I was at Gram’s home that long ago Sunday morning of December 7, 1941, sitting in the upstairs east bedroom, reading and listening to music, but when the music changed to some kind of war story, I turned it OFF and wandered downstairs.
Gram, Mrs. Archibald (Rachel Crozier) Bradford, was preparing dinner, and as I stepped toward her, I paused, and didn’t know what to do, for I saw she was crying as she worked.
She didn’t speak, and so I reached out with a loving hug, then sat down at the kitchen table. I wasn;t sure of why she cried, but knew it had to do with what the radio told us meant War , and Gram, that dear woman, knew what war meant.
Her husband had served in the Philippine Islands in the Spanish American War, and now she had two sons of the ages to serve in the war we were hearing on the radio. Gram knew what war had meant, and now would mean to a new generation..
Jake (Fenton Crozier Bradford), her son and my brother-in-law, entered the room, had a folded newspaper in his hand, and as he passed me to go through the swinging door, to the upstairs, he lightly whacked me on the shoulder with the newspaper and said, “This one’s for me, Ole.”
Jake had nicknamed me Ole from my maiden name of Ohlin, so I grinned at him, but he didn’t grin back or even stop to chat.
At that time, he was 36 years old, a few months short of being too old (37) to be drafted when WWII became a reality for the USA. We had been helping England with Lend-Lease and many other ways, but that was the day when we were in that war. Over our heads in it.
I saw that Gram was taking care of whatever she was cooking, but was still crying and her radio continued telling us of what I had thought was a ‘war story’, but by her tears and Jake’s comment, I suddenly knew that we were hearing no ‘program’, but Reality, firm, unchangeable Realty.
I suddenly’ k’new that we were being told of real Japanese planes which, as we listened, were bombing and destroying, the entire USA Fleet, and Air Force, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt, had sent, ‘for safety’ sake, along with the thousands of our sons, brothers and friends aboard those Battleships, taken to military shelter in the Hawaiian harbor.
As of that date, we were not yet a part of World War II, but that designation was shattered right as we listened, for we became aware that Japan had, with no world-wide notice joined that War on the side of Hitler’s Germany. And even as we listened, our USA Battleships, and their Crews, where we thought, would be safe from Hitler’s reach were being destroyed..
How wrong we were, and that Sunday morning, we were no longer bystanders of what was beginning to be called World War Two, and we were in it. And over our heads in it, too.,
With Gram’s tears, and Jake’s actions I realized they knew more about what it all meant than I did, and I shivered, I was young, too young and unknowing, but we learned swiftly, far too swiftly.
It would be five years before Jake could try to resume a ‘normal’ life, but even then he was one of the lucky ones, for so many, many thousands never returned to their homes, but were killed and buried in places around the world that, before WWII, we had never even heard their names.
We’ve never been so innocent since that December 7th morning . . . and never will be again. In the hard way, we learned that truly, the age of innocence was past. And remains so .