By: Andrea Moyer
I’ve asked my ninety-four-year old grandmother, very aptly nicknamed “Peppy”, if she recalls where she was and what she was doing on this day in 1941. She was able to do so with amazingly vivid recollection. She tells me that she was a high school senior at the time, traveling home with her family from a visit with relatives when the news came across the radio announcing the attacks. It was a Sunday afternoon and the newspapers only had one printing on Sundays, so everyone was compelled to wait in stunned silence for the radios to bring any further details during the six o’clock news.
She remembers the day with somber clarity, recalling to me that as she and her family made their way back home, the streets churned in chaos, with people getting out of their cars and wondering if it was all real. There had been no murmurs of war and she and the other young people of her generation, unaccustomed to living in wartime, were understandably frightened. She described feeling “as though the whole world went dark.”
What are you doing today? What were you doing early this morning as your day began? Imagine that as you were preparing for your weekend with the holiday spirit very much imbued in everything you were doing, you received the news that your country was under attack.
Nearly eighty years ago today, the course of our country’s history was forever changed. In writing this blog, I’ve learned more than I ever realized I’d be able to absorb about Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. In the spirit of wanting to pass along the facts that I’ve compiled about this important day in history, I’ve included a brief timeline of what occurred:
- At 7:55 a.m., the Japanese military launched a surprise attack on the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory. The attack came with neither warning nor declaration of war. It killed 2,343 men wounded 1,272 and left 960 missing. It destroyed a large portion of battleships and aircraft that were stationed in the Pacific region.
- The United States aircraft carriers, the primary target of the attack, were not at the base at the time. Because of this, the Japanese cancelled a planned second attack. All eight U.S. battleships were either sunk or damaged during the attack. Amazingly, all but two, the Arizona and the Oklahoma, were eventually able to return to active duty. The Arizona exploded when a bomb breached its forward magazine. Approximately 1,100 U.S. servicemen died on board.
- In the wake of the attack, Congress abandoned its isolationism policy and declared war on Japan. President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his famous “Day of Infamy” speech to Congress and made a last minute edit, changing “a day that will live on in world history” to “a day that will live in infamy”. Germany and Italy, allies of Japan, in turn declared war on the United States. It was the beginning of our country’s involvement in World War II.
How Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Should Be Remembered
Although Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is not a federal holiday – government offices, schools, businesses and other organizations do not close – it is nonetheless a day to remember the impact of the devastating attacks on our country and its subsequent involvement in World War II. In honor of the lives lost, the American flag should be flown at half-staff until sunset.
As I’ve mentioned, my grandmother is ninety-four. Most people her age are either gone or unable to relate as clearly as she did what happened on that horrible day in history. I hope that this blog will encourage everyone who reads it to gain a deeper understanding of our nation’s sudden crisis and to honor in their hearts the lives that were so quickly and unexpectedly lost.
Interesting facts about the USS Arizona, one of two battleships sunk and unable to be returned to active duty
- Oil continues to seep from the USS Arizona at rate of about 9 quarts each day
- Twenty-three sets of brothers died aboard the Arizona, thus ending the practice of sending brothers to serve at the same locations
- Some former crew members have chosen the USS Arizona as their final resting place, exemplifying the strong bond that existed among the crew.
- A memorial was built on the site of the Arizona’s sunken hull in 1962 and is visited by millions of tourists to this day
Photo credit: The photo above shows female firefighters directing a hose after the Japanese attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor.