Bill Nuttle was enjoying a typical lazy Sunday on December 7, 1941. He had put off his weekend’s homework until the last minute when news came across the radio that would make his schoolwork seem unimportant. Mr. Nuttle recounts his memories of that fateful day including how he and other teenage boys at his school prepared for the very real possibility that they would soon be called to fight in this new war.
Hearing the News
I was living in Baltimore at the time, and Sunday afternoon I remember it very well. I think I talked about how I put off all my homework until Sunday afternoon. So I was contemplating getting to the books and starting my homework, and when they came over with [the announcement], I forgot all about it. Over the radio, because, of course, there was no television then. Over the radio came news that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. Well, no one knew where Pearl Harbor was so all the correspondents got out their history books or their geography books to see where in the world Pearl Harbor was. And the next day we had classes as usual but it seems to me we had some sort of assembly, and the principal explained what was going on. I don’t remember that very much. Of course as sixteen-year-old boys we were very excited. Yeah, this was [big]. We were interested in what was going on in Germany and Great Britain and France. I was particularly interested … The paper put out a list of British ships, and I had that up in my room. As various ones were sunk I’d [update it].
As more and more information came in, we got about half of what the government wanted us to hear about Pearl Harbor in the beginning. I had a classmate in high school who was the British consul’s son, and we got talking. Of course, he knew a lot about it, a lot more than we were told. He knew how much damage had really occurred then and really how bad we were off at that particular time. We really were. We had buried our head in the sand for a number of years while various dictators had gotten in. And there was, of course, a lot of back and forth about the Japanese because they were running roughshod over China and the Malayan Peninsula and Indonesia. And I remember that they had sent two high level diplomats to meet with the secretary of state in Washington to head off the friction between the United States and Japan. I think it turned out that they didn’t really know what was going on, but before they even came, the Japanese fleet had already started. They were just a decoy.