No. 162  NAI DFA 219/8

Letter from Matthew Murphy to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin

SAN FRANCISCO, 11 December 1941

(Through the Minister Plenipotentiary, Washington, D.C.)
It would be putting it mildly to say that the citizens of San Francisco and the Bay Area were taken by surprise when hostilities with Japan broke out. The news that the Hawaiian Islands had been attacked stunned the people on this coast and I heard very frank criticism amongst Americans of the Naval authorities in allowing Japanese aircraft carriers so near the Islands before detection. Up to Sunday last, there never had been any practice blackouts, or fire drill, and there are no air raid shelters. Consequently, when all the local radio stations went off the air at 6:30 pm on Monday, the 8th, and the street lights near our house went out, there was considerable confusion. I managed to get the Salt Lake City station, 753 miles from here, on my radio, and heard a report that 60 unidentified aircraft were approaching San Francisco. The house in which I live is beside the Presidio, headquarters of the 9th Corps Army Area, and the Golden Gate Bridge is quite visible from our window. The street lights in the immediate neighbourhood, and those on the Golden Gate Bridge were shut off, and most of the residents took the hint and switched off their lights. Alcatraz Island, the Federal Penitentiary, located in the middle of San Francisco Bay, and Market Street, the main thoroughfare down town, remained brilliantly illuminated. The 'all clear' signal was given at 8.30 pm; but another alarm was sounded, this time by police sirens, at 2:00 am. On Tuesday the Military and the Civic authorities issued strong admonitions to the public for failing to observe blackout instructions, which had never been given. At 2:30 am Wednesday another alarm was given, and the 'all clear' signal came an hour later. The position as regards private residents is that if they have not retired when the alarm comes, they switch off their lights. If they have retired, there is little to do but stay in bed and await results, as there are no air raidshelters, and most houses constructed since the earthquake of 1906 have no cellars.

Unofficial reports trickling in from the Hawaiian Islands have left people here, as a whole, depressed. I heard one American remark that if the Government had given away as much as reported in lease lend aid, the army and navy had hardly enough equipment 'to kill a sick turkey'. Another said he was going to buy Defense Bonds because he felt like a gladiator thrown to the lions, and therefore had no alternative but to fight for self-preservation.

Ten days previous to the outbreak of hostilities, we had issued invitations to about 30 of our American friends to a violin recital given by my wife.1 The musicale was fixed for Monday, the 8th December, the night of the first air raid alarm and attempted blackout. We decided not to postpone the event and to leave it to the inclination of our invited guests. To our surprise over 20 came, including Major Brandeis and his wife. The Major is on the local Headquarters Staff, and is a close friend of ours. He came in uniform, and informed me that enemy planes had attempted to get to the Golden Gate, but were driven off, but would probably try again. There have been two alarms since, but no bombs have yet been dropped. It will take at least one bomb to bring the people here to the realization that this coast can be bombed by enemy aircraft, a possibility which has always seemed to them to be very remote.

The Japanese Consul General,2 who lives nearby our home, while burning papers on Sunday, nearly set fire to the house. The San Francisco Fire Department had to be called, and then it was revealed that the Argentinian Consul was dining with his Japanese colleagues at the time. He took the trouble to explain that the lunch had been planned a considerable time previously.

I enclose sample editorials from the San Francisco press, which I imagine are typical of those which have appeared elsewhere in the country.3 They emphasize the necessity of unity amongst Americans, and this is now completely assured by to-day's declaration of war on the United States by Germany and Italy. The only reference I have seen to Ireland so far is in the daily column 'This World Today' of the San Francisco Chronicle, which has always been pro-British and interventionist in its policy. It comments that who- ever is not with America is against it, and that Turkey, Sweden, Switzerland, Portugal and Éire will have to choose, maybe not right away, but ultimately.

[signed] M. MURPHY

1 Baroness Olinda von Kap-Herr.

2 Yoshio Muto, Japanese Consul General at San Francisco (Feb. 1941-Dec. 1941).

3 Not printed.

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