07 December 2006

Remember Pearl Harbor

7 December 1941—60 years ago today.

On that day, at 7:55 in the morning, airplanes from the Imperial Japanese Navy dropped bombs on the naval forces of the United States of America, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. That began the single greatest military defeat ever suffered by the United States. The attack only lasted about two hours, but in that two hours the losses were staggering:

Five battleships sunk, including the USS Arizona

Three destroyers damaged

Three light cruisers damaged

One hundred sixty-four aircraft were destroyed, nearly all of them on the ground

One hundred fifty-nine more damaged

Finally, 2,403 American servicemen were dead, nearly half from the Arizona. Total casualties, including the wounded, but not counting civilian losses, numbered almost 3,500.

The Japanese had hoped to destroy or at the very least cripple the US Fleet in the Pacific, but they badly miscalculated. For one thing, although the battleships of “Battleship Row” were nearly all destroyed (and indeed heads rolled over that mistake), the aircraft carriers of the Fleet were not in Pearl Harbor. They were out to sea with their escorting ships, and consequently were able to wage the immediately declared war on Japan. For another, just like the Alamo, the destruction at Pearl Harbor triggered a fervor and fury which drove the forces of the United States military long after the salvage operations were completed in Pearl Harbor proper. The rallying cry “Remember Pearl Harbor!” rang our throughout the breadth of the nation. And, within six months, the Fleet was back to full attack strength.

So, today, I remember Pearl Harbor. There is a Memorial built, over the superstructure of the Arizona, never raised from her watery grave. The brave sailors and Marines who went down with her remain entombed within. Traces of oil still leak from her bowels, staining the surface of the water with shimmering, iridescent pools, swirling with the tides, while the flag of the United States whips in the ever-present breeze overhead. The names of all the dead are inscribed there in marble, a remembrance of their sacrifice. The sacrifice they gave so that we could sit here in the comfort of our homes, reading a computer screen in relative safety and peace. The same sacrifice that eight members of the American Militia made on April 19, 1775. The same sacrifice that 183 men made at the Alamo. The same sacrifice that thousands of men made on the beaches of Normandy, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The same sacrifice that Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen have been making for generations, and continue to make, so that America can be free.

We Americans owe them our respect. We owe them support, moral and emotional. We owe them the memory.

Never Forget.

Remember Pearl Harbor. And God Bless the United States of America.