Christmas was in the air on Saturday, December 6, 1941, and the chill of early winter was felt across most of America, even in New Orleans, where a cold wind blew off the Mississippi River delta. It had been two weeks since Thanksgiving, Christmas was not quite three weeks away, shoppers were out in record numbers in most cities, and merchants were predicting the best Christmas shopping season since 1928. Some cities had extra police on the streets to control traffic, something that had not been needed in previous years.
Most Americans felt more secure than at any time during the past decade. Jobs were available again, and new factories were being built all across the country to arm Britain, France, and China. Soldiers and sailors had been going through the most intensive training since World War I, but most maneuvers would soon be suspended so the men could go home for the holidays. Talk of war was in the newspapers and on the radio; but this was America, and hardly anyone felt directly threatened. Most people went about their lives with no sense of urgency.
One of those Americans going about his life with a sense of purpose and accomplishment was John J. Slattery, a member of the research team that developed the first Army Radio Position Finding system to protect America against attack by enemy planes. Soon the system would be known universally as "radar," a word coined by the Navy, but in 1941 it was still shrouded in secrecy while England and America raced against the Germans to develop the best such system.