Pearl Harbor. Just those words invoke images of a listing ship, a fire and an explosion. Those of us who know of Pearl Harbor only by grainy black and white images or from a history lesson often don’t appreciate the significance of that day.
We “young” ones tend to think the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 as being the worst day in American history. More people died on 9/11 and it was on television within brief minutes of the attack. Then the second plane hitting the tower on was live broadcasts. While as bad as 9/11 was, I don’t think it was anything like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago.
We lost our Pacific Fleet. Other than our aircraft carriers, for all practical purposes, we lost our naval presence in the Pacific. The surprise attack proved to be the worst naval disaster in American history. It was also devastating to American airpower. Roughly three hundred planes – nearly all of the fighters and bombers in the Pacific – were destroyed. Not only the Hawaiian Islands but the west coast of the United States was vulnerable to invasion. Rumors were running rampant about the next attack being on its way.
I’ve never been to Hawaii. But if I ever get on visit our 50th state, I am going to make a point to go to Pearl. I tend to like museums, but the Arizona Memorial is much more than just a museum. To me, this is a tangible reminder of how fragile our freedom is, of how important honor and sacrifice are and how important it is for us to appreciate our past.
A World War II vet used to live right across the street from me. He was a navigator in the Pacific theatre flying in PBY flying boats. Yes, that was a real plane, which could land and take off on water. His family has told me he rarely talked about his time in the service. That was a unique generation and a unique time.
Veterans of any time-frame, I thank you. But for the remaining WWII vets, this is a special day. Our world changed. 75 years ago on December 7th, 1941. Let us remember and honor this day as President Roosevelt stated, “A date which will live in infamy.”
Blessings My Friend