Years ago a UofA alumni, class of 1948 told me this story. I tracked it down and found others who remembered the Day That Will Live in Infamy. I wrote up the story for several newspapers over the years, and thought you all would like to see it.
"Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a day that will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan." So goes President Roosevelt's famous address to Congress, broadcast nationwide and heard at 10 a.m. on radios all over Tucson on Monday morning, the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. On campus however, the shocking news hit closer to home a few hours earlier. That morning UofA students and faculty were humiliated and embarrassed to discover a Japanese flag flying from the flagpole in front of Old Main instead of the familiar Stars and Stripes. The halyards had been cut to make it difficult to remove the enemy flag.
Closer inspection showed it to be a replica of a Japanese merchant flag made from a white pillowcase with a red crayon circle drawn in the center of it. Night watchman C. S. Hoffman discovered the enemy flag at 7 a.m. and Herb Miller, Tucson painter who had climbed the 110-foot pole three times previously was called in. Miller used a ladder furnished by the Tucson Fire Department, but had to slowly shinny up the last few feet to the top to remove the flag.
By 10:20 a.m. when the flag was finally brought down, a crowd of students had gathered at the base of the flagpole. Photographers got hold of it for a few minutes and then a sailor on leave from San Diego ripped it apart, with the help of some patriotic students.
Retired professor of medieval literature Sigmund Eisner remembers the day well. Back then he was just plain Sig to his many college friends, a UofA sophomore who happened to be taking a journalism class that semester and worked as a reporter for the Wildcat (back then a weekly paper which came out on Tuesdays).
Like those of us who are old enough to remember where we were when we hard the news that John F. Kennedy had been shot, Eisner remembers hearing about Pearl Harbor. It was a dull Sunday afternoon in Tucson. He and his friends were in the front room of their rooming house on Park Avenue near Fourth Street, just about where the Park Student Center is now. They didn’t have much to do, so a couple of them were playing chess. Suddenly, a roommate who had been listening to the radio in his room off burst into the living room to tell them the news. Everyone ran to his room to hear all the details. “Then that afternoon a friend of mine and I went to the movies at the Fox Theater. The movie was “Sergeant York,” Eisner recalled. “When we came out, everybody was chattering, wondering what was going to happen and no one knew what was going on.”
Almost 60 years later, Eisner still keeps in touch with Jim Bohannon, a fellow Wildcat reporter who wrote an article about the incident for the December 9th issue of the Wildcat. Bohannon probably captured the mood of his fellow students, beginning the article: “It's hard to believe that this day is the same weather we've always had, that the campus is the same forty acres. That the dark, ominous, mad feeling is within us.”