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A Community Response to the Attack on Pearl Harbor
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor

This article appeared in the Dec. 5, 2013 edition of the Town and Country and outlines the local community response in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Area men and women served 2-hour shifts, around the clock, at local air-raid out-

posts.  One such post was located at the Bieler Farm, at the top of the hill on Fruit-

ville Road in Upper Hanover Township.  The volunteers were organized by the

Perkiomen Post of the American Legion. 

            "The President Sees Long, Hard War with Victory Ahead" read the headline in the December 12, 1941 edition of the Town and Country newspaper.  It was the first edition published since the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor; and just four days after the United States declared that a state of war exists with Japan.  Three days later, the United States would include Axis powers Germany and Italy in the declaration of war. 

            The words of the radio message delivered by President Franklin Deleno

The USS Pennsylvania in a Pearl Harbor dry dock behind the de-

stroyers USS Downes (left) and a capsized USS Cassin.

The Battleship Pennsylvania lost 22 of their own crew mem-

bers (17 Sailors, 5 Marines) along with 7 additional seamen

temporarily working on the vessel.  In addition, 38 were

injured and 14 others listed as missing in action.  The battle-

ship was one of the first to return fire at Pearl Harbor and 

survived the attack to serve four more years during WWII.

The smoke in the photo is coming from the sunken USS


Roosevelt alerted Americans to the reality that "We must begin the great task that is before us by abandoning once and for all the illusion that we can ever again isolate ourselves from the rest of humanity." 

            Some area residents lived during that trying time and have their remembrances.  Others turn to history books to learn about the attack and the United States' ultimate victory in World War II. 

            But, what was the reaction in the area communities?  What were their feelings and what did they do?  This short collection of items from the archives of the Town and Country newspaper shows how the local communities responded.

            Town and Country Editor G. Calvin Christman's editorial titled "All Out for America" opened with the words "The United States has been attacked and is at war. Our time has come … time to fight, to protect ourselves … time for each person to do his or her utmost to help … time to forget differences of policy. The emergency for which we have tried to prepare is here."

            On the same front page reporting the president's words, were the names of 17 area men, ages 21 to 27 that were to report to Army Reception Center in New Cumberland, Pa. for induction into the military service.

            Another headline read "Many Upper Perkiomen Boys with Army, Navy in War Zone" and listed the names of a dozen area soldiers and sailors stationed at Hawaii's Schofield Barracks or Pearl Harbor.  While reporting that none were on the casualty list, the news item cautioned that "word to this section will be delayed, since there are thousands in the blitzed islands with connections to the United States and official information services are swamped."

            Montgomery County's Chief Fire Marshal Wilson Green of Green Lane was among the nearly 150 fire officials who attended a meeting with Guier Wright, Chairman of the County Defense Council to learn about an area fire defense set-up that would be similar to that in England, and the dangers of facing bombs and educating the civilian population.

            An urgent appeal for all over 18 to volunteer and enroll in local Civil Defense groups was issued.  Courses were held in local firehouses that consisted of 14 lessons on how to handle various types of incendiary bombs.

            The boroughs of East Greenville, Green Lane, Pennsburg and Red Hill joined forces as one to prepare for war emergencies in the community by integrating the efforts and authority of the areas official groups with those of the defense organizations.

            A uniform Air Raid Signal System was detailed to about 500 Montgomery County Fire wardens.  A series of short, intermittent blasts from the community's firehouse siren over a span of two minutes would notify the public of an impending raid.  The all clear signal was a single long blast for one minute, then a pause and another one-minute blast.                

            Within a week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, civilian-volunteer aircraft spotters went on 24-hour duty throughout the area.  The volunteers were organized by the Perkiomen Post of the American Legion.  The volunteers worked 2-hour shifts in two area outposts.  Their job was to "flash" the approach of all planes, regardless of the identity, to an Army control center where the planes were then monitored.  If the aircraft were deemed hostile, a warning would be issued to local air-raid wardens who would have the sirens activated.

            Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation visited our readership area to investigate several cases of reported subversive activity.  One person, the leader of the Deutschhorst Country Club in Sellersville, was arrested.  He was also described as the leader of the Deutsche-Konsumverband (German Consumption Federation), a group that printed anti-Semitic stickers and pasted them on store windows.  He was sent to a detention-home in Gloucester, New Jersey.

            Blood Drives were setup throughout our area as the American Red Cross.  It was reported that: In modern warfare, especially in bombings, it is very important to have blood easily accessible to save the lives of many of our soldiers and sailors.

            Local truck dealership, George Berman, Inc. of Upper Hanover Township offered to provide a truck that could be used as a community ambulance – an offer quickly accepted by Irwin Horne, the Local Defense Council Chairman.  A spokesman from the dealership pledged that the firm would be ready to place an entire fleet of trucks at the disposal of the community.

             The local civilian and volunteer response to the onset of the United States' involvement in World War II would go on for the duration of the conflict.





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