LaVada Casey is one of Moab’s oldest residents and, at 105 years old, she still remembers what she felt the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt committed America to World War II, following the Dec. 7, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy.
Casey, who lived in her native Arkansas at the time, said Roosevelt’s speech about “a day that will live in infamy” to a joint session of Congress on Dec. 8, 1941, assured her that he was setting the country on the proper path.
“No one was as against war, in general, as I was in those days,” Casey said. “But I love this country and I loved President Franklin Roosevelt. I knew this was the right thing he was doing after [the Japanese] attacked us. Even though I was against war, it was something we had to do, to protect our nation and defeat Japan. Even though I was young then, I knew this had to be done.”
It was during the height of WWII, in the early 1940s, that LaVada, her husband Darrell Casey, and two of her children moved to Utah, first to Carbon County and later to Moab. She said there was ample work for men in Utah at the time that, although not in the uniform of the U.S. armed forces, were integral to the war effort. She also related that one of her brothers was very close to Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack — and took part in sneak attacks on Japan after war was declared.
“The thing about that time, in America, was that everybody ... every man and woman worked ... and there was a lot of work to do in Carbon County in the coal mines,” Casey said. “I did have a brother who enlisted in the Navy and was aboard a submarine that was headed to Hawaii on the day of the attacks ... they were 130 miles away when they got the radio message that told of the attack. My brother told me that they steamed as fast as they could to get there. Once the war started, he told me his submarine made trips into the harbor outside Tokyo and surfaced at night ... and sunk two transport ships before getting away.”
After the war, Casey and her husband moved to Moab and lived in a mobile home on what is now U.S. Route 191. It was a time when she said Moab was much smaller and held a different flavor than the city we all know today.
“When we used to travel back to Arkansas for vacation, we would travel through Moab and we heard that the entire population was only about 1,200 people,” Casey said. “There were a lot of cowboys here then too, in the late 40s and early 50s. We started liking the place and we made our move here.”