The anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor is tomorrow, Dec. 7. The attack in 1941 was the catalyst that propelled the United States into the battle arena of World War II. It was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and was intended by Japan as a preventive action to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions of the Empire of Japan. Japan was planning an expansion in Southeast Asia against the overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States.
And as Japanese Naval General Isoroku Yamamoto, who led the raid on Pearl Harbor, feared, Japan had only “awakened a sleeping giant” (never proved Yamamoto said this phrase, but it was his phrase in the movie “Tora, Tora, Tora” which told the story of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Many know where they were and what they were doing. But the memories are dying if not passed on to friends and relatives. Once 16 million strong, the Department of Veteran Affairs statistics, 389,292 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2019. Of these, the Department 294 American World War II veterans are dying every day.
The Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor was one of the most defining moments in history. A single, carefully-planned and well-executed strike removed the United States Navy’s battleship force as a possible threat to the Japanese Empire’s southward expansion. America, unprepared and considerably weaker, was abruptly brought into the Second World War as a full combatant.
As one who has visited Pearl Harbor and stood on the floor of the memorial that straddles the hull of the battleship of the USS Arizona Memorial and seen the names of the men who died, it is truly sobering. The USS Arizona houses 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors who manned the ship. Other sailors from the USS Arizona have also had their remains entombed in the Arizona following their deaths in later years.
Hats off to all remaining WWII vets and to all the veterans and the current military, who have contributed so much to keeping this country safe and free.