Spectator — August 2001
By Tom Fexas
When the Lights Came on Again All Over the World
|The state of the American pleasureboat industry during WWII.|
Sunday, December 7, 1941: A day of infamy and the day of my christening at a Greek Orthodox Church in Astoria, New York. As I lay there naked, kicking and screaming while some big, scary guy with a long beard in a puffy robe and funny hat dunked me in a little pool of water, someone burst into the church with the big news. The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, plunging the United States into war with them and that funny little guy with the spastic right arm and the Fuller brush mustache.
As it turned out, America was lucky. Our aircraft carriers happened to be out to sea at the time of the attack, and while Admiral Yamamoto got all of our battleships, it turned out that battleships were obsolete anyway–although no one knew it at the time. Major sea battles in World War II would be fought using aircraft, as opposed to past battles in which huge, armored battlewagons faced off and pounded each other into oblivion using their big guns.
GUILDED LILIES TO WEEDS
The beginning of the war did not look promising for the United States. Our military was in a sad state, and the Japanese were on a roll. Private boats and yachts alike were pressed into military service to patrol our shores. Manicured varnish was painted over with flat gray applied with a government-issued broom, and machine guns were bolted on deck.
DAYS LAY AHEAD
Even companies that made marine equipment ran ads describing how the Army/Navy "E" flags they had earned were helping the war effort. Wyatts was building Higgins PT boats in Texas and ran an ad showing dramatic pictures of the PTs underway. The copy read, "Bottoms up to Tojo’s navy. The Jap navy is on its way…to the bottom of the ocean. These little Higgins ‘warships’ are a major factor in the wholesale slaughter now underway. As the Nips say (those who survive), ‘These mystery dragons on water come from nowhere, like lightning, shoot us with everything, and disappear to nowhere.’"
This article originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.