July 25, 2024

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

     It was a sleepy Sunday morning in Honolulu, a morning like any other.  At 7:45am the sailors and soldiers at Pearl Harbor were beginning their day, some just waking up while others were on duty or onshore.  The sky was clear and sunny and temperatures were mild, in the low 70’s.  A beautiful day in a world at war.

      Within minutes, the sky darkened and hell descended on paradise.  The roar of Japanese Zeros, exploding bombs and firing guns made the air thick.  The bitter smoke and the screams of dying men made it all too real.  The Empire of Japan had attacked the United States. 

     In less than two hours, nearly 400 Japanese aircraft had sunk or damaged 21 ships of the US Pacific Fleet and nearly 350 aircraft were destroyed or damaged.  That damaged paled in comparison to the human losses as 2,403 American military and civilians were killed and an additional 1,178 were wounded.

     Word of the attack slowly trickled east as Delphos and the rest of the country learned of the Japanese attack on the little known US territory far, far away.  The next morning the headline of the Delphos Herald left no doubt as to the world  in which we were now living: US-Japan In War!  The next day, only hours after President Roosevelt’s famous “Day of Infamy” speech, Congress declared war on Japan followed a few days later with a declaration of war on Germany responding to Germany’s war declaration on the US.  

     On December 10, the Delphos Herald reported on the first Delphos boy lost in the war; Walter French.  Walter French was born in Texas but was living in Delphos with his mother and step-father Wesley and Mary Moyer.  He had enlisted on July 1, 1940 and had shipped off to the Hawaiian Territory on June 15, 1941 where he served with the 89th Field Artillery of the 25th Infantry Division.  He was the first member of the 25th Infantry Division to die in the war.  Walter French was buried in Cleburne Memorial Cemetery, Cleburne, Texas next to his father Luther French, who had died when Walter was 13. 

     The Delphos Herald reported on December 22 that another Delphos boy, John Peltier, was among the missing of those serving on the USS Arizona.  A memorial service was held at the Presbyterian Church on January 4, 1942 for both John Peltier and Walter French.  Peltier remains entombed with his fellow shipmates on the USS Arizona to this day. 

     A third Delphos native survived the attack.  Robert Dray served with distinction on the USS Blue at Pearl Harbor and the duration of the war.  He lived near Fort Jennings until his death in 2006.

     In a few weeks, December 7, 2016, the United States will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.  On this occasion, both the Delphos Museum of Postal History and the Delphos Canal Museum will commemorate this event with special displays.  The Canal Museum will features items from the war; photos, uniforms, medals, personal items, posters, items from the home front and much more.  The Museum of Postal History will unveil an exhibit on correspondence during the war, especially the introduction of V-Mail, an economical and efficient way to transport personal letters between families and their boys overseas. 

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