2017-12-07 / Local News

‘Day of infamy’ lives on in memories of county residents

By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff


THIS HAPPENED 76 years ago today when the Japanese attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. THIS HAPPENED 76 years ago today when the Japanese attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The number of people who remember exactly where they were and what they were doing 76 years ago today is only getting smaller – even here in Leelanau County where the percentage of senior citizens is among the highest in the state.

Dec. 7, 1941, was “a date which will live in infamy,” according to then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, marked the beginning of our nation’s involvement in World War II.

Pearl Harbor Day is unforgettable for those who lived through it – much like the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was for a younger generation, and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 for the generation that followed.

One of the youngest Leelanau County residents to recall what Pearl Harbor Day actually felt like 76 years ago was 83-year-old Scott Craig of Leland.


MARY JELINEK of Northport, now 96, was a 20 year-old nursing student on Dec. 7, 1941 and subsequently joined the Army as a nurse, serving near the front lines in Europe. MARY JELINEK of Northport, now 96, was a 20 year-old nursing student on Dec. 7, 1941 and subsequently joined the Army as a nurse, serving near the front lines in Europe. “I was only seven years old, but I remember it well,” Craig said this week. “I was riding with my dad in his car with the radio on when we heard the news.

“Even at the age of seven, I knew something really serious was happening – just from the grave look on my father’s face,” Craig said. “I remember hearing reports on the radio of people smashing Japanese crockery because they were so angry – even then, that seemed kind of stupid to me.”

One of the oldest living Leelanau County residents is 96-year-old Mary Jelinek of Northport. She was a 20-year-old nursing student at St. Lawrence Hospital in Lansing when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

“There were five or six of us from my nursing school class who joined the Army,” Jelinek recalled.

She volunteered for service in 1943 and ended up serving near the front lines in Europe as part of an Army Evacuation Hospital unit that landed at Omaha Beach a few months after D-Day in 1944. Her unit was a precursor of the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) units of later wars.

Jelinek’s unit served in France, the Netherlands, and in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.

Although she can’t recall exactly what she was doing on Dec. 7, 1941, Jelinek can recall exactly what she was doing four years later. On Dec. 7, 1945, she was heading back home to Michigan, about seven months after victory had been declared in Europe and about four months after victory was declared over the Japanese.

Lifelong Suttons Bay resident Fern Walter was just getting ready to graduate from high school at the end of the war. On Dec. 7, 1941, she was just 13 years old and a student at the old stone schoolhouse on St. Mary’s Avenue in Suttons Bay.


ARMY NURSES including Mary Jelinek of Northport, kneeling, posed for a picture outside a building used as an Army field hospital in Europe during World War II. ARMY NURSES including Mary Jelinek of Northport, kneeling, posed for a picture outside a building used as an Army field hospital in Europe during World War II. “On Dec. 7, we were going out to Lake Leelanau to visit our aunts for Sunday dinner that afternoon,” Walter recalled. “I remember we had so much snow that day we had to walk part of the way through the snow, and there wasn’t any electricity yet out where they lived.”

After dinner, they decided to turn on their battery-powered radio – and that’s when they learned the news about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

“We were all just shocked; we couldn’t believe it,” Walter said. “As a young girl, of course, I began worrying about Japanese coming over the hill to attack us in Suttons Bay. I had no idea what war was all about even though my dad was a World War I veteran.

“Mostly, I remember how we all tried to help out during the war,” Walter added. “I remember the ration stamps and the drives to collect metal and rubber to support the war effort.”

Dick Allen of Northport was just 16 years old on Dec. 7, 1941, and living in downstate Howell.

“I worked at a drug store in Howell and remember opening up the store that Sunday and turning on the radio to hear the news,” Allen said.

“I immediately knew that something serious was happening. I thought about closing the store, but just figured I should keep the radio on and keep working,” Allen said.

He later enlisted in an Army Air Corps aviation cadet program and was told he would likely be a part of a massive invasion of Japan.

“We were told that 50-percent of us would probably die trying to defeat Japan – and then we heard about the atomic bombs dropped on Japan and the end of the war,” Allen recalled.

“Our orders were canceled, and it wasn’t long before I returned to civilian life,” Allen said. “Of course, we were all very relieved when the war ended.”

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Thank you for sharing this

Thank you for sharing this article, we must pass it on to our children. And thank you to those who served, God bless you!