the passing of a generation
Today marks the 65th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941. The US had just emerged from a decade of economic depression, and rumors of a worldwide war circulated. The country was divided in its stand on whether or not the United States should enter this war.
Every generation has their “Where were you?” moments. For this generation, it was “Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor?” For many, it was over the radio, a somber bulletin by their beloved President, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Yesterday, Dec. 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.
The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific…
Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.
Pearl Harbor’s significance is the start of the US involvement in World War II. Every American with a father, son, or husband thought about what a war would mean to their country and their personal livelihood. Though the dangers were real, they rose to the occasion and poured their whole support behind their country and their troops which undoubtedly contributed in a positive way towards the outcome of the war.
For many years, the cry “Remember Pearl Harbor!” encouraged the battle-weary soldiers, and even after the war was over, the cry still remained. Remember what happened, that early morning at 7:55am when 2,390 lives were lost. As the years have passed, the cry has grown faint. Today, not many really know why we should remember Pearl Harbor. It’s gone the way of “Remember the Alamo”. Today in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, survivors met for what possibly could be the last time to honor the memory of their fellow citizens who were not so fortunate to escape the Japanese bombs.
Although it’s inevitable, it makes me sad to see a generation dying out. With them go the stories, the firsthand accounts of Pearl Harbor, the war, and life during that time. I have enjoyed listening to my grandmother over the years talk about what it was like, and the significance of her high school graduating class of 1946. A different time, a different life. Yet, one thing still remains the same. The tragedy of Pearl Harbor brought a country together – like our present day tragedy of 9/11.
I encourage anyone wanting to know more about Pearl Harbor to check out this excellent interactive map and timeline on National Geographic’s website. Another more in-depth analysis of the attack and the background that lead up to it can be found on Wikipedia. Some might consider the Japanese to have been successful with the attack due to their ability to surprise those at Pearl Harbor. However, it was also unsuccessful in that it failed to sink any of the U.S. aircraft carriers, and it brought the U.S. into the war on the side of the Allies. Who knows how the American people might have responded to the war if they had not had a tragic event to remind them why they were sacrificing and fighting. As you can see in the one-year anniversary poster from 1942, that dedication to upholding freedom and American values was renewed.