Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"A Date Which Will Live In Infamy" : December 7, 1941

OT : Tales from the New York Daily News Sunday Comics (#3)

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, "a date," according to President Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 8th (as he announced the attack to the American people from the radio), "which will live in infamy!" The attack effectively brought the United States into a global, simmering primordial soup of Nazi and fascistic aggression in Europe, coupled with Japanese imperialism throughout the Asian/Pacific region. In the two decades following the end of the Great War, the world had been an ever-growing tinderbox and this event proved to be the match that lit yet another conflagration.

The attack started at 7:53 AM Hawaii time, almost 1:00 PM in New York. 2402 individuals died that Sunday morning, 1175 aboard the USS Arizona alone.  The country was shocked and bruised. Launched by the Japanese battle cry "Tora! Tora! Tora!", the United States would reply with "Remember Pearl Harbor!", becoming as popular an exclaim as the previous century's "Remember the Alamo!" What passed for the mainstream media consisted of newsreels, radio, newspapers and magazines. The propaganda and morale machine kicked into high gear. In the American comic book industry, a year earlier Jack Kirby and Joe Simon had put American patriotism on high alert, depicting Captain America landing a thunderous hay maker into the face of Adolf Hitler on the cover to Captain America Comics #1 (Mar/41).

Soon the Japanese Imperial government joined the Nazis and the Fascists as the enemies of the free world, and the industry became awash in four entire years of superheroes battling the Axis powers, along with stereotyped depictions of same. This mass media depiction rolled over into the animated cartoon industry as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Donald Duck and even Popeye all pit their merit against the Axis powers.

***( A full history of Timely-Atlas war comics can be found HERE)***

Last week, I purchased a sizable lot of World War II era New York Daily News Sunday comics sections from 1941 to 1945. For years now I've been buying them up, trying to put together a full index of the near-century long comics features from the 1920's to the present. I arrived home from work late yesterday and noticed a large package had arrived. I left it on the couch by my piano and planned to open it today when I got home. I already knew what it was, those "comic sections" I bought. 

Today, I finally found the time to take a look at them, tearing open the over sized mailer. Well I was in for a major shock. The lot of approximately 24 Sunday sections were ordered from earliest (1941) to latest (1945). The 1941 sections started in the month of December and the very first section at the top of this pile that I was staring at was dated December 7, 1941!

Yes, on the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I opened a package from the mail containing the New York Daily News Sunday comics section that was on the newsstands that very Sunday morning. This was complete happenstance and luck. I had no idea what the sections consisted of.


In 1987 my wife and I were on our honeymoon in Honolulu and we visited Pearl Harbor a week or so before the 46th anniversary of the attacks. We took the boat to the USS Arizona Memorial and I still recall what a somber feeling it was seeing the actual battleship in the water still leaking oil after all these years, coupled with the knowledge that over 900 bodies of Americans were entombed within the wreck. Here's a composite shot of the memorial's wall of  lives lost, taken on November 27, 1987. (It took 29 years for Photoshop to allow me to merge 3 separate photos into one panorama!)

A few minutes of video from the visit just before the 46th anniversary. The clip spans the Arizona in the water to the wall of deceased American names. At some point a contingent of Japanese tourists throw a wreath of flowers into the water, a wreath that floats poignantly for several seconds.

Our immediate family had only one close member to serve in the war. My great uncle Dominick Vassallo served in the South Pacific in the New Guinea campaign from 4-24-42 to 10-22-45. Unmarried at the time, he was drafted at the age of 35, nearly 36. His brother, my grandfather "namesake" Michael Vassallo, served stateside down south as a sheet metal worker for the war effort. My maternal grandfather Nicola was too old, spending 2 years as a German POW during the first world war for his native Italy.

Here is my great Uncle Dom in the South Pacific during the war. The year could be anytime from 1942-45.

I just finished scanning the entire December 7, 1941 Sunday section. As a treat, without all the long-winded details of the industry, the features, the creators and what not, I present, quite simply and without commentary, the entire 16 pages scanned at 300 dpi and cleaned up a bit. Enjoy them for what they are, artifacts of a nation and culture from exactly three quarters of a century ago. On a morning when all was still innocence and serenity, and folks were mostly concerned with nothing more than the upcoming holiday season, little realizing that life as they knew it and the world was about to change dramatically.

  • Page 1 - Dick Tracy by Chester Gould
  • Page 2 - AD PAGE : My-T-Fine Pudding
  • Page 3 - Little Orphan Annie / Maw Green by Harold Gray
  • Page 4 - The Gumps by Gus Edson
  • Page 5 - Sweeney & Son by Al Posen ; AD: Nestle's Chocolate
  • Page 6 - Smitty / Herby by Walter Berndt
  • Page 7 - Smokey Stover by Bill Holman ; AD: Super Suds soap
  • Page 8 - Winnie Winkle the Breadwinner / Looie by Martin Branner
  • Page 9 - The Ripples by George Clark : AD: Ponds Beauty Box
  • Page 10 - Harold Teen by Carl Ed
  • Page 11 - Tiny Tim by Stanley Link ; AD: Colgate Ribbon Dental Cream
  • Page 12 - Smilin' Jack by Zack Mosley
  • Page 13 - Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff
  • Page 14 - Gasoline Alley by Frank King
  • Page 15 - The Teenie Weenies by William Donahey
  • Page 16 - Moon Mullins / Kitty Higgins by Frank Willard