By TIM UNRUH
Special to The Hays Daily News
SALINA -- To many who recall that dreadful day, word that Pearl Harbor had been attacked first came through the airwaves.
The news brought terror to most, and sent Americans tumbling into World War II.
"I can remember listening to the radio, hearing President Roosevelt talk. It was a shock," said Edgar Fischer, 87, Salina, recalling the Japanese attack that occurred the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
The attack, which cost the lives of more than 2,400 Americans, mostly soldiers, changed everyone's life.
Fischer and his wife, Darlene, didn't know each other at the time, and the effect on each of their families was different.
'I had to grow up'
Fischer was 14 and the oldest son in his family. The family farmed near Glendale in northwest Saline County.
"I was ready to go if asked, but I was needed by my family," he said. "My dad (Hugo) was not real well, and I ended up doing quite a bit of the farm work. I had to grow up."
Edgar Fischer eventually found that war, and the one that followed. Thanks to being a good typist, he served two stints in Japan.
As the second youngest of five and the only girl in Henry and Gertrude Oetting's clan, Darlene said that "worry for the whole family" was instant as they gathered around the old battery-powered radio on the family farmstead 10 miles north of Sylvan Grove.
Her father was a World War I veteran and had a good idea what was ahead.
"We had heard about his service growing up," Darlene said.
She was 10 at the time.
Brothers Wilbur and Harold were drafted and saw action early on. Wilbur "saw a lot of the war in Okinawa," Darlene said. Her other two brothers didn't pass their military physicals.
A good portion of Sunday worship services at Ash Grove Methodist Church was spent praying for the troops, Darlene Fischer said.
'We were all scared'
Seated one table over, Olene Senner overheard the banter and offered her recollections from the fateful day in 1941.
"We were all scared. It was war," she said.
There was no electricity on the farm near Concordia, Senner said, so to stay informed, her father, Paul Racette, bought a new battery for their radio.
Her brothers, Ansel, Leland and Farrell, all saw action in the war, along with a number of extended family members. Richard Senner went into the Navy in 1941. He was a classmate at Concordia High School with Olene's older sister, Emma Jean.
Olene and Richard were married after the war. He died seven years ago.
"I remember food stamps, and gas was rationed," said Olene, 85.
"It was a scary time."
Dad was drafted
In a phone interview, Cora Williams, 80, Salina, said she was 7 and growing up in St. Louis when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
Most vivid in her memory was her father, James Hudson, was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943.
"I just remember that my daddy went to fight," Williams said. "My momma (Ollie Hudson) made homemade cakes and sent them to him. She packed them with apples so the cakes would stay fresh."
Bombers fly overhead
Bill Murphy, 81, was 8 years old and living on East Sixth Street in Abilene when he heard about the Pearl Harbor attack, also on the radio.
"I ran and hid under the bed," he remembered.
Murphy's next memory of the time was seeing the "big bombers" flying over Abilene from military bases in Great Bend, Herington and other sites in the region.
Through high school at Glendale and later at Lucas, Edgar Fischer said, he would hear stories about Allied activity overseas.
"My parents (Anna and Hugo) were appalled at the idea of war. They didn't want to believe it, but they had to," he said.
For the teenage boy, who had heavy farm responsibilities, dust storms and grasshoppers were near-equal worries.
"I drove the tractor and milked a lot of cows," Edgar Fischer said. "I was more scared for the country. Things went fairly bad in the Pacific for a long time. Then the victories came one after the other, and I knew eventually we would prevail."
A lot of questions
There were also a lot of questions about the attack in Hawaii.
"You wished they wouldn't have had so many ships in the harbor. It was during the early days of radar. They saw something and reported it, but the higher-ups didn't get the message in time," Edgar Fischer said.
He was drafted late in World War II, and after some training at Fort Worth, Texas, he shipped out from Seattle to Yokohama, Japan, and then to a military base at Nara, where he did office work during the occupation.
"I was just out of high school and could type 60 words a minute," Fischer said. "If it hadn't been for the atomic bombs, I would have been digging out the Japs."
After less than a year in Japan, Fischer was discharged from the Army. He returned to the farm and co-owned and managed a skating rink in Sylvan Grove. Fischer met Darlene there, and they were married in 1950.
Two years later, Edgar was drafted again, and "because of prior military experience," was returned to Japan after another round of basic training. He processed classified messages in the Far East Command at Tokyo during the Korean War.
By then, he could type 90 words a minute. Slower typists were assigned to be company clerks in Korea, closer to the fighting.
Bringing back memories
Bill Murphy went into the Navy in 1951 and served on the USS Iowa battleship. His job was to operate landing crafts that transported people from ship to shore on liberty leave.
Murphy was in Boston in 1954, being discharged from the Navy, when a picture book, "U.S. Navy War Photographs: Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Harbor," snared his attention.
"A captain came in and said, 'Do you like it?' I said, 'Yes,' and he said, 'It's yours. You can have it.' "
The book is loaded with war photos, some that were much more alarming than what the World War II newsreels showed in theaters.
"They never showed any of the gruesome stuff," Murphy said.
He claims to have looked through the book only twice, and until Thursday, had never shown it to anyone else.
"If mothers looked at it, it would just tear them up," Murphy said. "The first time I saw the book, it didn't bother me too much."
Serving during a war himself, he said, "you see so many things."
But since coming home, Murphy said, the photographs bring back too many memories.
"It just haunts you," he said. "I thank God I came home."