December 11, 1941
Two days after war was declared with Japan the European Axis powers declared war on America. Congress responded. President Roosevelt called for a declaration of war and within 34 minutes the legislative branch acted. Fast bipartisan action is possible. Congress also had to speed through legislation that removed restrictions against sending citizen-soldiers outside the western hemisphere. This time the votes were unanimous after California isolationist senator Hiram Johnson, R., dropped his initial legislative hold.
War news at this time was unreliable. Officially only one old battleship was sunk at Pearl Harbor and the United States was putting up determined resistance in the Philippine islands. A total of three Japanese ships were claimed sunk off of Wake Island and Luzon Island. Later investigation would reveal the Luzon report was incorrect and the lead headline was wrong. It sounded like the United States was winning at this point. The old saying applies, truth is the first casualty of war.
In reality 2,334 servicemen were dead, 1,347 wounded at Pearl Harbor alone. Four battleships were lost and almost 200 aircraft. Many more ships would need to undergo extensive refitting. Almost every Japanese attack was meeting with success.
The paper did accurately note the sinking of two British ships Price of Wales and Repulse off of Malaya by Japanese aircraft. The battleship was no longer ruler of the sea. Admirals only had to look at the lessons of the Bismarck and Pearl Harbor to realize aircraft now held the power.
The day before a wire story outlined the steps taken by Attorney General Francis Biddle to take 2,303 Japanese, Italian and Germans into custody. The army would supervise concentration camps where the immigrants would be held for the duration of the war. The trampling of civil rights was done in the name of what we now call “Homeland Security.”
Fear of sabotage or fifth column activity were the terms used then. Apparently Japanese nationals in the Seattle area were, in the language of the story, handled roughly, when taken into custody. A situation bad enough to draw a rebuke from the nation’s top law enforcement officer. He called the action “…very foolish…”.
At this time there were 1,297 Japanese, 865 Germans and 147 Italians in custody. Hearings would be held on the cases of some aliens by a board of review similar to the those for conscientious objectors under the selective service act. Attorney General Biddle would have the final decision on all appeals.
In San Luis Obispo County joined the state in observing a blackout. The fire whistle signaled at 8:16 p.m. and Mayor Fred Kimball said that within a minute 90 percent of the city lights were extinguished. He was observing from the hilltop with the KVEC radio station and saw the street lights flicker as Pacific Gas and Electric company signaled blackout conditions were in effect. The mayor thanked residents, radio, newspaper, utilities and public safety for the success of the exercise.
Pacific Telephone and Telegraph company blacked windows and switched to an auxiliary gas lighting system to keep a full service running.
Freezing the bank accounts of all Japanese nationals had severe local consequences. Filipino laborers in Oso Flaco, Arroyo Grande and Cambria were unable to cash paychecks from Japanese vegetable growers. Japanese ranchers would be unable to continue operations under these conditions.