|Photo from Britannica.com
Much like Sept. 11, 2001, is for the current generation, Dec. 7, 1941, is the seminal moment of horror for what author and television newsman Tom Brokaw aptly termed “The Greatest Generation.”
Although many in that generation have now passed on, Dec. 7 remains a day that cannot be forgotten.
On that grotesque day, 2,345 Americans were killed, much of the Pacific Fleet was crippled and nearly all of the U.S. air power in the region was destroyed
The Navy and Marine Corps lost 2,117 (2,008 for the Navy, 109 for the Marines) and recorded 779 wounded, while the Army lost 228 and registered 113 wounded.
The attack devastated the U.S. fleet, sinking or severely damaging 18 ships, as well as destroying 161 American planes and seriously damaging 102 more.
Although Japan and the U.S. had been at serious political odds for several years, the attack came as a stomach punch to the country.
Before the attack, most Americans wanted no part of war with Japan.
In a Gallup Poll taken only four months before, just 24 percent of the population felt such a war would be necessary.
Yet, on Dec. 8, 1941 — the day after the attack — President Franklin D. Roosevelt wasted no time asking Congress for and receiving a declaration of war against Japan after delivering one of his most memorable speeches that included the oft-repeated words, “a date which will live in infamy.”
Up until that point, the United States had largely stayed out of all conflicts, even as Adolf Hitler and his Third Reich had stormed across Europe with only minimal resistance and then had launched relentless air attacks on Great Britain and had invaded Russia with ground troops.
But the Pearl Harbor attack made it clear that the United States had no choice but to be a full participant in World War II. What’s more, the attack also drove home the point that America would have to enter with a full-fledged and united commitment greater than anything it had ever before shown.
It did so.
For most of the populace, the men went to war and the women went to work producing the equipment and armaments needed for a successful campaign.
It was that unified spirit that led to victory over Japan and Germany.
On this anniversary of that day, the nation should mourn those who died and were injured that day at Pearl Harbor as well as those who were lost and wounded in the ensuing conflicts.
Their sacrifices and those of their families were great and the country should never, ever forget it.
— Digital First Media Bay Area News Group