71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941: 'The AP was rolling'

Dec. 7, 2012
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In this U.S. Navy file photo, a small boat rescues a USS West Virginia crew member from the water after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941 during World War II. Two men can be seen on the superstructure, upper center. The mast of the USS Tennessee is beyond the burning West Virginia. On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese Imperial Navy navigator Takeshi Maeda guided his Kate bomber to Pearl Harbor and fired a torpedo that helped sink the USS West Virginia. President Barack Obama on Thursday Dec. 6, 2012 issued a proclamation declaring Dec. 7 a day of remembrance in honor of the 2,400 Americans who died at Pearl Harbor. He urged federal agencies, organizations and others to fly their flags at half-staff. (AP Photo, File)
In this U.S. Navy file photo, a small boat rescues a USS West Virginia crew member from the water after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941 during World War II. Two men can be seen on the superstructure, upper center. The mast of the USS Tennessee is beyond the burning West Virginia. On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese Imperial Navy navigator Takeshi Maeda guided his Kate bomber to Pearl Harbor and fired a torpedo that helped sink the USS West Virginia. President Barack Obama on Thursday Dec. 6, 2012 issued a proclamation declaring Dec. 7 a day of remembrance in honor of the 2,400 Americans who died at Pearl Harbor. He urged federal agencies, organizations and others to fly their flags at half-staff. (AP Photo, File)
"Within an hour after the flash, 30 (AP staffers) were on the job or in the office begging for assignments."

_From the Jan. 9, 1942 edition of AP Inter-Office, an internal publication, which recounted The Associated Press Washington bureau's response to the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.


At 2:20 p.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, AP Washington editor William Peacock had begun his lunch of a peanut butter and bacon sandwich when President Franklin D. Roosevelt's press secretary, Stephen Early, called.

At the same time Peacock bit into the sandwich, Early said in a strangely high-pitched voice, "I have a statement from the president. The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor from the air.”


"Flash!" Peacock called out. Nearly choking on the combination of sandwich and excitement, he managed to type the one-line message and hand it to Teletype operator Carl Moltz, who flipped a switch to break into the national wire: "FLASH. WHITE HOUSE SAYS JAPS ATTACK PEARL HARBOR.” As he tried to write the follow-up bulletin, Peacock’s shaking fingers tangled in the keys. He asked staffer Ed Bomar to do it. “What do you want me to say?” asked Bomar, who had just walked in and had no idea what was going on. “We’re at war, that’s what.”

_From Richard Pyle in Breaking News: How the Associated Press Has Covered War, Peace and Everything Else (June 2007, Princeton Architectural Press)


Once the initial reports had gone out on the radio, AP's office was swamped with calls from lawmakers wanting to know if the reports were true. AP staffers also responded. "Virtually the entire staff reported in person or by phone within a few hours," according to AP Inter-Office.

"The AP was rolling. Busy as it was, that Sunday was only the beginning of an extraordinary news week which kept the bureau humming 24 hours a day. President Roosevelt asked for War against Japan and got it promptly. Then came war with Nazi Germany and Facist Italy."

__From the Jan. 9, 1942 edition of AP Inter-Office, which also reported "increased coffee consumption on editorial desks" and the staff's "refusal to eat peanut butter and bacon sandwiches since December 7."

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