A DAY WHICH LIVES IN INFAMY
DECEMBER 7, 1941
December 6, 2009
Today, we address this column to our Distinguished WW II Veterans and to ALL Americans.
December 7, 1941 is a date which lives in infamy. It was early Sunday afternoon when from the small table radio in the family farm kitchen came these shocking words "we interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin from Washington, DC.... The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by air". From that point on during that Sunday, folks stayed glued to their radios. There were numerous and continuous news flashes. The news reports were devastating, the lives lost were horrendous and the destruction was catastrophic. Indeed, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt would declare the following day, "it was a day which will live in infamy."
This columnist remembers well the events of December 7, 1941 and the day following. As a sixth grader in a small rural one room school house in the Colden/Boston hills of western New York State, the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt were heard on Monday, December 8 from the small static filled battery powered radio in the schoolhouse. At the same time, President Roosevelt's stalwart voice and resolute words were audible via short wave radio around the world. The President spoke to a joint session of the Congress at 12:30 p.m. and these articulated words will be forever engrained in the history of the world..."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."
It was a shocking and earth shattering event. The attacking planes came in two waves: the first hit its target at 7:53 AM, the second at 8:55. By 9:55 it was all over. By 1:00 PM, the carriers that launched the planes from 2274 miles off the cost of Oahu were heading back to Japan. Behind them they left chaos, nearly 3000 military and civilian personnel was killed and many more were left seriously injured. There were 188 destroyed American aircraft and a crippled Pacific Fleet that included 8 damaged or destroyed battleships. And then, three hours later, Japanese planes began a day-long attack on American facilities in the Philippines. Farther to the west, the Japanese struck at Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand in a coordinated attempt to use surprise in order to inflict as much damage as quickly as possible to strategic targets. Although stunned by the attack at Pearl Harbor, the Pacific Fleet's aircraft carriers submarines and, most importunately, its fuel oil storage facilities emerged unscathed. These assets formed the foundation for the American response that led to victory at the Battle of Midway the following June and ultimately lead to victory four years later over the militaristic totalitarian Empire of Japan. Several years later this columnist, a shy farm lad, left the family farm to serve with the US Marines.
The Japanese success on December 7 was overwhelming, but it was not complete. They failed to damage any American aircraft carriers, which by a stroke of luck, had been absent from the harbor. They neglected to damage the shore side facilities at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, which played an important role in the Allied victory in World War II. American technological skill raised and repaired all but three of the ships sunk or damaged at Pearl Harbor (the USS Arizona (BB-39) considered too badly damaged to be salvaged, the USS Oklahoma (BB-37) raised and considered too old to be worth repairing, and the obsolete USS Utah (AG-16) considered not worth the effort. Most importantly, the shock and anger caused by the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor united a nation and was translated into a wholehearted commitment to victory in World War II.
It was through the efforts of countless brave military and civilian men and women, that the torch was carried and victory was declared in 1945 over unscrupulous totalitarianism. And indeed, throughout our history of American exceptionalism, we are a Country of the free because of such generations through the ages of brave men, women, and children. We live today in the home of the free because of the brave.
The story of America has been written, in large part, by the selfless and noble deeds of hard working and dedicated men and women committed to liberty and justice in a free society. Our American veterans and service personnel along with dedicated civilians of all ages and races are truly endemic of American Exceptionalism.
President Kennedy once said, "Democracy is never a final achievement. It is a call to untiring effort, to continual sacrifice and to the willingness, if necessary, to die in its defense." We give thanks to the courageous veterans and to the current members of our Armed Forces and to the civilians for dedicated and valiant service. Whether serving on bases and in ports at home or deployed across the globe, they have endured hardship and danger to protect our Nation and to defend freedom loving people around the world. Their deeds of commitment and valor bind us in our past, inspire us in the present, and strengthen us to meet the demanding challenges of the future. Truly, all military and civilian personnel who have given so unselfishly for peace and security through the ages will forever LIVE IN INFAMY. And that is how we see it FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE.