First Person: Pearl Harbor Remembered Through a Grandfather's Diary

The Diary of William Allen Darden Sr. Provides Insight into Life Before and After Pearl Harbor

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First Person: Pearl Harbor Remembered Through a Grandfather's Diary
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Lt. Col. William A. Darden, being awarded the Bronze Cross in World War II

Yahoo News asked Americans deeply impacted by the Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attacks to share how their families were affected in the decades since. Here's one story.

FIRST PERSON | My father wanted to talk about his war days when I was a teen, but with the callowness of youth, I didn't want to listen then. By the time I was ready to hear his war stories, my father was gone. I learned some about his illustrious career from the few notes he made and a brief bio he had for the Corps of Engineers, which I used for his obituary.

But while it was my father who served in World War II, it's from my grandfather's diary that I have learned the most about how Pearl Harbor impacted my family.

My grandfather, William Allen Darden Sr., was born in 1887. By the 1940s, he was a postal clerk at the main post office in Nashville, Tenn. He kept a daily diary between 1938 and 1944 in which he recorded the events of his life in the brief space allotted for each day. Reading his entries today provides a unique view of the changes in his life and the lives of his family following the events at Pearl Harbor.

The rumblings of war had already started across the ocean when, on Sept. 3, 1939, my grandfather recorded in his diary: "Great Britain and France declare war on Germany, already at war with Poland."

The world was forever changed on Dec. 7, 1941. My grandfather wrote about the events that rocked a nation: "Japs made surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, 2117 men killed, 960 missing, 876 wounded."

This was promptly followed by his Dec. 8 entry: "U.S. Declared War on Japan"

From Dec. 11: "US declares war on Germany and Italy."

Pearl Harbor changed my grandfather's life and altered the course of our family's in many ways. He was soon to see his own two sons off to war.

Born in 1910, my father, William Allen Darden Jr., joined the ROTC in college in 1931. After school, he worked as a civil engineer, but he left that job and enlisted in the Army soon after the Japanese attacked American soil. Due to his involvement in ROTC, he joined the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel.

From my grandfather's diary, on Nov. 18, 1942: "William Allen Darden Jr. now a 1st Lieut. US Engineers." Dad remained in the Corps of Engineers for three decades following Pearl Harbor.

Dad was not the only Darden to enlist. My grandfather recorded when my uncle, Dick Joyner, "left for Army" on March 5, 1943.

Ten days later, he noted: "Allen Jr. stopped by transferring from Camp Forrest to Wright Field."

On July 29, 1943, his nephew, Gilbert M. Darden Jr., was also "off to Army."

Rationing quickly followed the Pearl Harbor attacks for those left at home. On Nov. 18, 1942, my grandfather posted in his diary: "Registered for gasoline rationing. 4 gallons per week." On Feb. 22, 1943, he wrote, "Register for War ration book no. 2."

The rationing, coupled with her worrying about her new husband and her two brothers, is what my mother remembered most when I once asked her about Pearl Harbor. She married Dad in 1939 and he was off to war just three years later.

My grandfather, from whom I learned so much, died in 1955.

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