Day of Infamy: Remembering Pearl Harbor

Today is the 76th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I hope you take a few moments to remember those war veterans who were killed that fateful December morning, those who gave their lives protecting our freedom. The crippling of the American Pacific Fleet by Japan was to have been the blow Japan needed to take away military power from the United States and remove a major obstacle in their bid to expand their empire.

Among Japan’s primary targets that morning were the 3 US aircraft carriers usually docked at Pearl Harbor. Fortunately, all three were out at sea when the attack occurred. Had they been in port Japan would have gained a major advantage in the Pacific. Instead, Japan’s sneak attack succeeded in merely slowing us down a bit and awakened a “sleeping giant.” Within a year America rebounded and had our war machine rolling again and led us on to victory.

December 7th is a day of remembrance, a day to look back on the events of December 7, 1941, and with deep gratitude, remember the 2400 brave veterans who gave their lives for God and country that morning, It is also the day that we honor the living, those veterans stationed at Pearl who managed to survive that day of infamy for they truly are all that remain of the last great, American heroes. There are somewhere between 2,000 to 2,500 Pearl Harbor survivors alive today. These heroic survivors, all in their 90’s, have carried with them the haunting, painful memories of that dreadful day for the last 73 years. So many memories, so many stories, I’m sure it hasn’t been easy.

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2014 reunion

Each year many of the survivors make their way to Pearl on December 7 to attend ceremonies sponsored by the Pearl Harbor’s Survivors Association to honor those who died that dreadful day. But since the number of attendees has decreased to so few, its been reported that last year was the last formal, remembrance organized by the association that will be held at Pearl Harbor. Last year more than a dozen survivors attended the ceremony, most of whom said that they didn’t believe this would be their last reunion. The aging veterans said that regardless of what the Association decides, they would continue to come to Pearl on December 7th, until they could no longer.

I will never forget my first visit to Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial. I remember it vividly. It was a very moving experience. I was never in the armed services, but it was still incredible to actually be at such a historic site! While waiting for the tour to begin we spent about an hour going through the on-site museum. An incredible amount of time and effort has resulted in a sterling collection of artifacts and informative materials that made our visit more meaningful.

The tour began with a 23-minute documentary film about the December 7th  assault featuring newsreels and footage of the devastating attack. I got chills as I sat there watching. This was followed by a short boat ride out to the USS Arizona Memorial. Once there we disembarked at the entrance to the memorial. I immediately felt as though I had stepped upon hallowed ground. We proceeded to the assembly area at the center of the memorial. From there you can look down on the deck of the sunken Arizona. Even after all those years, oil leaking from the sunken battleship can still be seen rising from the wreckage to the surface of the water. This oil is often referred to as “the tears of the Arizona” or “black tears.” It is quite surreal.

The last stop is the shrine. entering the shrine area was a very solemn moment, extremely reverent, and very church-like. The shrine itself is an enormous wall of solid marble bearing the names of everyone killed on the Arizona. Also on the wall is a small plaque with the names of thirty or so of the crew who survived the attack, but chose to have their remains interred within the wreckage upon their deaths. This is a right given to all surviving crew members. I tell you it was an incredible moment. One I will never forget.

Six months later I had the honor of returning to Pearl Harbor and the memorial with my father, a veteran of WWII and the Korean War. He had never been to Pearl. The closest he’d come was on a transport ship that passed by the harbor in 1942. Being there with my father was an awesome experience. It awakened a lot of memories which he shared with me about his reaction to the attack and his war-time experience. The memorial brought tears to his eyes and seeing his reaction brought tears to mine. Sharing that time with my father was the experience of a lifetime.

Please take a moment today to remember the many heroes who gave their lives for our nation on that fateful day.

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