Brian did manage to ‘correct' his War Department age, simply because his general wanted him. But he did not manage to get himself ordered to a combat command. Instead combat came to him - he was holding down a desk at the Presidio and we were living in an old mansion on Nob Hill when the Japanese pulled their sneak attack on San Francisco, 7 December 1941.
It is an odd feeling to look up into the sky, see planes overhead, feel their engines deep in your bones, see their bellies give birth to bombs, and know that it is too late to run, too late to hide, and that you have no control whatever over where those bombs will hit - on you or on houses a block away. The feeling was not terror; it was more a sense of déja vu, as if I had been there a thousand times before. I don't care to feel it again but I know why warriors (real ones, not wimps in uniform) always seek combat assignments, not desk jobs. It is in the presence of death that one lives most intensely. ‘Better one crowded hour of life -‘
I have read that in time line three this sneak attack was made on Hawaii, not San Francisco, and that Californian Japanese were thereafter moved back from the coast. If so, they were extremely lucky, for that spared them the blood bath that took place in time line two, where more than 6o. ooo Japanese-Americans were lynched or shot or (in some cases) burned alive between Sunday and Tuesday, 7-9 December 1941. Did this affect what we did to Tokyo and Kobe later? I wonder.
Wars that start with sneak attacks are certain to be merciless; http://oz-sport.ru all the histories prove it.
As one result of those lynch mobs, President Barkley placed California under martial law. In April 1942 this was eased off and only the twenty-mile strip inland from the mean hightide line was militarised, but the zone was extended up the coast to Canada. In San Francisco this caused no special inconvenience - it was much like living on a military reservation and a marked improvement over San Francisco's usual civic corruption. .. but after dark on the coast itself there was always a danger that some sixteen-year-old boy in a National Guard uniform, armed with a World War One Springfield, might get nervous and trigger happy.
Or so I heard; I never risked it. The beach from Canada to Mexico was a combat zone; anyone on it after dark was risking sudden death and many found it.
I had my youngest with me, Donald, four, and Priscilla, two. My school-age children - Alice, Doris, Patrick, and Susan - were in Kansas City with Betty Lou. I had thought of Arthur Roy as being school age (born 1924), but his cousin Nelson swore him into the Marine Corps the day after the bombing of San Francisco, along with his elder brother Richard (born 1914); they went to Pendleton together. Nelson was on limited duty, having left a foot in Belleau Wood in 1918. Justin was on the War Production Board, based in Washington but travelling rather steadily; he stayed with us on Nob Hill several times.
Woodrow I did not see even once until the war was over. I received a Christmas card from him in December 1941, postmarked Pensacola, Florida: ‘Dear Mom and Pop, I'm hiding out from the Nips and teaching Boy Scouts how to fly upside down. Heather and the kids are stashed for the duration at Avalon Beach, PO Box 6320, so I sleep home most nights. Merry Christmas and have a nice war. Woodrow. '
The next we heard from Woodrow was a card from the Royal Hawaiian at Waikiki: ‘The service here is not quite up to peacetime standards but it is better than that at Lahaina. Despite any rumours to the contrary the sharks in Lahaina Roads are not vegetarian. Hoping you are the same. W. W. '
That was our first intimation that Woodrow had been in the Battle of Lahaina Roads. Whether he was in the Saratoga when she was sunk, or whether he ditched from the air, I do not know. But his card implies that he was in the water at some point. I asked him about this after the War. He looked puzzled and said, ‘Mom, where did you get that notion? I spent the war in Washington, DC, drinking Scotch with my opposite number in the British Aircraft Commission. His Scotch, it was - he had worked out a scam to fly it in from Bermuda. '
Woodrow was not always strictly truthful.
Let me see. .. Theodore Ira, my World War One baby, went to active duty with Kansas City's 110th Combat Engineers and spent most of the war in Noumea, building airstrips and docks and such. Nancy's husband and Eleanor's son, Jonathan, had stayed in the Reserve but not in the Guard; he was a column commander in Patton's Panzers when they drove the Russians out of Czechoslovakia. Nancy helped organise the WAAC and finished the war senior to her husband, to the vast amusement of all of us - even Jonathan. George started out in the 35th Division HQ but wound up in the OSS, so I don't know what he did. In March 1944 Brian Junior made the landing at Marseilles, caught a piece of shrapnel in his left thigh, and wound up back in Salisbury in England, an executive officer in the training command.
My letters to Father were returned to me in 1942, along with a formal letter of regret from the national headquarters of the AFS.
Richard's wife, Marian, stayed in nearby San Juan Capistrano while Richard was at Camp Pendleton. When he shipped out, I invited her to move in with us, with her children - four, and one that was born shortly after she arrived. We could make room for them and it was actually easier for us mo women to take care of seven children than it had been for each of us to cope with our own unassisted. We worked things out so that one of us could assist at Letterman Army Hospital every afternoon, going to the Presidio by bus (no gasoline ration expended) and coming back with Brian. I was fond ‘of Marian; she was as dear to me as my own daughters.
So it came about that she was with us when she received that telegram: Richard had earned the Navy Cross on Iwo Jima - posthumously.
A little over five months later we destroyed Tokyo and Kobe. Then Emperor Akihito and his ministers shocked us all by ritually disembowelling themselves, first the ministers, then the Emperor, after the Emperor announced to them that his mind had been quieted by President Barkley's promise to spare Kyoto. It was especially shocking in that Emperor Akihito was just a boy, not yet twelve, younger than my son Patrick Henry.
We will never understand the Japanese. But the long war was over.
I am forced to wonder what would have happened if the Emperor's father, Emperor Hirohito, had not died in the ‘Star Festival' air strike on 7 July? He was reputed to be so westernised. The other pertinent histories, time lines three and six, give no firm answers. Hirohito seems to have been the captive of his ministers, reigning but not ruling.
Once Japan surrendered Brian asked for early separation, but was sent to Texas - Amarillo, then Dallas - to assist in contract terminations - the only time, I think, that he regretted having passed his bar examinations back in 1938.