater. Knowing they needed to immediately return to the Citadel, they started running to the nearby bus stop. Urgency was in every step.
The Citadel trained men to become soldiers. This included discipline and control. The fourth class system taught the importance of obedience, and plebes learned to avoid the consequences of compliance. Already other cadets had joined the war in Europe, even before the involvement of the US. Some had lost their lives.
There was little chatter on the bus, but there was much speculation as to when the service to their country would begin. It was inevitable now. Soul-searching was another part of that trip back to the Citadel campus.
The attack continued for two hours and twenty minutes and resulted in 2,400 American casualties, 1,200 wounded, and over 300 aircraft and 18 ships damaged or destroyed.
Several months later, theaters once again announced news about this attack. Before a feature, a MovieTone news reel brought the reality to moviegoers.
Each of those Citadel lives changed forever on this day.
On the following Monday, President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded to this attack.
My grandmother Lulu/Daddy’s mother often said that her happy-go-lucky son went to war, but a solemn and quiet man returned.
I want to salute today my dad, his brother Wallace Crittenden Collins, my aunt Dottie Collins, and all of the others from our country that stepped up and never wavered in their “pledge to the United States of America.” They responded to the call of their country to defend it “from all enemies, both foreign and domestic.”
As Tim Brokaw named you in the title of his book, you were a part of The Greatest Generation.
Thank you for your service.
Here is a link to an article I wrote about my dad’s class at the Citadel. Theirs is an amazing story.
Click to access CitadelClass.pdf