Nearly three quarters of a century have passed since a Japanese strike force descended on a sleepy Pearl Harbor in the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 1941.
It was before 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning and according to the History Channel a lot of the servicemen on the naval base on Oahu had been given leave to attend church services.
While the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration believed, due to talks with the country not going so well, that a Japanese attack was likely to happen, no security measures had been taken in case that attack occurred.
The U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor was the proverbial sitting duck.
While Japan also employed the use of submarines in the attack, the article says that about 360 Japanese planes descended from the skies on that fateful morning 74 years ago.
The article also said that just after 7 a.m. radar indicated large groups of planes heading toward the island, but no alarm was sounded because B-17s were expected to arrive from the United States mainland.
That day, as Japan rained death and destruction from the Sunday morning skies, more than 2,400 Americans lost their lives and another 1,200 were wounded. Nearly half of the lives lost that day were aboard the Arizona, which lies there still, just under the surface of the glistening waters of Pearl Harbor. The fleet lost five of its eight battle ships, more than 200 aircraft, three destroyers, and seven other ships were either sunk or heavily damaged.
We’ve all seen the photos, billows of black smoke choking out the blue sky as badly injured ships list in the water, threatening to sink into the blue and sandy depths as military men rush amid the bloody chaos to defend against something they never saw coming.
As I have always heard, one saving grace that day was that the fleet’s three aircraft carriers were out to sea on training maneuvers and thus spared the devastation of the attack.
The USS Enterprise had been due to return to Pearl Harbor on Dec. 6, but was delayed because of a storm. The USS Saratogo was just off San Diego, and the USS Lexington, which had just left port on Dec. 5, was near Wake Island.
Those ships would come into play in a big way in the Battle of Midway that happened about half a year after Japan tried to cut America off at the knees.
That battle, lasting from June 3-7, was a turning point for our country in the Pacific Theater, and a victory from which Japan would not recover.
My grandpa and my grandma’s brother were in that Pacific Theater, that island-dotted ocean landscape, sticky and stifling and deadly. For three years they fought there, and they both came home at the war’s end, forever carrying the scars of what happened there.
In but a day’s time of the strike force that hit Pearl Harbor exiting the area, Roosevelt stood before a joint session of congress declaring that “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.”
Shortly thereafter, our country was officially at war with its attacker.
A National Geographic timeline of the attack says this: “In the 44 months of war that will follow, the U.S. Navy will sink every one of the Japanese aircraft carriers, battleships, and cruisers in this strike force. And when Japan signs the surrender document on Sept. 2, 1945, among the U.S. warships in Tokyo Bay will be a victim of the attack, the USS West Virginia.”
Each year as we remember, let’s not just think of Americans who fought and died there, but of everything that came after that day — years of war and death and destruction and on a global scale. And World War II and all its parts are just one point on history’s massive canvas.
There are plenty of bad things that people are willing to say about our United States, but we must remember that our country has always been something worth fighting for and believing in. Let’s every one remember what we have because of the sacrifices made that have paved our road of freedom.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.