Copyright© 2015 by Bill Offutt
That bright Sunday afternoon, Bud was in his room, gluing wing struts into his Spitfire and listening to the Redskin football game on his small radio, the one his sister had given him for Christmas last year. The Redskins were losing, and Bud's right forefinger was stuck to a wing when he heard the announcement.
"This is a bulletin from the Associated Press," said a rather breathless voice, "Japanese aircraft have attacked and bombed Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands. There are many casualties."
Bud's head snapped around, and he pulled the whole wing away from the waxed paper as he started to run from the room, scattering straight pins and wing formers. He stopped to peel the balsa wood structure off his finger.
"I repeat," the hollow-sounding voice announced, "according to the AP we are at war. Japanese planes have bombed Pearl Harbor. Stand by for another bulletin."
Bud put the twisted half-wing back on his desk and ran down the steps, missing several on the way. His father was sitting in his usual chair under the orange-shaded lamp, still reading the Sunday paper.
"Did you hear?" Bud yelled pointing at the silent radio.
"Hear what?" his father asked, looking over his eyeglasses.
Bud snapped on the radio and twirled the dial as it warmed up, watching the glowing green eye above the knob dilate and expand rapidly. He stopped on the station where the Redskin's game was being broadcast and said, "They bombed Pearl Harbor, Dad. Listen, listen."
Two men were talking about the first half and Sammy Baugh's below-par performance.
"Shit," Bud said under his breath and turned to the next station and got music and then to the next and got the end of an announcement. "That was from the Reuters new agency and we are now getting another bulletin. Please stand by." In the background he and his father could hear a small bell ringing rapidly. "This is from the AP," said the announcer's voice. "American bases in the Hawaiian Islands have been attacked and bombed by Japanese airplanes. Some ships have been damaged and there are many casualties. That's what this says, many casualties. More is coming in."
"Hear that?" Bud asked, turning toward his father.
Sam Williams nodded and put aside his pipe. "Turn to WRC," he said. "They usually have the news first."
Bud sat crossed legged in front of the radio, and he and his father listened for the next half hour or so but there did not seem to be much more information. They heard requests for government officials to report to their offices, but very little more about the attack itself except that the initial reports had been confirmed.
Then they heard that a small crowd had gathered in front of the White House, in the park across the street and down beside the East Wing, up on the steps of the big War and State building next door. There was a report that an angry mob was forming near the Japanese embassy on Massachusetts Avenue where there were policemen on horseback, and the report said that men had been seen out in the embassy's yard burning papers.