A holiday season to remember…
On Dec. 5, 1941, The Mount Airy News front page reads: “Christmas Bundle Day set for December 14th.” The town and surrounding counties were filled with holiday cheer and generosity. The local toy and food drives were collecting goods to help the community. The season was shaping up to be much like Christmases of the past, despite the major storm brewing overseas.
With shopping, cooking, cleaning, and festivities on their minds the townsfolk could not fathom the events that would transpire in a few short days.
“A date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous words greatly summed up the atrocious attack on Pearl Harbor, a U.S. Naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii. The attack occurred on Dec. 7, 1941, just before 8 a.m., shocking the Allied Forces and the United States. The attack killed 2,403 American personnel, including 68 civilians. War was declared the very next day.
There are many stories chronicling the day’s events — some of death, but also some of gratitude. The Mount Airy Veterans Memorial downtown honors those who have passed on in battle. On the monument 185 names are listed for World War 2 alone.
One Mount Airy man, Charles Witt, was spared from the attack because he decided to attend church that morning, cementing God as his savior in more ways than one. Another resident of the area was in the mess hall eating his pancakes. Each was heartbroken, but grateful for their safety.
The pain and urgency could be felt across the United States and abroad. For many citizens this was a call to action.
Mount Airy and surrounding county citizens were no different. Men and women volunteered to join forces; organizations were created to aid in the war efforts. Informational posters and propaganda were distributed to inform the people of war events and warnings. Ads like the Boeing one pictured here were printed to bring awareness to the American public, while distilling a sense of pride in the “genius” of American engineers. It was thought to be helpful if citizens could identify friendly and enemy aircraft.
The American Red Cross opened a drive to “Rush Relief to War,” hoping to collect $7,500 in Surry County. Thurmond Chatham, a prominent Elkin textile manufacturer, headed the special committee. Mr. Chatham called out for voluntary donations, “Our soldiers and sailors and our fellow citizens in the American outposts of democracy need our help. We can not, we shall not fail them.”
This outpouring of patriotism invoked new enlistees that continued to grow in the next two years after the attack. Mary Elizabeth Partridge, a local sport and physical education enthusiast, used her education and experience towards the war effort, as did Helen Ceasar who was accepted into the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.
This attack and war were so frightening in so many ways; however, this did not stop the citizens of Mount Airy and the surrounding regions from stepping up to the fight. Whether it was in the field, or on the home front, the amazing people in our small town made a difference.
As we honor the lives lost on Dec. 7, 1941, do not forget the many men and women who kept fighting when others could not.
Even the smallest deed or action done in the service of a friend or compatriot is worth the effort. I would have to say that these amazing fighters would agree.