'Day of Infamy' changes county's direction in 1941
Editors Note: This is one of a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate and the county it covers as a newspaper. These articles are being prepared as the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth approaches in 2011.
The year of 1941 brought on many shocking events in the local area. Over the course of that year 14 miners died in various accidents in mines throughout the county. In the summer a small boy died when he and his brother found a can of blasting caps and hit them with a stick, throwing him a hundred feet and ending his short life. And two prominent Helper men died in August when their small canvas boat collapsed during a fishing trip to the Uinta Mountains and they drowned.
But nothing was more of a shock than what happened on Dec. 7, when Japanese Naval Aircraft bombed Pearl Harbor, pulling America into a war everyone knew was coming, but also one everyone wanted to avoid.
The announcement of the attack that Sunday afternoon local time set the local area abuzz and plans started to be made immediately to prepare for what could come.
"The first step of the conflict was taken by our enemy, Japan, in the face of the fact that its ambassador to this country and a special emissary were still discussing prospective peace terms with our Secretary of State," stated an opinion piece in the Thursday, Dec. 11, 1941 issue of the Sun Advocate. "The dastardly trick of attacking our country while still talking peace is an offense which will go down into the pages of history as the Judas act that it was. And it will serve as the point of stimulation which will develop in our nation to a determination to win that cannot be denied."
In that same edition, the first to be published since the bombing, there was only small mention of the attack through changes in the usual processes of the community. A special meeting of the "Carbon County Council of Defense" was set for that Friday night, with state officials attending to give citizens involved information concerning the new developments.
The Price Junior Chamber of Commerce also announced in dark ink on the front page that they would not hold their annual awards for Christmas decorations due to the national emergency. They planned to donate the funds they would have used for the contest to the Red Cross and other agencies involved with the war effort and relief.
The rest of the paper that day showed the shock of what had happened in that almost everything else remained normal; advertising was the same, the notes from the different coal camps had no special messages nor did any of the other stories in the paper relate to what had happened. It was all so new, in fact people may have been in disbelief in many ways, largely because the fact of it was so unreal. The defeat the United States had suffered and the fact that reports were coming in of Japanese attacks in the Philippines and elsewhere as well made it not only more alarming, but almost surreal.
However the next week the paper was filled with stories, most of which were local, but also almost all of which were affected in one way or another by the events of Dec. 7.
The first announcement of a probable death of a military man from Carbon County was on the front page on Christmas Day.
"The name of Ned Burton Donahue, 20, son of Mr. and Mrs. M.B. Donahue of Rains, was among those officially listed as missing in action in the performance of duty by the Navy Department in the American-Japanese War in the Pacific," the paper stated. "Mr. Donahue, a fireman first class, enlisted in the Navy Jan. 10, 1939 in Salt Lake City. He was a former student at the Carbon County High School."
While where he died was not specified at the time, he is listed as one of those killed at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7 in present records.
The start of the war also brought about changes in the selective service system. The draft had been going on for a couple of years, as America prepared for what seemed inevitable. On Dec. 18 a piece appeared in the Sun Advocate that said the selective service would be reevaluating all registered men's classifications. What that meant is that many of the deferments young men had been getting for such things as slight physical problems or attendance at school, would probably be withdrawn.
"All men who have heretofore been deferred because of physical condition, will be rechecked especially when only borderline impairments exist," stated the paper. "Whereas, in the past, the registrant, has been given the benefit of the doubt, all such cases must now be resolved in favor of the government."
That paper also announced that while it had been sending the Sun Advocate to service members wherever they were, the service was being discontinued because of the troop movements and transfers becoming more and more secret. So many papers were coming back to the Sun Advocate offices by Christmas Day that the service was becoming a problem.
"We have been happy to send these weekly issue to the boys, but their lack of permanent addresses now cause an inconvenience to the postal service and to our office," stated a small announcement in the paper.
For the next four years, while the national news would cover the big battles, victories and defeats, the Sun Advocate would bring the war home to residents up close and personal through announcements, local stories, a column about those who were serving and the inevitable releases concerning those killed or missing in the war.