Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

December 7, 2012

Pearl Harbor attack: Still a ‘day that will live in infamy’ for many

BLUEFIELD — In the months before the Stock Market collapse of 1929, A.F. Stafford Sr., purchased a Majestic radio from Box & Goodall’s on Price Street in Bluefield. On Dec. 7, 1941, Heber Stafford, now 95, was listening to the New York (football) Giants play the Brooklyn (football) Dodgers at the Polo Grounds in New York.

About midway through the third quarter, Pug Manders of the Dodgers picked off a pass from Giants’ quarterback Hank Soar at the Brooklyn 38, and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown. Stafford knows that fact because he charted that game in the same way he charted every football game he either attended or listened to on the radio.

Merl Condit kicked the extra point to give the visitors a commanding 14-0 lead, and the radio announcer broke into the game with an important news bulletin. At 7:55 a.m. Hawaiian time, carrier-based aircraft from the Imperial Japanese Fleet bombed Pearl Harbor, causing great loss of life and inflicting extensive damage on the U.S. Pacific fleet.

“It meant we were at war with Japan,” Stafford said. “It’s a good thing we didn’t have TV back then or the Japs would have known more than we knew about what was going on. We didn’t know much.”

The Japanese launched their attack on Pearl Harbor about 35 minutes before the kick-off at the Polo Grounds. Stafford’s chart of the game reflects a gap of an undetermined amount of time. Eventually, the two New York teams resumed play. Both teams scored touchdowns in the fourth quarter — the Dodgers on a two-yard Pug Manders run, and the Giants on a Soar to Kay Eakin pass — but the world had changed.

Stafford’s brother, the late A.F. “Red” Stafford Jr., had been drafted on April 12, 1941, and was serving on active duty at Fort Shelby with the Bluefield-based 150th Army National Guard.

“Just a few days after Dec. 7, they sent the 150th to guard the Panama Canal,” Heber Stafford said. “When he was drafted, he was only supposed to be in the service for a year, but he served six years. Nobody knew what the Japs were going to do next.

“A lot of boys joined the military the next day,” Stafford said. “Gene Ball who worked with me at Appalachian (Power) in the payroll department joined on Monday after Dec. 7, and flew airplanes through the war,” Stafford said. “He was flying B-24s at the end. He came back after the war and worked for a while, but then he moved to Texas and got a job at a bank.

“I decided to wait until my number came up,” Stafford said. “I didn’t have to wait too long. My number came up on April 15, 1942.”

When he heard the news about Pearl Harbor, John C. Shott borrowed his dad’s 1940 Ford 2-door sedan, rounded up three buddies — Jack Sarver, Buckshot Yost and Buzzy Johnson — filled the trunk up with the “Extra” edition of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, and headed to Virginia to sell them.

“We got that first trunk-load sold by the time we made it to the top of East River Mountain,” Shott said. His father, James H. “Jim” Shott, was the eldest son of Hugh Ike Shott Sr., founding editor/publisher of the Daily Telegraph. Shott knew something about selling a newspaper.

“We took our second trunk-load of papers down to the Celanese plant in Narrows, Va.,” Shott said. “We got there at shift change and sold every paper we had. We could have got $5 a piece for the papers. That was the first people there heard the news.”

Tony Whitlow lived in Kelleysville in a home with no radio, but his father had a way of hooking up a radio in his old Model-T Ford.

“I was 8 years old,” Whitlow said. “I remember a little bit, but I don’t remember ever having a radio in the house.”

Whitlow has devoted a great deal of time and effort in helping people remember the service of all military personnel through the For Those who Served Museum in the Mercer County War Memorial in Princeton.

While the museum is often closed, Whitlow said that the new War Memorial Room on the second floor of the building is open all the same hours as the building itself. “It stays open year round so people can come in when they want to,” he said.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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