Historic Pelham

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Friday, August 26, 2005

Pelham's Reaction to the "Date Which Will Live in Infamy": December 7, 1941

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Though our nation had been preparing for War for quite some time, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941 nevertheless stunned the nation and the little Town of Pelham. The following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation describing the previous day as "a date which will live in infamy".

Pelham residents were serving in the armed forces in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on the day of the attack. For several days anguished Pelham families awaited word on the fate of their loved ones.

Pelham had been preparing for months for its own defense in the event of War. In the first few days after the Japanese attack, air raid sirens blared in Pelham and school children were dismissed from their schools. On Friday, December 12, 1941, the headline in The Pelham Sun blared "WAR DECLARATION FINDS TOWN READY FOR DEFENSE SERVICE". The entire, lengthy article in the newspaper detailed events in Pelham in the days that followed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The article appears in its entirety below.

Registration For Defense Activities Rises Rapidly
Reassuring Reports Received From Pelham Men At Pearl Harbor Naval Base; Citizens Will Be Informed Of Service That They Can Render In Civilian Defense; Pelham Girds For War.

The news of the passing week is historic. On Sunday a murderous attack without warning upon United States naval forces in Hawaii. On Monday news of our losses of ships and men and the loss of two major British ships in the fighting with Japan. On Tuesday an air raid alarm which caused some newspapers to issue extras declaring that enemy planes were approaching New York, caused Pelham schools to be emptied in emergency fashion. On Thursday Italy and Germany both declared war upon the United States.

In common with the rest of the United States the news of Sunday's treacherous attack aroused both national anger and national patriotic fervor. Registrations in all classes of local defense units rose rapidly. On Tuesday night the defense counsel met and reviewed the plans made for defensive measures. Auxiliary police forces reported by Robert Shaw as ready. The force of wardens under Harry D. Wright is perfecting its final steps. Kenneth R. Kelly was appointed head of the auxiliary fire fighting units to co-operate with the fire chiefs in expanding forces. Pamphlets and bulletins of information will be issued instructing citizens what to do in event of air raids.

Red Cross and defense council ambulance units are ready for service. Residents have been advised to keep fire extinguishing utensils handy. Loads of sand will be delivered to public places where it may be obtained. Anxious parents with sons in the armed forces in Hawaii hearing casualties were heavy sought information. Up to the present no Pelham casualties have been reported.

Cable Received from Lieut. Garland at Pearl Harbor

The first word received from a Pelhamite in the Pacific war zone was received here by cable on Wednesday. Lieut. Commander Guy P. Garland, U.S.N. sent word to his mother Mrs. Thomas L. Byrne of Pelham-Biltmore that he, his wife and nine-months-old baby were unharmed.

Commander Garland is stationed at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base. He was a member of the Class of 1929 at the United States Naval Academy and was recently promoted to Lieut. Commander.

"Don't Worry", Cablegram From Wife of Lieut. Harris

"Don't worry," was the text of a cablegram received on Wednesday from the wife of Lieut. David Harris, U.S.N., stationed at Honolulu. The cablegram was received by Mrs. Galen M. Harris, of No. 420 Fowler avenue, Pelham Manor, morther of Lieut. Harris.

Lieut. David Harris is stationed aboard the U.S.S. Destroyer Flusser, at Pearl Harbor. His wife and child are living at Pearl Harbor. Lieut. Harris was graduated from the Naval Academy, Annapolis in 1938.

Ensign Warren Flynn, son of Mr. and Mrs. David G. Flynn of Wynnewood Road, is stationed aboard the Battleship Maryland at Pearl Harbor. Ensign Flynn had been aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma now reported sunk, but was transferred to his present ship on Oct. 20. Ensign Flynn received his commission in June. In a letter recently received by his mother, Ensign Flynn told of having dinner at Honolulu with Lieut. and Mrs. Harris.

Mr. and Mrs. Purnell Jr., Safe in Hawaii

Mr. and Mrs. Joseph W. Balet of Pelham Heights received word by cable yesterday "All is well," from their daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. William R. Purnell jr., of Honolulu.

Mrs. Purnell jr., the former Miss Marie V. Balet was married in Honolulu on Oct. 8 last. Her husband is the son of Captain and Mrs. William R. Purnell of Honolulu. Capt. Purnell is with the Asiatic Fleet.

Three Enlisted Men Stationed in Hawaii

Sergt. H. Richard Spurway is attached to Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 97th Coast Artillery, Fort Weaver, Honolulu. His mother, Mrs. Hubert V. Spurway, of No. 174 Sparks avenue, Pelham Heights, received a letter from him last week.

Pvt. Roy Sainburg is attached to Headquarters, 2nd Battalion, 97th Coast Artillery, Anti-Aircraft, Fort Weaver, Honolulu. His family received a letter from him on Monday.

Pvt. Harry Resner, Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Resner of No. 580 Sixth avenue is another Pelhamite who has been stationed on Hawaii. Resner, who volunteered in the U.S. Army more than a year ago is a member of Co. C. Ninth Inf. at Schofield Barracks.

Sergt. Paul Farrell Enroute to Manila

No word has been received from Sergt. Paul Farrell, son of Mr. and Mrs. P. A. Farrell of No. 121 Fifth avenue, who sailed for Manila from California on Dec. 3. Sergt. Farrell, who was drafted on May 28, recently visited with his parents before returning to Fort Ord, Calif., from which post he was to be transferred to Manilla. On his arrival at Fort Ord last week he notified his parents that they would not hear from him until he had reached a permanent post in the Philippines.

