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December 10, 2004
Oroville Mercury Register
Dan L. Beebe, Editor and Publisher, George Wangelin, City Editor,
November 25, 1941

Inevitable War With the Japanese
It is hard for the people to believe that we are about to be at war with Japan, but all signs point to it. There has been a gradual tightening of our lines and those of Japan. We are withdrawing our troops from exposed positions in China and our gunboats are drawing out into safer waters. All these moves will be seen later as logical steps of a nation readying for war. Now we try to discount them and say they are just bluff to show Japan we are in earnest. A month from now, as we look back upon it we shall see that war was all but inevitable from the day we shut down on trade with Japan in co-operation with the British and the Dutch.

We have heard nations talk about encirclement. We really did encircle Japan with an impenetrable ring of iron, putting on a squeeze that would force Japan to surrender – or fight. Now a nation that has become warlike and has been preparing for war for generations does not surrender without a fight. Such a nation has warlike leaders whose pride alone is an insurmountable barrier to knuckling under without a fight. Japan had spent millions trying to conquer China and had occupied a large portion of the Chinese country. We told Japan to get out without more ado. We told Japan to foreswear her alliance with Germany, and not to go a step farther to the south this in the face of Japan’s wildly heralded policy of dominance in Asia. It would be hoping too much to expect Japan to acquiesce in demands that would force her to right about face with all the world watching like a puppet state. But that is what we demanded. Japan had been flaunting its power in our face for a long time, steadily encroaching upon our rights, endangering our trade lines for vital supplies like rubber. Japan had violated treaties. There was sure to be war later on, anyway. The United States acted when it did, lest it and Britain might be at a greater disadvantage later on. It was a very long chance and it won’t work, but it was a chance worth trying. As we say, the chances are that, like a Monday morning quarterback, we shall look back over the chain events a month from now and see it all clearly how one step after another pointed to an inevitable war.
(This was on the Editorial page without a by-line.)

Stu’s notes: I went to Gridley to be with the survivors of Pearl Harbor. We went to the Black Bear Restaurant for breakfast. Most of the men there, I somewhat know from previous Remembrance Days. The Black Bear picked up our tab. I thanked the head cook, William Rose, Uncle of my beautiful grand daughter, Jessica. John Brannon came in and sat next to me. I asked him who’s fault was the attack on Pearl Harbor, thinking he might have an opinion as many who were not there have. Some blame the President, some Admiral Kimmal, the British, and many others. His reply was immediate, “The Japanese”. Enough said about that. John was a Chief Engineer on the Medusa, a repair ship and an Ammo Handler on a 3” gun. They shot holes in a Japanese Sub and a few airplanes. After breakfast we went to the Memorial to those who died that day. It is at the Butte County Fairgrounds, next to the Flag Pole where you buy food on fair days. There were 12 Pearl Harbor survivors and their wives, a few veterans from other places and about 7 or 8 of us civilians and news people. Three of those were representing our Mercury Register. Three of the Veterans were from Oroville.

Bob Wolfersberger who was in the Philippines, survived the attack on that day that came 8 hours after the Pearl Harbor attack. After an unbelievable, gallant fight those men later had to surrender, they were out of supplies. Bob survived the Battan Death March and was a P.O.W. He was liberated almost 4 years later by the Russians in Manchuria. (The Russians declared war on Japan in the very last weeks of the war, just to grab territory.) Bob spoke to the group and ended with “It’s terrible to be on the losing side, I know and we need to be strong in Iraq. If you go to war you must go to win.” I also talked to Chuck Contreras. He was on the Battleship Pennsylvania (My state of birth the state not the ship). He told me that he and a buddy jumped into the water to save sailors in the burning oily water. The Pennsylvania was the Fleets Flag Ship, not damaged that much they headed for San Francisco within days. It was a sad emotional trip home, to see all of the damage as they left the Harbor. Dean Orr was on a ship tied up to a pier. Luckily he escaped, hope to get more of his story later.

Lastly I talked to Bob O’Neill, incoming president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, he said in one battle with a Japanese ship his Baby Flat top Carrier, which was lightly armed was shot full of holes. But the Japanese used armor piercing shells and they went right through so the sailors stuffed mattress in the holes and sailed on. I think I believe him?