MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
“December 7, 1941 –a date which will live in infamy,” a quote from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a day after Japanese aircrafts terrorized the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Sixty-six years ago, across the nation, Americans stopped their daily lives to turn on their radios and listen as reports of over 2,300 lives were killed during the attack.
“I remember because I was at church and they interrupted the service,” said Sue McMahan, a volunteer at the Old Schoolhouse Museum. “Someone had heard on the radio and announced that America had declared war.”
The city of Twentynine Palms, Calif., at the time was inhabited by veterans from World War I, who worked together and founded the American Legion Post in Twentynine Palms by 1928.
Within an hour of hearing the news, the American Legion, with the help of the Army Air Corps who currently inhabited the base, set up a Volunteer Aircraft Observatory.
“The whole town got together to plan what to do,” said McMahan. “They were all patriotic since they were all veterans, and their children were the ones going to war.”
The Volunteer Aircraft Observers was a 24-hour post where volunteering men, women and children watched the sky for any sign of aircrafts. A spotlight was used to illuminate the sky during the evening hours. Any aircraft spotted was to be reported
immediately by telephone.
According to the Desert Trail newspaper archived at the Old Schoolhouse Museum, the entire city of Twentynine Palms would turn off their electricity in case of an air raid. A warning siren and flickering lights administered by the Wilcoff Electric Plant was the warning before the entire city was dropped into darkness.
The newspaper was a tribute to all the service members who were fighting in the war at the time from Twentynine Palms.
Among those service members was Troy L. Martin, a fighter pilot who died when his plane crashed in New Guinea. Martin was the first person from Twentynine Palms killed in action. The American Legion Post was re-named after Martin in honor of his service.
The women of Twentynine Palms also united to help assist the city as the country marched to war.
Mothers participated in the Gold Star Mothers Club and hung a flag in their windows for their husbands and sons. The flag were adorned with blue or gold stars. A blue star represented a family member was serving in the war; a gold star meant they had been killed in action.
The Women Ambulance Corps was formed where women took first aid classes once a week to help assist the medical services around the city.
By Dec. 19, the American Red Cross had organized two new services that were set up in the city.
Home service and Civilian Welfare Inquires were available to city members. Home Services helped service members and their families as they adjusted to the war.
Civilian Welfare Inquires assisted people wanting to find out about family members who were serving across the world.
Within one week after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the City of Twentynine Palms had organized many different organizations to help assist service members and families and to ensure the safety of the people in the town and nearby base.