The 66th anniversary of Pearl Harbor
by Robert Harding, Fri Dec 07, 2007 at 04:20:45 PM EST
A portion of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's address to Congress:
Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.
Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.
Today we remember those who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor 66 years ago.
As I descended upon Daily Kos, I looked down through the list of diaries (and stories) to see if anyone else wrote about the 66th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. After all, it is one of the most important events in our 231 year history and it serves as a great reminder of what led us into World War II, which stands as the most important war of the 20th century.
I was disappointed to see no one has addressed this (at least, as of 6 p.m. EST) moment in history. The History Channel shall serve as a great reminder to those of you who have forgot:
At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appears out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.
How did Pearl Harbor happen? Why did it happen?
With diplomatic negotiations with Japan breaking down, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers knew that an imminent Japanese attack was probable, but nothing had been done to increase security at the important naval base at Pearl Harbor. It was Sunday morning, and many military personnel had been given passes to attend religious services off base. At 7:02 a.m., two radio operators spotted large groups of aircraft in flight toward the island from the north, but, with a flight of B-17s expected from the United States at the time, they were told to sound no alarm. Thus, the Japanese air assault came as a devastating surprise to the naval base.
Much of the Pacific fleet was rendered useless: Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded, many while valiantly attempting to repulse the attack. Japan's losses were some 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men. Fortunately for the United States, all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea on training maneuvers. These giant aircraft carriers would have their revenge against Japan six months later at the Battle of Midway, reversing the tide against the previously invincible Japanese navy in a spectacular victory.
The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and declared, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941--a date which will live in infamy--the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." After a brief and forceful speech, he asked Congress to approve a resolution recognizing the state of war between the United States and Japan. The Senate voted for war against Japan by 82 to 0, and the House of Representatives approved the resolution by a vote of 388 to 1. The sole dissenter was Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a devout pacifist who had also cast a dissenting vote against the U.S. entrance into World War I. Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war against the United States, and the U.S. government responded in kind.
The American contribution to the successful Allied war effort spanned four long years and cost more than 400,000 American lives.
Why do I think Pearl Harbor is important? My grandfather fought in World War II. He was part of the D-Day invasion. Because of his efforts, he won a Purple Heart as well as many other awards/medals.
We, as Americans, also remember these dates. "December 7, 1941" sticks out in my mind just like "September 11, 2001" does. While they both have their differences, both dates changed America forever.
However, it doesn't surprise me that people have "forgotten," so to speak. Today, President George W. Bush made a radio address where he never mentioned Pearl Harbor. Not once. At the White House Press Briefing today, Press Secretary Dana Perino never mentioned Pearl Harbor and no one questioned her about Pearl Harbor.
Yet, just go to Yahoo! or Google and do a search for "Pearl Harbor." I know I did. This is what I found:
In one of the above articles, Pearl Harbor lives in hearts of its vets, Jack Ray Hammett said the following:
"When we're gone, we're gone," said 87-year-old Jack Ray Hammett. "We're already just a paragraph in the history books. Will even that disappear when the last one of us dies?"
I hope not, Mr. Hammett. People should not forget. Even a World War II historian worries about the future:
Martin K.A. Morgan, historian in residence at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, said Pearl Harbor was "where the United States rendezvoused with the destiny we are experiencing now as a world power."
"Almost everyone can trace how World War II touched his or her family," Morgan said. "When all of our World War II vets are gone, how much of this interest will continue?"
The history of World War II and its many events (Pearl Harbor, D-Day, the Holocaust) should not be forgotten. The Holocaust, for example, shapes the world we see today. War crimes can lead to severe punishments of those world leaders who may engage in such behavior. D-Day changed the face of the European side of the war in 1944 and in 1945, led to the fall of the German empire and most importantly, Adolf Hitler. And Pearl Harbor reminds us of the significant losses we experienced that day. Over 2,400 Americans died from the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
So to those veterans of all wars and to those who survived or died in Pearl Harbor, I know I still remember the great sacrifice you paid this nation. Our troops, whether past, present or future, always pay a great debt to America to ensure millions of people have rights, freedoms and peace.
I know I will never forget. Hopefully others won't also.