1939: Remember Pearl Harbor!

The Legend:

On December 7, 1939, the townspeople of Owensville, Indiana, USA, found a strange message written in large chalk letters on the sidewalk in front of their school, which read "Remember Pearl Harbor!" No one knew what to make of the odd message... until two years later, when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese causing the United States to enter into World War II.

The Trail

        This legend has seen the rounds, but no one has followed it back to its starting point. The earliest I've found it so far is a newspaper from Bridgeport, Connecticut, dated June 30, 1957. In this version of the story, the phrase was discovered on the ground "early in 1939"... and they state that it was 'spoken about,' which might mean 'don't look for a newspaper mention.' I don't know if the one-paragraph article was an Associated Press release or not; if so, it would have appeared in other newspapers around the country about the same time. What I can guess is that it was a clipping of this June article that led to the story -- in an even shorter form -- to appear in the November 1957 issue of FATE Magazine.

        The story appeared in the part of FATE which featured news clippings sent from readers, but that doesn't mean they always told us who sent the clipping or where it was from... in this case, they didn't say. Most modern accounts of the legend above likely start with the FATE Magazine article, as this was a very popular magazine on unusual topics. The FATE account of the story doesn't mention that the writing was found 'early in 1939'; instead it simply says the event happened two years earlier than the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was in later repetition that the distinct date of December 7 appears to have been added, to make the premonition more precise.

        I will continue to look for earlier references to the message... until then, this account is marked as 'Unreliable', as any tale of a prediction should be until it can be found before the event it predicts!