In this ongoing information epoch in which news is dispensed at the same speed as a Big Mac and French Fries, it’s hard to conceive of the fact that thousands in the political epicenter of the free world were for hours left blissfully unaware of the most significant military attack on the United States in the last century.
But that’s preceisely what happened on a late autumn day precisely 66 years ago.
At a quarter to 1 in the afternoon, it seemed like just another NFL Sunday at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. The Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles were set to duel for the 16th time in their still-nascent existences. Neither team was going anywhere beyond this day; the Redskins, blessed with a pair of Hall of Famers on the field and another stalking the sidelines, were simply trying to finish above .500, still somewhat hung over from their 73-0 NFL Championship Game loss to the Chicago Bears 12 months earlier.
The Eagles and Redskins played. Washington won, 20-14, to finish 6-5 and build momentum for the coming season, as the Redskins’ players, coaches and fans believed as they left the field and stands for the last time that year.
Then all learned of the news that had been made grimly apparent to the rest of the world hours earlier, news that broke just before the teams’ final kickoff of the 1941 season.
Something had happened.
Pearl Harbor had happened.