Saturday, December 7, 2013

December 7, 1941

Climbing My Family Tree: 7 December 1941

On December 7, 1941, the United States suffered about 3,700 casualties in a morning surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Each year we honor our dead in our remembrance of that day of infamy. We should never forget.

But what I somehow did not know until I started doing my family history research was that on December 7, 1941, the Japanese also conducted surprise attacks sending hundreds of Japanese fighter planes and bombers against Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, and other key Allied defense bases in the Far East; these attacks were followed by ground forces which quickly captured the areas. Over 700 American missionaries, men, women, and children, and were caught in the cross-hairs of these attacks. In China and Hong Kong, many the missionaries and other civilians who were trapped in Hong Kong, including 3,000 British, 300 American, and about 100 Dutch, including children, were herded into the Stanley Internment Camp at the south end of Hong Kong Island, where living conditions were extremely poor, unsanitary,  and there was very little food. For some this internment lasted 44 months.  Other American missionaries were placed under house arrest in their own homes, which were taken over by Japanese officers and soldiers. My great-grand-aunt Myrtle was one of the American missionaries put under house arrest, along with the 15 orphans she had been caring for, and others who had sheltered in her home during the bombing. She was held under house arrest, subsisting on one handful of rice per day per person, for seven months, until she was given an opportunity to participate in the repatriation exchange negotiated between the Allies and the Japanese in which some 1500 people (each side), including 500-700 missionaries, were exchanged ship-to-ship in the closest neutral port in Mozambique. I’ve written my great-grand-aunt Myrtle’s story here. Her story and those of the other internees and prisoners of war of the other Japanese surprise attacks on December 7, 1941, as well as those who died in them, should also never be forgotten.  

Climbing My Family Tree: 7 December 1941

[Information drawn from research done for post on Myrtle Bell Bailey, see cites there.]

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