Eighty-one years ago today, the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Army Air Corps bases in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii were unexpectedly attacked by the Navy and Air Forces of the Imperial Japanese Empire.
Tensions had been building between the United States and Japan for about five years prior to the attack. This only escalated with the Japanese invasion of China followed by the signing of the Tripartite Pact with the Axis Powers in 1940.
In an attempt to prevent a war, the US government negotiated peace talks with Japanese representatives. However, when the Japanese empire agreed to the negotiations, they had already been planning an invasion of American bases at Pearl Harbor for nearly a year. By the time the Japanese representatives reached Washington D.C., the Japanese Navy was days away from Pearl Harbor.
In Hawaii civilians and military were planning on a normal Sunday-sleeping in, eating breakfast, or going to church services; however, the day turned out much differently as the sound of engines came across the air.
7:00 AM, The first wave of Japanese aircraft hit Battleship Row. Bullets riddled the sides of the ships and the personnel on board. Torpedoes fell into the harbor and the ships themselves began horrific explosions. Our aircraft at the airfields were completely destroyed. Hospitals and civilian places were specifically targeted along with the military areas. The battle lasted roughly two hours, and despite the element of surprise, America’s military fought back with whatever they could get their hands on including M1 carbines, .50 caliber machine guns, and even fighter aircraft.
Despite the horrors of the morning, America emerged from the wreckage to fight another day. One can only see the brightest stars on the darkest night, and for the United States, it was that time. Selflessness was exhibited as everyone -military and civilian-worked together to gather, and treat the wounded as well as help them write letters home; rescue those still in the water; clean up the airfields; retrieve the remaining sailors from the submerged vessels, and even line up to give blood.
The damages included 8 battleships (4 sunk), 3 light cruisers, 4 smaller sea craft, and 188 aircraft. The loss of life was staggering-3,435 casualties which included sixty-eight civilians. 1,177 of these casualties were on the USS Arizona. 39 of the total casualties, were from Arkansas.
December 7, 1941-a day which will live in infamy-launched the beginning of America’s entry into the Second World War.
To many, December 7 is just a day. Another day closer to Christmas. But in reality. Pearl Harbor day is much more important than that. But why?
Because it is a day to remember. A day to reflect. A day to ponder one of the most critical moments in American history. A day that forever changed our nation’s course individually and as a player on the world stage. Most of all, though, it is important because lives were lost on that day. Local lives. Boys that would never come home. Get married. Have children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. They would never get to reap the rewards of their sacrifice. But we are. We are living the lives they never go to live. Doing the things they never got to do. So, on this day, please take a moment to remember and be grateful that such men lived. And resolve, to keep living for what they died for.
Remember Pearl Harbor!