Pearl Harbor resident with York, Pa., ties: ‘I always said we would never know the real thing if it would ever happen’
R.R and Blanche Chronster Vanderer were living in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941. At that time, Blanche Vanderer, a York County native, had been a Hawaiian resident for many years. (See video below of a 2008 Pearl Harbor observance in York County, video by Paul Kuehnel of the York Daily Record/Sunday News). Background posts: Pearl survivor: ‘We need to prevent attacks of that nature’, Giving news, sports junkies their fix and Bataan survivor persevered as POW.
“We were so used to planes in the air and gun shooting that I always said we would never know the real thing if it would ever happen,” Blanche Vanderer wrote from Waikiki after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
The York native’s letter of events on Dec. 7, 1941, appeared in her hometown The Gazette and Daily about a month later, delayed while the censors worked through their stack of outgoing correspondence.
A sampling of other observations:
– On Waikiki, some distance from Pearl, people did not panic, despite the fact at least one bomb hit a building near her residence. The damage to the building convinced her an hour after the attack that it was for real.
– At first, people in America’s mainland possibly knew more about the attack than the residents of Waikiki. It took refugees from the Pearl Harbor area to bring news of the size of the Japanese attack.
– The Vanderers chose to buy war bonds that Christmas rather than gifts, as did many people, whose Christmas was changed in many ways after the attack.
– Immeditely mandated blackouts, which became common in York County just weeks later, were spent playing the piano, listening to the radio and drinking coffee.
Mary E. Snyder Heiland passed on the newspaper clipping detailing the story of her husband’s kinsman Blanche Vanderer.
Mary Heiland corresponded with her for years but never met her.
Heiland also gave a glimpse – a common story, as it turns out – of what many in the eastern United States were doing when they heard of the attack:
“I was sitting in my kitchen, rocking our young son and wondering if any plans will be bombing us,” she wrote in a longhand letter.