The Pacific Northwest was placed under an 11 p.m. blackout after the attack, and all radio stations except KIRO were silenced. A front-page photo the next day showed President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asking Congress to declare war on Japan for its “unprovoked and dastardly attack” on Hawaii.
“Blackout tonight!” The Seattle Times’ front page announced on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after Japan killed more than 2,000 U.S. service members in an attack on Pearl Harbor.
From the Canadian border to Roseburg, Oregon, the Pacific Northwest was placed under an 11 p.m. blackout, The Times reported. No lights were allowed in homes, businesses or cars, to protect against potential bombing raids from Japanese planes.
“All Pacific Northwest radio stations except Station KIRO in Seattle were ordered silenced at 7 o’clock tonight,” The Times reported. “KIRO is to be the mouthpiece of all official news tonight.”
A front-page photo showed President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asking Congress to declare war on Japan for its “unprovoked and dastardly attack” on Hawaii.
“As Congress was acting, Japan boasted she had won naval supremacy over the United States in the Pacific,” an Associated Press story on the front page read. “The Japanese asserted in reports broadcast by the official radio in Tokyo that they had destroyed two American battleships and one aircraft carrier and had damaged four other battleships and six cruisers.”
The blackouts and radio silence continued in Seattle until Dec. 12, according to the following days’ Times editions. On Dec. 9, a sailor’s wife was arrested for leading a mob through the city to break store windows where lights were showing.
“We’ve got to show these people that they can’t leave their lights burning,” 19-year-old Ethel Chelsvig told the assistant police chief, according to The Times. “This is war. They don’t realize what has happened. One light in the city might betray us.”
More than 10,000 air-raid wardens, fire watchers, emergency police and emergency fire squads were on call in Seattle, and more than 8,700 civilians volunteered for defense efforts.
“Keep out of the way,” a front-page headline ordered civilians. “In time of war, the military has the right of way. Everybody has a job to do. The civilian can best do his by keeping out of the way of the military.”
Seattle Mayor Earl Milliken cautioned against hysteria and said, “There is no reason for tremendous concern,” The Times reported. He asked residents to be tolerant of Japanese Americans, while also warning Japanese people not to make “any utterances or actions that might incite reprisals.”
Dozens of Seattle-area residents who were Japanese or of Japanese descent were “suspected of being enemies” and were arrested and incarcerated later in the day after the attacks, The Times reported. Most were held in the Immigration Jail near what’s now CenturyLink Field.
“Seattle police, working throughout the night, under the direction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Immigration Service, reported they had arrested and interned 51 Japanese,” The Times reported. “For months, both federal agencies have kept certain Japanese under surveillance.”
That number grew after Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942, paving the way for Japanese immigrants and Japanese-American citizens to be evacuated and incarcerated. Nearly 13,000 Japanese Americans in Washington state were forcibly relocated, according to previous Times reporting.
None of what would come next was clear yet on Dec. 7, 1941, which Roosevelt famously called “a date which will live in infamy.”
“Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us,” Roosevelt said in his address to Congress. “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”
More about the incarceration of Japanese people in America during World War II:
- How Bainbridge Island Japanese were registered, forced from their homes during World War II
- Secret use of census info helped send Japanese Americans to internment camps
- Opinion: Lessons of the internment camps
- Jerry Large column: The past wrong of internment leaves lesson for our present