In order to relieve anxiety of friends, readers of The Pelham Sun are urged to notify this newspaper whenever they receive information relative to Pelhamites or other members of their families in the War Zone.

If New Rochelle or Mount Vernon stage test blackouts, the Pelhams will participate in the program, village officials have signified. "It will be good practise for us to black out at the same time that our neighboring communities do so," said Mayor Dominic Amato of North Pelham. "I think that whenever New York City stages a blackout, all of Westchester should participate, also.
Pelham's first actual war defense call was received here at 1.45 p.m. on Tuesday when the police departments were notified to summon all Air Raid Wardens to be prepared for duty. Chief Warden Harry D. Wright was notified, but the "all clear" notice came before any action was taken.

Pelham school children were dismissed from schools at 2.30 o'clock.

It was announced that the "alert" was a precautionary test rehearsal.

The Board of Education last night authorized Supt. of Schools, Joseph C. Brown, to purchase metal buckets for sand and a supply of flashlights for possible emergency use in the local schools. The buckets and flashlights will be stored at strategic points in the school buildings.
The Pelhamwood Association at the meeting held last night in the Town Hall pledged all possible co-operation with local school officials in completing and carrying out emergency plans and drills in the schools.

The first meeting which the Town of Pelham Defense Council has held in its new headquarters, No. 35 Fifth avenue, took place Tuesday evening, with a large attendance and lively interest. Mayor Dominic Amato, of North Pelham, and Mayor Lester W. Du Bois, of Pelham Manor, with members of the staffs of the three village governments, were present and took part in some of the discussions. Supervisor-elect, Thos. B. Fenlon was present as an interested spectator at this stage.

On the invitation of President William L. Chenery of the Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools Joseph C. Brown met with the Council to discuss plans for adequate systems for giving community warnings in the event of bonafide air raid alarms or other emergencies. He and President Chenery discussed the events of the day, and the confusion which had resulted from messages sent out by New York City police and other public authorities, by radio.

Mayors Amato and Du Bois referred to the County Defense Council's "report center" and the messages received on the teletypes of the local police departments.

At the suggestion of Chairman Ransom of the Defense Council, a committee of three, with former to act, was authorized to confer with the Mayors of the three villages, designate an official "report center" for the town, and establish a suitable system of warnings by sirens, as well as communication with the public schools and the Chief Warden. Chairman Ransom named as such Committee from the Council, Messrs. Clarence L. Law, William L. Chenery and Robert H. Shaw, who went into conference with the Village Mayors.

Chief Warden Harry D. Wright reported the selection of Zone and Sector Wardens and many of the post Wardens, but regretted the unwillingness of many citizens to give the time necessary to take the training and do the work. "I have had a hard job finding the right men and women for these important places," he said, "particularly in finding people who are in Pelham by day and are able and willing to give the time necessary for training as Wardens." He asked that all citizens be urged to respond to requests that they serve their community as Wardens.

The completion of the training of the first class of Police reserves and Auxiliaries was reported by Chairman Robert H. Shaw in charge of that division. About 45 will receive their certificates on Dec. 15th, but may continue in training, so as to be fit and available when needed. A new class will be started soon.

Dr. Walter H. Brundage, chairman of the Health Committee, reported the establishment and equipment [sic] of three first aid stations, at the Fire Department in Pelham Manor, the Police Station in Pelham Heights, and the Fire District building in North Pelham. He discussed other phases of the plans for the medical handling of emergencies if they arise.

On the certification of the Westchester County Medical Association, Dr. Brundage was elected Chief of the Emergency Medical Service, under the Town Defense Council.

Kenneth R. Kelly was elected Chairman of the Council's Division B., for the training of firefighting auxiliaries and reserves, in place of George R. Martin, resigned. Harold W. Garton and Clements Boyer will be Vice Chairmen. Training classes for these auxiliaries will be conducted Friday evening, Dec. 19, by Fire Chiefs John J. Brennan and James T. Bollettieri as instructors, at the fire houses in Pelham Manor and North Pelham. Enrollment of those willing to serve is invited, particularly those with some fire department experience.

Martin J. Alger, vice-chairman, was elected Chairman of Division D., on Transportation and Communications, in the place of Alfred Coates, resigned. The Council adjourned to listen to President Roosevelt's address to the Nation. Announcements of other plans and emergency provisions by the Town Defense Council in cooperation with the village authorities will be found elsewhere in this issue.

Colonel Frederick L. Devereux chairman of the Westchester County Defense Council, has warned against undue excitement and hysteria resulting from radio reports or rumors of impending air attacks.

He stated that the Westchester County Defense Council had its Control Room in operation and would receive directly from the Army Information Center appropriate warnings. In the event of impending air attack, the Defense Council will notify each community in the county. All necessary instructions for the guidance of the public will be issued by local municipal authorities.

It is necessary that telephone lines be kept open for official business and that no unnecessary telephone calls be made to police departments, municipal offices or defense councils.
It is imperative that the civilian population continue to go about its business as usual and refrain from excitement."

Source: War Declaration Finds Town Ready For Defense Service, Pelham Sun, Dec. 12, 1941, Vol. 31, No. 37, p. 1, col. 5.

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