World War II began for my family two years before Pearl Harbor. My father, a Procter & Gamble executive, was sent to England to introduce industrial relations at a Victorian soap factory P&G had bought in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In January 1938 we sailed in the German liner Hansa, flying the Nazi swastika, with a picture of Hitler in the dining room. We expected to stay [in England] for several years.
I began school at Ascham House in the suburb of Gosforth, acquiring a British accent, in addition to my school uniform and white cricket togs. After the crisis of September 1938, when Chamberlain returned from Munich with “peace in our time,” our teacher, Nancy Ridley (later a famous historian), explained where Gdansk and the Danzig corridor were, why they were important, and what Herr Hitler was doing. We had just returned from a holiday in Norway in August 1939 when the Nazis infiltrated Gdansk and signed a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union. Within 48 hours my father got my mother, sister, and me aboard a small Canadian Pacific ship, and we landed in Montreal on 3 September 1939—the day the war began.