February 21, 1942 - Scorched Earth and Martial Law. News of the war not going well in the Pacific, worries of an invasion of Australia, Internment of Japanese-Americans living on West Coast of U.S. begins. Martial Law in Hawaii. Fall of Singapore. Sea battle off Bali. Attacks on Rangoon. Capitol Hill debate on War Powers Bill.
February 21, 2012

Leaving it in worse shape than when you arrived.

News for this day in 1942 was anything but upbeat. The War in the Pacific had taken a much grimmer turn than was expected. With reports coming from Sydney Australia that, not only had Singapore fallen, but an invasion of Bali was imminent, as was Rangoon and heavy fighting had been going on in Burma and throughout the Dutch East Indies. Fears were now rife that, unless something happenened to stall the advances, an invasion of Australia was only a matter of time.

With Allied forces outnumbered on average of 10-15 to 1, finger pointing and laying blame were now in full bloom. Reports of excessive amounts of bungling, not only in miscalculating Japanese troop and air strength but mismanagement of Allied support were heard all over the Pacific region. From British fliers grounded over lack of orders to U.S. Naval gunners handed ammunition that had expired ten years earlier, the news was going from bad to worse and on-the-scene broadcast reports of the latest news were hard pressed to put an optimistic spin on any of it.

Meanwhile, a state of Martial Law had been declared in Hawaii with a total blackout and curfew being enforced as well as complete prohibition which had been in place since December 8th. Similar measures were being considered throughout the mainland U.S. and already mass internment of Japanese-Americans was taking place on the West Coast. News reports were quick to downplay the internment, saying it was strictly on "a volunteer basis", but reality proved otherwise. Likewise reports that what was going on in American cities was not to be considered Martial Law but a precaution against 5th Column activity and enemy raids, particularly on the West Coast. Even though blackouts and restricted civilian movement were heavily enforced.

On Capitol Hill, debate was underway regarding the War Powers Bill and appropriation of funds was being voted on to establish a Women's Army Corps.

And that's how it sounded, this February 21st in 1942. There are two broadcasts; one is a roundup of War news and the other is a special broadcast from Sydney, Australia by NBC Correspondent Martin Agronsky.

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