Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Christmas approaches in a season of war

Most Lucas Countyans first heard the news of Japan's early Sunday morning attack on Pearl Harbor --- Dec. 7, 1941 --- on their radios. The Associated Press issued its first bulletin to affiliates at 3:22 p.m. Iowa time and stations began to interrupt regular programming at approximately 3:30 p.m. to share the news.

Try hard enough --- especially if you're old enough to remember the days when radio reigned --- and you can almost see families gathered around radio sets in darkening living rooms as sunset neared, conjuring up images while watching lighted dials.

In-depth reports came in "Extra" editions of newspapers, daily and weekly, published as soon as sufficient copy was available to fill a page.

In Chariton, The Leader's Extra appeared Monday morning. There was just enough news about the attack and subsequent declaration of war from the United Press and other sources to fill the first of four pages. The remaining pages were filled with material already set into type for the regular Tuesday edition --- a 16-page pre-Christmas "special."

It was not until Thursday's Herald-Patriot, however, that news of the war's local impact began to be reported. Here's the text of that first local story published under the headline, "County Gears for War":

"Lucas county geared itself in the national defense effort this week as the country at large fortified itself for what promised to be a long war.

"Ray Shepard, county sheriff, received a letter from Gov. George A. Wilson, asking him to survey and report on the defense possibilities and structure of the county. The report is at present being compiled by Shepard.

"Lucas county pilots were present last night at a meeting of the state private fliers association in Des Moines, where new rules and regulations pertaining to private flying were discussed with them.

"Those from Chariton who attended last night's meeting were Helena Bradford, Bassel Blakesmith, Bill Murray, Joe Leisenring, Don Davison, Lloyd Moore and Al Smith.

"Before private flying may be resumed in this country, the government is requiring fingerprints.

"Credentials must be presented by the aviator when he appears before the Civil Aeronautics Authority.

"Officials of the county selective service board today said that there have been no changes in draft procedure. The office in the court house has been stormed with questions from selectees and parents, but the board has not as yet been advised to answer the questions.

"At the time the Herald-Patriot went to press today, there had been no change in national selective service rulings although many have been proposed. It is believed, however, that the present age limits of from 21 to 28 will be extended.

"The newspapers have found it impossible to secure addresses of all Lucas county boys serving with the armed forces. The office would appreciate any names and addresses of youths in service, especially those on duty in the Far East or in the Pacific.

"The newspaper already has pictures of all youths inducted into the army under selective service regulations. However, we would appreciate any pictures of youths in the navy, who enlisted in the army, the marine corps or the coast guard for our files.

"Several youths in the county have indicated that they will enlist in the near future in some branch of service. Five were reported as going to Ottumwa today to enlist in the navy.

"The post office reports that sales of defense bonds have increased since Monday and that a special window is being provided for their sale.

"Flags were placed in front of stores on the square at the time of the declaration of war Monday and have been displayed ever since.

"Citizens who remember the entry of America into the World War I mentally compared it with last Monday's events. Although the radio this time created a tenser atmosphere, people appeared to take the action of Congress with a greater calm than 24 years ago."


Just below the main story, a brief that is especially poignant in hindsight appeared under the headline "No Word Received of Derby Boy on Ship Reported Sunk."

"Lyle Morris, son of Mr. and Mrs. O.W. Morris of Derby, was a member of the crew on the U.S.S. Enterpries torpedoed and possibly sunk somewhere in the Pacific ocean Tuesday following at attack by Japanese forces. Morris has been in the vicinity of Hawaii since last June, and was storekeeper on the Enterprise. His parents have been unable to learn anything more than that the boat was reported to have been attacked."

Mr. and Mrs. Morris learned eventually that their son was safe aboard the Enterprise. Less than a year later, however, on Oct. 26, 1942, the young man was killed at his battle station aboard the Enterprise during another Japanese attack. Buried at sea, he was among the first Lucas Countyans to die during that great war. Chariton's Lake Morris commemorates him.

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