Marylanders Line Up to Go to War


December 08, 1991|By James Bock

On Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor -- an obscure U.S. base in the territory of Hawaii -- was ravaged by a Japanese attack.

The devastating surprise assault propelled the United States into World War II, forever changing the face of the globe.

Since last Sunday, The Sun has been publishing recollections of the days that encompassed Pearl Harbor, and recalling the lives and times of Marylanders on the eve of cataclysm.

The shock was wearing off. Anger was setting in. Lines formed at Baltimore recruiting stations before dawn.

"I haven't closed my eyes all night," said Michael Christ, 30, first in line at the Army recruiting center.

"To tell you the truth, we all want to rub out the Japs," said 19-year-old Robert Baldwin. "I'm a Jap-hater anyway. If they'll let me, I want to leave for Fort Meade tonight."

Harry Lickliter, 26, showed up at the Navy office at 2:30 a.m. and camped out for hours.

John Balfor, 17, went to the Marine recruiting office with his parents' written consent to join in his pocket.

Navy recruiters at the post office building took over an assembly hall to handle the impatient crowd of volunteers.

Some peacetime draftees, discharged that fall because they were overage, signed up again. Three Army deserters called recruiters to ask how to return to their posts.

In Congress, Representative Katherine E. Byron of Western Maryland, the widow of a World War I veteran, told the House that she was willing to give her five sons to the country.

"It's the greatest rush of volunteers Baltimore has ever seen," the ranking naval officer here said. "This is Baltimore's answer to Japan."

"THE NATION FACES total, world warfare," The Evening Susaid Dec. 8. "Nobody in Baltimore should imagine that we can sit here in safety while the Navy fights the battles afar. . . . The defense of Maryland -- remote from danger though Maryland may seem -- now rises to the status of an immediate problem."

Gov. Herbert R. O'Conor huddled with defense and military officials. He said he would call out the State Guard to defend water supplies and other vital installations.

The Naval Academy in Annapolis was closed to the public.

All private planes at the municipal airport were grounded.

Aircraft spotters were ordered to 350 observation posts across the state.

Workers at the Glenn L. Martin Co. aircraft plant in Middle River found it heavily guarded. Employees without proper identification were sent home. All lunch boxes were opened.

At the Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, where 62 Liberty ships were in the works, the guard was doubled.

Maryland's chief air raid warden warned citizens to stay inside in the event of a raid "and not, as is the peculiar American custom, go out in an effort to see everything that is happening."

A NAVY RECRUITER told the Afro-American: "We are in greaneed of all the men we can get, but we can use colored boys only as mess men."

Nevertheless, most black Baltimoreans interviewed by the newspaper supported the war effort.

The newspaper said blacks were eager to fight, "but we cannot defend America with a dust brush, a mop and a white apron. We cannot march against enemy planes and tanks, and challenge warships armed only with a whisk broom and a wide grin.

"Take down the color bar," the Afro-American implored. "Don't ask their color, ask only whether they love America enough to fight for her, and if need be, to die for her."

MARYLANDERS were suddenly watching for subversionanything foreign.

A man walked into the Northeastern District police station with a family of five Japanese-American acrobats who were performing an East Monument Street theater.

"I heard over the radio that all Japanese should be brought to the police station. Here are a couple I picked up," he told police.

Officers, who had heard no such thing, sat the family down in the station courtroom and waited for guidance. Only the FBI should arrest any Japanese aliens, they were told.

After seeing an immigration officer, the Japanese-American family was released. The parents had lived in the United States since 1907; the children were born here.

Immigrants accounted for less than 5 percent of Maryland's population in 1941, and they were largely European -- mainly Russians, Germans and Italians. The 1940 census had found only 36 Japanese-Americans in the state, half born in the United States.

At monthly naturalization ceremonies that Monday, a city judge refused to grant citizenship to 34 aliens, mainly Germans and Italians.

Denouncing Japanese "treachery," the judge said, "It is apparent, even to a little child, that Japan is only a puppet of Germany and Italy and that we are, in effect, at war with all three countries."

The Easton Star-Democrat said: "Parties forgotten, all the nation has but one objective now and that is to win the war and punish the little yellow demons who have dared to rain bombs on American people and American ships."

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