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Getting Pearl Harbor news at Pershing Square

Getting Pearl Harbor news at Pershing Square

Dec. 8, 1941: Spectators at Pershing Square in Los Angeles gather around an Army antiaircraft gun that was on display for an enlistment campaign.

The day before, a much larger gathering at Defense House in Pershing Square came to hear news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

On the morning of Dec. 8, 1941, the Los Angeles Times reported:

With drawn faces, an anxious crowd milled in Pershing Square last night to hear war bulletins flashed over the public address system atop the Defense House.

And adding a grim, business-like atmosphere to the entire scene was the presence of machine guns, 3-inch “ack-acks” and great electric “ears” and searchlights aimed at the skies. They are part of the Army’s exhibits in the current Air Corps enlistment campaign.

A shocking feeling came to each person in the crowd with the first electrifying announcements of the Pacific attack.

Slowly the emotions of perhaps a thousand who stood tensely by faded from one of shocked grief to thin-lipped determination. …

At dusk an announcer stepped to the microphone.

“Ladies and gentlemen. The flag is about to be lowered from the mast.” …

There wasn’t a head in the crowd that wasn’t bare, or a hand that wasn’t to forehead or heart in salute.

One thousand persons stood at attention, and an Army bugler blew retreat.

As a breeze whistled through the palms, the announcer said solemnly:

“Ladies and gentlemen, your flag has been lowered on this, the first day of Americans’ participation in the Second World War.”

Dec. 7, 1941: The crowd at Defense House in Los Angeles’ Pershing Square when the U.S. flag was lowered at the end of the day. Image published in the Dec. 8, 1941, edition of the Los Angeles Times. Credit: ProQuest

Defense House was an entertainment area created in Pershing Square for rallies and selling war bonds. Events occurred almost daily with many celebrity appearances. In February 1942, its name was changed to Victory House.

The two photos, at the top of this post and below, were not published in the Los Angeles Times. The print of the antiaircraft gun has written on the back “Do Not Use,” with no reason indicated.

Dec. 8, 1941: An Army searchlight and sound-detection equipment were on display in Pershing Square. Credit: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

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