Sudden Heroes

For the men already in the military service, the attack meant, among other things, that the amount of time they agreed to serve when they enlisted no longer meant anything. Immediately an expression was invented: They were in "for the duration."

It also meant that the public changed its attitude toward servicemen for the better, and the change was instant. Men on their way back to their bases that afternoon and evening saw the changes, and some were not particularly impressed.

Julian Davidson was in the Air Corps at Mitchell Field on Long Island. That Sunday he was on a weekend pass in New York City. When he left the hotel that afternoon, he heard the paperboys hawking their extra editions, and almost immediately was stopped by a policeman, who told him all servicemen were to report back to their bases immediately.

"I went to Penn Station to take the Long Island Railroad to Hempstead, where an Army bus would take us to Mitchell Field. When I got to the Long Island Railroad, the conductor ushered . . . servicemen into the train and wouldn't accept fares.

"With a magical wand the doughboy was transferred from a despised human being into a hero! It was a known fact that soldiers from Mitchell Field were not welcome at Garden City, Long Island, a very wealthy community one stop before Hempstead and next to Mitchell Field.

"When the train stopped at Garden City, the conductors told us all soldiers were to get off at that stop and that the residents of Garden City, en masse, were at the station with their limos, cars, and chauffeurs and they would drive us directly to Mitchell Field."


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The Day the War Began


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