Letter dated December 7, 1941…a day that will live in infamy

In 2006, I found this letter in our barn.  Written on a sad day in
 American history, we sure could use some of its optimism
 and lack of cynicism, today:  December 7, 2014! 
 addressed to Hib, who was my lovely friend
 Barbara Ballou Schwarz from her brother Richard  Ballou:

Dec 7, 1941

Dear Hib:

Thanks for your letter.  Things have dwindled into a new perspective these days now that we are at war.  Elizabeth and I have been glued to the radio most of the afternoon and this evening.  It does not surprise me that Japan had been doing such a job of double dealing in the past three weeks;  I am surprised that we were not more ready that the success of the Jap attacks on Hawaii.

Remember Miss Collins out there, and our discussion of the possibility of your going there.  In this connection remember my suggestion that you consider the prospect of doing some work in Europe after the war.

Recently two things have passed by us here which I pass on for what they are worth.  Dr. Royon (female), psychiatrist whose husband is second in command, Geneva Int. Red Cross, and who is high up in the Save the Children Federation told a Smith audience that there is a tragic shortage of workers in child welfare fields, a lack which will be acute after the war.

Second, Mary Wagner is closely affiliated with an organization which is working up a course for “volunteer” workers for here and abroad.  If I were you, I’d (1) keep my French and German brushed up in any way I could – reading books, and speaking with people who’d be willing to help;

(2) I’d contact Mary asking for information and to be kept posted, and expressing your interest in the work; at the same time, I’d get in touch with the Save the Children Federation in New York – a Mrs. Sater in Summit, NJ seems to know a lot about the thing.  The purpose being to get yourself in contact with an organization which may one day be in a strategic position.

They are going to need in addition to doctors, nurses, social workers, literally thousands of child-workers who have had training in education and psychology and some substantial experience (your Hearld Trib and teaching experience eminently fit), and who have youth, health, imagination, and a world point of view.

It is my humble opinion that when the mess is over – two to three year hence or more – you will be in a key position to do some brilliant work, work that will challenge your imagination, and put you in a position to do good on a scale none for you family can now imagine.  The experience, looking at it selfishly, will open horizons undreamed of.  Think it for over…

For myself, I am not wholly optimistic these days.  The three  months beginning with Nov. 1 and going through January ’42 are marking I thinking the critical phase of the struggle.  The fight over labor, and the attitude of the ABA, the NAM, and the Tory representation in the English gov’t, the reports which are leaking out about huge profits and fees being given to the dollar a year men, etc. are ever present reminders that our unity over fighting Hitler has weak seams.

If we don’t get out of this struggle an active democratic socialism – with private profits cut down immeasurably, and with control over planning and some of the key industries taken out of the hands of the well-meaning but limited imagination businessmen, we’ll only half win the war, fumble the armistice, and lose the peace.  There are hard days ahead, and I shall e speaking more and more of socialism without using the term because it has lost its meaning.

Somehow or other I can’t help being lad that the suspense is over, that we have our chance ahead still; I am sorry we are not better prepared to meet the test, but is is now time to go to work.  i think we’ll be found ready.

Barbara, the other day, when i was debating Orton (and in technical debating terms he beat me, although I honestly can’t say that because he didn’t meet my definition of the issues), he accused me of being young and unduly optimistic.  Well we are, kid, and that is an asset.

Let’s see where we can pull our oar, not strike the colors of our ideals, and when the die is cast, let’s work patiently, think as clearly as we can, be charitable and cautious in impugning the motives of others, and when the showdown comes, strike hard.

As I thought when I was 21, so I think now that I am 31, it is good to be alive.

Bobby and Susan are well, happy, and looking ahead.  i wish we had twins twice.  Aaron:  son Jonathan Dec. 1; MacDowell daughter recently; Jack Keffe, a son Richard; Steve Bayne a fourth, and he  is now chaplain at Columbia.  Lots of love.  See you at Xmas, and some day in NY.  Cheerio.


My father turned 12 on this day in 1941, he would have been 85 today, sadly I never asked him where he was or how Pearl Harbor affected him and he died in 2005.

Barbara Ballou Schwartz went on to serve in the American Red Cross in France and was present for soldiers at the end of the war when she told me they ate with wild abandon.I have passed the original and copies of this and other letters to her daughter and granddaughter.


The long walk of history


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