Do You Remember Pearl Harbor Day 1941?

President Franklin D. Roosevelt denounced it as a "Date that will live in infamy." It was the day America was dragged into World War II.

My mom remembers well where she was on December 7, 1941. Rebecca Still was 36 days away from her 13th birthday and had just spent the better part of her childhood in Tokyo. My grandfather, Owen Still, headed up the Yotsuya Mission near the Emperor’s Palace.

My grandparents, Owen and Shirley Still

He preached in a church with a makeshift steeple — which Japanese security inspected regularly, certain it was atop the building for spying purposes — and drew crowds that came to hear his fluent Japanese spoken with a soft Atlanta, Georgia, drawl.

My mom and her sisters also annoyed police when they’d attract crowds of gawkers by doing innocent things like going roller-skating in downtown Tokyo with metal clamp-on skates mailed by relatives.

Just weeks before December 7, the family had gotten an urgent message from the U.S. Embassy to evacuate to a luxury liner the U.S. Navy had commandeered in the mid-Pacific and sent to pick up American citizens in Tokyo. They and hundreds of other Americans were near-refugees – allowed only two pieces of baggage and crammed into every spare space of the ship, which then picked up more Americans and British in Shanghai and Hong Kong – dropping them off in Australia to find their own way home.

Japanese Zero aircraft on deck of the Shokaku


The Still family had made it back to the U.S. and my grandfather had taken a professorship at a college in Bentonville, Arkansas, when the announcement came over the radio. Japan had launched a sneak attack against the U.S. Pacific Fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii – as well as American and British forces in the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

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Rob Kerby
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