Where were you when…?
Every generation has at least one major event where even decades later someone says “Where were you when…” and everyone can answer instantly.
For my generation, it was John F. Kennedy’s assassination. I was sitting in first grade class when that news came over the school intercom. We all went home early.
For my two sons’ generation, it’s the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in a Pennsylvania field.
Ask my parents, or anyone else from the World War II generation what that moment is, and you’ll likely hear them say “Pearl Harbor Day.” That, of course, is the day that the U.S. Navy fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was secretly attacked by Japan, drawing the U.S. into World War II.
Dec. 7, 1941, as Franklin Roosevelt said, is a date that lives in infamy, like the other tragedies. It was 71 years ago today.
When any momentous event happens, collectibles won’t be far behind. There are Kennedy memorial items and 9/11 commemorative items. All these years later, there are still plenty of Pearl Harbor Day collectibles to be found.
There are many variations of “Remember Pearl Harbor” items, pins especially. With the number and variations out there, it’s not tough to imagine everyone wearing one not long after that famous date. But a few unusual Pearl Harbor Day items have shown up the past few years at political collectibles auctions that I’d like to talk about today.
The first is a pin that starts with the seemingly required “Remember Pearl Harbor” words around the top, but gets much more interesting from there. At the bottom edge, it says “We Will Win” and “FDR.” The FDR notation makes this pin sought after not just by Pearl Harbor collectors, but also Franklin Roosevelt fiends. Still, the best is yet to come in the center of the pin with a bayonet piercing across the center and through the caricatures of Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo, the Axis leaders. It’s a lot of pin packed into a small package.
Next, is a small hand card that again has the obligatory “Remember Pearl Harbor” notation at the top, but includes a “Buy Defense Bonds and Stamps Today” message in the middle. The interesting part of this item is a great graphic on the right that shows a snake with three heads. Those heads, again, are the German, Italian and Japanese leaders. This great graphic makes for a great collectible. I wouldn’t mind putting one of these into my collection if I ever ran across one.
Finally, there’s a pin that shows up occasionally at auction, but it’s still one that catches my eye every time. The pin says “The Hero of Pearl Harbor” around the top, and “Dorrie Miller” at the bottom. The center shows a black sailor, with photos on the sides of a ship’s gunner (Miller himself) and a Japanese plane attacking.
Dorrie Miller was a cook below deck on the USS West Virginia when the attack began early on that Sunday morning in Hawaii. Miller made his way to the deck of the ship, grabbed a machine gun and began firing until he ran out of bullets. His story became a national sensation and Dorrie became a symbol of heroism on that tragic day.
Of course, these items all recall a sad day in American history. But they also served to rally Americans to the cause.