Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Friday, December 7, 2012
Pearl Harbor attack changed America forever

Shortly before 8 a.m. Hawaiian time, 71 years ago today, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, on a day President Franklin D. Roosevelt later claimed would "live in infamy."

The surprise attack sank or damaged all eight U.S. Navy battleships at the base, as well as three destroyers, three cruisers, a minelayer, an anti-aircraft training ship, and 188 U.S. planes. Some 2,402 Americans were killed, and 1,282 injured.

The event had a profound effect on the country, and Key West was not immune, as the names on the World War II memorial in Bayview Park attest.

Back then, Key West native Jack Einhorn was a young man with his whole life ahead of him. All his plans changed that fateful day.

"Like everybody in the rest of the country, I felt it was a stab in the back, a sneak attack," said Einhorn, 89. "At the time, the Japanese were still talking to the State Department. They were still negotiating. It was really upsetting to me."

Before long, Einhorn was shipping out aboard the light cruiser USS Springfield. The ship joined up with Task Group (TG) 21.5 to escort the Quincy, with Roosevelt aboard, to the Azores, where the president boarded a plane to Crimea for the "Big Three" conference at Yalta.

Einhorn's ship then sailed back to the Americas, through the Panama Canal, and on to the Pacific Theater, arriving at Pearl Harbor on Feb. 16, 1945.

As the Navy began closing in on the Japanese homeland, the Springfield took part in raids on the islands of Kyushu, Honshu, and eventually Okinawa.

"We were protecting the aircraft carriers, but we also shot down a few planes that splashed down near us," Einhorn said. "Was I scared? Yes. Even on our way to the Pacific Theater we were worried that we could be sunk by a Japanese sub. Show me a man who's never been scared, and I'll show you a liar."

Meanwhile, back on the homefront, the attack on Pearl Harbor changed Key West almost overnight.

"Roosevelt had come here in '39 to reactivate the Navy base," said Monroe County historian Tom Hambright. "But after Pearl Harbor, the Navy completely rebuilt the Naval Station and activated the Naval Air Station, which was then at Trumbo Point. Lots of people moved here. The civilian workers came first, and then the military personnel."

The population of Key West skyrocketed. There were huge housing and worker shortages. Some Key Westers joined the war effort.

Others "were joined" Hambright said, referring to the draft.

An additional consequence of the war was the Army Air Corps' takeover of the existing airport at Boca Chica. It had been a civilian facility, owned by the county. Later, ownership was transferred to the Navy.

Dec. 7, 1941, fell on a Sunday, in a time when The Citizen didn't print Sunday editions, and Key Westers had to wait until Monday to read about Roosevelt's "infamy" speech, and the U.S. declaration of war on Japan. The significance of Pearl Harbor and the war declaration was so great that it pushed into a tiny column the shocking news of the murder of Key West-born Highway Patrolman Luther P. Daniel in Dade County several days before. Daniel was the first such officer killed in the line of duty in Florida.

In late 1946, Jack Einhorn returned to his hometown to find it changed nearly beyond recognition.

Eventually, he received the American Theater Ribbon, the Victory Ribbon, and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, with three battle stars, for his service.

Like many veterans, Einhorn's experience aboard the Springfield changed his view of war.

"It's not like it was portrayed in the old movies," he said. "It's real. The bullets were real. The fighting was real. We did things that had to be done, in order to survive, that I don't really like thinking about. I'm glad I did it, but I wouldn't want to go through it again."

tschmida@keysnews.com

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