Another year wends its way toward completion. Today is Dec. 7. Our nation might be in the throes of economic uncertainty, but the sky is still blue, the birds are at the bird feeder and even the rabbits still scurry to escape from my backyard.
There was another day similar to this:
It was just one of those wonderful mornings. The sun was shining, and at almost 8 a.m., all was peaceful and relaxed. A large group of sailors gathered for the outdoor morning chapel service which was about to begin. On the USS Nevada, the band was beginning the first strains of the National Anthem for the hoisting of the flag. It was so great to be an American in this beautiful island.
But in a few minutes, all of this would change, because this was the day that would live in infamy and change our world forever.
Animosity with Japan had been growing, and war was growing to be expected in our nation's capitol. Japan was eager to expand and take over China's import market in an effort to solve Japan's economic and land problems. Japan badly needed oil and other raw materials that it did not have. As Japan expanded southward, war resulted with China in 1937. That war continued, and in July 1941, the United States laid down economic sanctions and trade embargoes in an effort to end Japan's aggression. Months passed, but negotiations with Japan were fruitless. In Japan, the mood was hostile. They needed the U.S. to be silenced.
The home port of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet was Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It was presumed to be a defense against Japanese aggression. The naval base, which had a large portion of the Pacific fleet secured there, was relatively undefended. It was deemed to be safe, since it was 4,000 miles from Japan. The Japanese military, however, saw it as an irresistible target.
After much planning, they launched the attack at about 8 a.m. Dec. 7, 1941.
The first of two waves by the Japanese forces included 183 aircraft and the second 170 planes. At 10 minutes after eight, an 1,800-pound bomb exploded on the USS Arizona, sinking it and more than 1,000 sailers onboard. The sky lit up with the flash of enemy's bombs and bullets. Torpedoes pierced the USS Oklahoma and sank it with 400 sailors aboard.
By the time the attack was over, no battleship in Pearl Harbor escaped significant damage. Eighteen American ships and nearly 300 airplanes were crippled or destroyed as were the dry docks and airfields. Most importantly, almost 2,500 men were killed, and another 1,000 were wounded.
However, the Pacific Fleet was not incapacitated as the enemy had planned. All of the aircraft carriers were either on the mainland or were delivering planes to troops at other island bases. The vital oil storage depots, repair facilities and other inland facilities were not damaged, which allowed for quicker recovery.
Soon after the raid ended, U.S. forces attempted to locate the Japanese carrier fleet. Any workable aircraft was put into action.
On Dec. 8, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed Congress, "Yesterday, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again."
Roosevelt then asked Congress to declare war on Japan. Congress approved the declaration the next day. Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. America was now an active participant in World War II, which had been in conflict for more than two years.
I was 11 years old and in sixth grade when Pearl Harbor was attacked. I remember how we supported our armed forces in any way we could, with prayers and by rationing food, nylons, gasoline, tires, rubber goods and metals. We collected newspapers and grew victory gardens. We collected spare change to buy Victory Stamps to put in our war bonds book. We practiced air raid drills and blackouts, and we knitted scarves and caps for our servicemen. We wrote letters of support and grieved when loved ones did not return. Our country was unified as it had not been for years during the depression, when unemployment and general dissatisfaction was prevalent.
The U.S. was hesitant to enter World War II, but the attack on Pearl Harbor left the U.S. no other course of action than to enter the war. Many lives were lost and changed before the Allied victory and the unconditional surrender of Japan was signed at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 2, 1945, aboard the USS Missouri.
But the Japanese General Yamamoto had been right when he stated "the attack would awake a sleeping giant." This sleeping giant was the American people united against the tremendous threat of a country trying to obtain power and wealth through force. Our military and our homefront strove valiantly to protect and retain the values we as Americans cherish. We must continue to uphold and cherish the American values that so many fought and died for.
This giant must not sleep.
Ruth Moriarity is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.