It was early on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when bombs began to fall on the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii, claiming more than 2,400 American lives and leading the United States to enter into the worldwide conflict.
Edward West, an 87-year-old Canton-area native, remembers the news of the attack quickly making way to Cherokee County and leaving those around him stunned.
West had stayed home from school and heard about the assault on the radio. What he remembers most about that day more than seven decades later is watching everyone around him take in the terrifying news.
“It was all on the radio and that was what everybody talked about,” West said. “They was just scared.”
Although he was just 15 years old at the time, West said he knew what the attacks meant.
“I knew, and everybody else knew, that (the enemy) had hit us, our country and that we would go into war,” said West, who was drafted into the Army in 1944, at age 18.
West said all the suspicions about war proved right the next day, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan, and the United States went into the conflict, which still stands today as one of the nation’s bloodiest.
At the time, West was still too young to consider joining the military, like many others around him did. But, West said he did know that “when I got 18, I’d have to go.”
Others, like Chester H. Reeves had already seen the war coming.
Reeves, a 94-year-old Woodstock resident, said he had been watching the conflicts building overseas and joined the Army in early 1941, knowing that eventually, America would join the fight.
But Reeves, who would later serve in Asia during the war, didn’t know exactly when the war would start until he saw the newspapers and heard the announcements on the radio of what happened Dec. 7, 1941.
“I remember all too well,” he said.
John Sauls, a 92-year-old Acworth resident, also recalls Pearl Harbor as a day that would later define his future.
He was a young man working in Marietta as a helper on a Coca-Cola truck.
“The day had ended and we were in the car headed home, and we heard it on the radio,” Sauls said. “By the time I got home, everybody in the house had heard it. I thought it was one of the (worst) things that could ever happen.”
Sauls, who later served in the South Pacific as an Army infantryman, said he watched many men around him join the military in response to the attacks that day, and he knew at some point he would also have to sign up.
“I figured sooner or later, if we didn’t stop (them), they’d be in this country,” Sauls said. “I thought we had to stop them before they got here.”