"OUR LAST COLUMN centered on the dramatic finish of World War II and the earlier prediction by my high school chemistry teacher that an atomic bomb would end it. Since that fateful August 1945, Americans have known only a militarily powerful United States. But it wasn't always so.
When the Pearl Harbor attack brought World War II to our doorstep, our Army ranked 15th in the world. We also had 6,400 men in the Marines. Two large oceans and a fairly modern Navy were basic to our defense. Some congressmen scoffed at the thought the Axis Powers could attack us. From where could they launch such an attack?
Pearl Harbor's disaster proved those oceans weren't big enough.
Two days after the attack, I was part of a chain of students passing sand bags from the basement up to the roof at Oakland Tech. We were told sand, not water, was needed to put out incendiary fires. If Japan could send enemy carriers clear to Hawaii, maybe California was within reach, too.
Being poorly prepared for a major war was bad enough, but, in late 1941, the Axis forces of Japan, Germany and Italy appeared unstoppable. The Japanese were fanning out over much of China and into Southeast Asia. Hitler's mechanized divisions moved swiftly into one European country after another. Could anyone hope to stop them? Only England seemed to be hanging tough, but was taking it on the chin with continual air raids through 1940 and '41."
Thoughts on the Run: Remembering WWII on the homefront
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