The Word on the Street About Pearl Harbor

Sunday, December 7, 1941, 6:50 a.m.
Just before 7 a.m., hundreds of Japanese fighter planes descended on the US Naval base in Pearl Harbor, where they managed to destroy or damage nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships, and over 300 aeroplanes. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack, including civilians, and another 1,000 people were wounded. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.

A few days later people like John Avery Lomax an American teacher, pioneering musicologist, and folklorist went out to conduct so-called “Man on the Street” interviews, today they would be called vox-pops. Among the interviewees was, Lena Jameson. a California woman then visiting her family in Dallas, Texas. He also spoke to Mr Dan Ruggles in Dallas, Texas.

“Man-on-the-Street,” Dallas, Texas, 9 December 1941
AFS 6373A

John Lomax: Mrs Jameson, I’ve just got a telegram from the Library of Congress in Washington and they want the ideas of a few average men and women recorded on their reactions when they heard of the Japanese aggression. These records will be used in the historical record being accumulated in the Library of Congress and possibly for radio broadcasts. Now, will you tell me what you thought when you heard of what the Japanese government had done to the American government?

Mrs Lena Jameson: My first thought was what a great pity that…another nation should be added to those aggressors who strove to limit our freedom. I find myself at the age of eighty, an old woman, hanging on to the tail of the world, trying to keep up. I do not want the driver’s seat. But the
eternal verities — there are certain things that I wish to express. One thing that I am very sure of is that hatred is death, but love is life. I want to contribute to the civilization of the world, but I remember that the measure, the burdens of our sympathies is the measure of our civilization. And when I look at the holocaust that is going on in the world today, I’m almost ready to let go of the tail ??? the world. ???

John Lomax: Where is your home, Jameson?

Mrs Lena Jameson: In Redondo Beach, California.

John Lomax: And how long have you lived there?

Mrs Lena Jameson: About twenty years.

John Lomax: And what are you doing out in Texas?

Mrs Lena Jameson: I’m visiting my children whom I’ve often visited before.

John Lomax: Mrs Stilwell, would you like to add something to what your mother has said?

Mrs Jerry Stilwell: Mother, you’ve been living in the neighbourhood where there are a good many Japanese people. Do you think that affects your attitude towards them at all? What is your general impression of the Japanese as a race?

Mrs Lena Jameson: The general impression of the Japanese that I have seen and come in contact with is very different from what my impression would be if I had been in touch with the military division of the Japanese in their native…My impression is modified by what I read and hear of those. My impression of the Japanese as I have seen is that they are a law-abiding and desirable citizen, with exceptions.

John Lomax: Mrs Stilwell, have you anything to add to what your mother has said?

Mrs Jerry Stilwell: Well, of course, my point of view is very different, but my first reaction was that either the Japanese were a very, very conceited race or that they were very, very desperate. Somehow I just can’t believe that a little island like Japan can attack the United States and hope to be
successful in the long run.

John Lomax: What are your initials, Mrs Stilwell?

Mrs Jerry Stilwell: Mrs Jerry Stilwell.

John Lomax: This is John Lomax speaking, the last lady on the microphone was Mrs Jerry Stilwell, the daughter of Mrs Lena Jameson who spoke first on this record. This record is made in Dallas, Texas, December the ninth, nineteen hundred and forty-one for the Library of Congress in Washington

“Man-on-the-Street”, Dallas, Texas, December 9, 1941
AFS 6373B
Cut B1

John Lomax: I have in my hand here a telegram from the Library of Congress requesting the reactions of some Dallas people on the Japanese aggression. I’d like to know Mr Ruggles how that announcement of what the Japanese were doing to us reacted on you as a World War veteran?

Dan Ruggles: Well, I don’t think this was totally unexpected. Anybody that kept up with news events should have anticipated an attack by Japan. It’s totally in keeping with the methods employed by the totalitarian powers, the unexpectedness of it. And as far as the war with Japan is concerned I think that is something that the informed American public has been expecting to be something that would develop ultimately for a period, say for the past thirty years. More especially during the past ten years. Is that enough?

John Lomax: No. How did you come to that opinion?

Dan Ruggles: Well, that dates . . . there have been friction between the Japanese and the talk of the yellow peril ever since for the past three or four decades. With the invasion of Manchuria in 1931 was the first aggressive step that really led the way as I understand it, have concluded to show Hitler and Mr Mussolini the way.

John Lomax: Well, you think then the Japanese are acting in concert with masters Hitler and Mussolini then as I take it?

Dan Ruggles: Due to their pacts, they are in a way, but the Japanese have always acted primarily for themselves. Their plans as to Asia and the fact that they believe that their domain should extend over the east of the Asiatic [long pause] scope.

John Lomax: Well, what did you first think? What were your first thoughts when you heard of this attack on Americans, Dan? What first came to you?

Dan Ruggles: Well, the first thing that came to me is it was just something that could not be avoided it’s to be expected. We’ve made every effort in the world to avoid it, but it was something that was bound to come owing to the world situation.

John Lomax: Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you?

[Unintelligible woman’s voice in background.]

Dan Ruggles: Well, [laughs] I’m a man that’s really been a newspaper editor most of my life and ???. And I’ve had a keen interest in international affairs and have kept track I guess, I’ve kept with the best of the times. One good fact is that I say that I’ve mainly been employed and editing newspapers
and interested in international affairs primarily.

[Unintelligible woman’s voice in the background.]

John Lomax: This is Dan Ruggles that’s just been speaking. Mr Ruggles lives in Forest Hills, Dallas, Texas and has been for many years a newspaper reporter. This interview with Mr Ruggles occurred on December the ninth, 1941 and this recording was made for the Library of Congress in Washington.

Cut B2
John Lomax: Mr Ruggles wishes to add this for the word.

Dan Ruggles: Well, I think that the American people, must not come to a just conclusion either through the early reverse in this war or otherwise that it’s going to be an easy war. The Japanese, naturally, have handicaps due to the Allied forces in the Far East now facing them, but the efficiency of the Japanese military machine has been repeatedly [proven (?)] and they usually have had a very excellent armed force. That was ??? [disc skips] through the testimony of officers, friends of mine, who served with them in the Allied march on Peking.


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