December 1991 | Volume 42, Issue 8
When war came at last, most Americans couldn’t identify exactly where it had come. The baseball writer Robert W. Creamer recounts how a boy ran home to the family’s Brooklyn apartment to explain to his mother and stepfather, “We’re at war. The Japanese have bombed Belle Harbor [at Coney Island].”
“I first heard the news from the elevator man in the National Press Building,” the journalist I. F. Stone wrote later that week. “The ticker at the Press Club, normally shut off on Sunday, carried the first flash telling of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was a beautiful late-autumn Sunday, the sky clear and the air crisp.”
“We are going into this war lightly,” Stone concluded, “but I have a feeling that it will weigh heavily upon us all before we are through. The vast theater on which the struggle between this country and Japan opens makes the last war seem a parochial conflict confined to the Atlantic and the western cape of the Eurasian continent. This is really world war, and in my humble opinion it was unavoidable and it is better fought now when we still have allies left.”
The day before the attack that compelled him to ask for a declaration of war, Franklin Roosevelt secretly approved money for the project that would end it: the atomic bomb.