Front-Page History: Danville-Boyle was joining the war effort 78 years ago

Published 11:35 pm Monday, December 9, 2019

War was the news of the day 78 years ago on the front page of the Danville Advocate-Messenger.

Three days after the infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which sparked the United States’ entry into World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt’s picture was above the fold on A1, signing a formal declaration of war against Japan.

News of war in the Pacific led — Britain had just lost two “of her mightiest capital ships” to Japanese forces; U.S. reporters were being dismissed from German news conferences and told to go home.

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But the war was local, too:

  • Local newspaper carriers agreed to sell U.S. defense stamps to aid in funding for the war. “Jake Baer, member of the Hub Department Store firm, announced he would subscribe for 20 $5 defense stamp books from the carrier boys. This announcement was met with great applause and enthusiasm by the 50 newspaper boys at the meeting. The 14 newspaper carrier boys of the Advocate-Messenger and four of the Lexington Herald and Leader in Danville will be given credit for 18 of the defense stamp books and the other two will be awarded the two boys selling the greatest number of stamps by Jan. 1.”
  • Danville was given a $5,000 quota by the Red Cross. “With the entrance of the United States into war again, the obligations and responsibilities of the American Red Cross has doubled many times. To meet the great emergency, national officers of the organization have called on local chapters across the country for a new quota. It is unfortunate that this call should come just at the conclusion of the annual roll call drive for membership, but local leaders expressed confidence that with a new and greater need facing our country, every person in Danville and Boyle County would cooperate.”
  • A local man was reported as having been at Pearl Harbor. “William Jack Stevens, 18, son of Mrs. Hattie Stevens, Danville, was last heard from while stationed on the U.S.S. St. Louis, a destroyer based at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands.” The St. Louis was one of several destroyer-class ships that survived the Pearl Harbor attack, according to U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.

The Dec. 10, 1941, front page had local, non-war news, as well:

  • A prisoner apparently escaped from the Danville jail, but Jailer J.B. Williams “either didn’t know about it or wouldn’t tell what he did know,” according to the paper. “When asked if it was true that a man had broken out of the combination city and county jail, the jailer told reporters, ‘I don’t know.’ He also refused to answer questions as to the man’s identity and the method he used in gaining freedom. Other official sources, however, announced that Charles Wilcher, charged with  having robbed the home of W.B. Crossfield … had prized loose a bar on his cell and strolled out through the kitchen of the jailer’s living quarters, past his wife and daughter, while Williams was feeding other prisoners.”
  • Henry L. Nichols, a Republican, had just taken office for his second term as Danville mayor; he was unopposed in his re-election bid. Newly elected city council members were also sworn in, and the council had just held its first meeting, at which it voted to hire a watchman to guard the city’s water pumping station on Herrington Lake. “After the council session, the group held a secret caucus, at which time the personnel of the city for the coming two years was discussed,” according to the paper. Kentucky’s Open Meetings Act, which prohibits such meetings today, was not passed into law until 33 years later, in 1974.