DECEMBER 7, 1941… WE WILL NOT FORGET
December 6, 2010
Due to popular requests, I am repeating a segment of my article which appeared last year at this time along with additional recollections of this most memorable event.
December 7, 1941 is a date which lives in infamy. It was a cool, clear December Sunday afternoon. We had just returned home from church when from the small table radio in the Heichberger 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."
I remember the events of December 7, 1941 and the days following. As a sixth grader in a small one room school house in the 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 word 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." Upon returning home from school on that Monday, the local newspaper had arrived at our home with the banner headline "War in the Pacific...Pearl Harbor Attacked." I will not forget.
The Newspaper gave a full account: 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.
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.
Movietone News showed news clips in movie theaters across the America and elsewhere with Lowell Thomas as narroator. And, in sync with the times, popular songs heard on radio were such tunes as "Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive," "As Time Goes By," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," and "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)."
I remember well, there was rationing of such products as sugar, coffee, butter, meat, gasoline, automobiles, tractors, and tires. There were scrap drives, air raid drills and air drill wardens, clothing collections, emergency aid boxes to pack and the sale of war stamps and bonds. Men, women and school children from all walks of life were involved. I will not forget.
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 freedom. Our American service and civilian personnel of all ages and races were united as a dedicated family of people assisting people. Much has changed since that earth shattering event on that December Sunday back in 1941. We have seen monumental transformational changes in science, health, technology, public policy, living styles, and the like. But one thing that has not changed and that is, the memory of and gratitude for those valiant men and women then and now who have given so unselfishly for peace and freedom through the ages . That spirit and memory will forever LIVE IN INFINITY. And that I how I see it FROM THIS PERSPECTIVE.