It was a day that had pivotal historical impact to America and to the world, but most people today seem to have forgotten Pearl Harbor.
It was the morning of December 7, 1941. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called it a day of infamy. It was not a day in which America celebrated a victory. In fact, more than 2,000 United States servicemen were killed and close to the same amount were wounded.
In a surprise attack, the Japanese launched an offensive on the United States aimed at destroying the American fleet anchored at several ports in Hawaii. A total of eight battleships were immediately destroyed or damaged so badly that it took years for them to be repaired. Two of those battleships, including the USS Arizona, were deemed to be total losses. In addition, 10 other major ships were damaged heavily and 165 airplanes were totally destroyed.
The Japanese losses were much lower. They lost 185 servicemen, one large submarine, five mini-submarines, and 29 aircraft. However, they were wrong in their calculations. Many of the aircraft carriers of the United States Navy were out on exercises. Initial reports of success overwhelmed the Japanese. They were excited but they decided to not undergo a third strike as planned. By not striking the third time, they left the United States Navy’s fuel tank farms and submarine facility intact.
Those United States carriers that were out on exercises were able to come back and refuel. They, along with the submarine fleet, would visit retribution on their attackers with a vengeance. The Japanese “started it” for America at Pearl Harbor. The United States ended it at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It may have taken four years, but in the end it was a decisive victory for America.
Today, there is one question that requires an answer.
Why is this significant historical event of the 20th century being allowed to fade from memory? There is hardly a whisper about it on broadcast media and only a faint nod from the print media. Why does Pearl Harbor seem to be largely forgotten?
There are relatively few Pearl Harbor veterans left in the world. Those who are still alive accept this fading from the public memory with grace. In their mind, as they go, so does the memory and realization of the significance of Pearl Harbor. To their way of thinking, it is a natural progression of events.
There is no part of American history that should ever be forgotten by its citizens. From the very beginning of this nation, there have been men and women who have risked their lives, fought, and even died so that this country could move forward. These men and women were willing to sacrifice everything they had to see this country endure. They did not put on beads and carry signs. They put on uniforms and carried a rifle. They felt that it was their duty to stand up for the principles of this country in order to see the freedoms they had passed on to their grandchildren.
They must never be forgotten. Not the people at Pearl Harbor. Not the people at Gettysburg. Not the soldiers who fought in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Not the brave revolutionary soldiers at Valley Forge. They must be remembered. America must always seek to honor them. They are one of the biggest reasons there is still a United States of America today.
By Rick Hope
Detroit Free Press