1 Introduction

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Fleet bombed Pearl Harbor in the Territory of Hawaii. The following day the United States declared war against Japan. While war was also declared against Germany and Italy, I seemed to know from the beginning it would be Japan that I would be concerned with.

I had graduated from Myrtle Creek (Oregon) High School in June of the same year. I lived with my parents and was working in Kusler's Cash Store, the major grocery store in town, while deciding what course I should take. The Pearl Harbor attack galvanized the American public into a patriotic fervor and I, along with most of the young fellows my age, was caught up with the excitement. Many of my friends were joining the various branches of the military service and by the following month I could wait no longer.

Figure 1. Leonard at home in Myrtle Creek, Oregon, on December 7, 1941, a few hours before hearing the news about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In January 1942, I talked a friend into driving to Eugene with me so we could enlist in the Navy. Upon locating the recruiting station we found a long line waiting to join. In fact, the line extended out of the building and for almost a block along the sidewalk. My friend and I took our places at the end of the line, which was moving very slowly, and complained about having to wait. Little did I realize then that the service would see to it that I would become an expert in standing in line waiting for something to happen. While waiting, my attention was caught by a large Marine Corps recruitment poster located on a sandwich board on the sidewalk. I wasn't sure what the Marine Corps was, but the poster showed a picture of a handsome man in a dress blue uniform. The poster also gave the location of the Marine recruiting office, which was less than two blocks away. I suggested to my friend that we go over there to see if the line was any shorter. He agreed, and upon arrival we found no line at all! We entered the building and received immediate attention. In no time I passed all the preliminary procedures and was informed to return home for about a month, at which time I would report for duty. The time passed rapidly and I basked in my role as a potential hero about to save his country. This also made a good impression on the girls, who were equally patriotic. What about my friend? He flunked his physical and returned to life as a farmer. Ironically, he drowned a couple of years later during a flood of the Umpqua River while I survived everything.

Last Modified: 01/01/2024
One Man's View by Leonard E. Skinner (2001)