There are some days where sports pales in comparison with an event that happened in the past. 911 comes to mind immediate but today, December 7th of 1941, is one of those dates Americans will never forget.
It was then that the Japanese launched a sneak attack on the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu. Today marks the 79th anniversary of the event that President Roosevelt proclaimed as “a date which will live in infamy.”
On that fateful morning just before 8 on Sunday in Hawaii, hundreds of Japanese planes launched from aircraft carriers at sea descended upon a totally unsuspecting U.S. Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor. When the attack, which was suppose to occur about an hour after the Japanese had delivered a Declaration of War but took place before the document was delivered making it a sneak attack, finally ended, there were massive American casualties of both life and equipment.
To emphasize that point, let me introduce you to Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. He was educated at Harvard University in the United States from 1919 to 1921 and was the mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack.
After he was informed that the engagement was a sneak attack instead of a surprise attack after the declaration of war was delivered, he lamented, “I fear that all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” That prophesy came to fruition almost four years later with the dropping of atomic weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The official American death toll was staggering and placed at 2,403 people. That included 2,008 Navy personnel, of which 1,177 were on the USS Arizona, along with 109 Marines and 218 Army service members plus 68 civilians.
The total number of wounded in the assault numbered 1,143.
That included 710 Navy and 69 Marines along with 364 Army as well as 103 civilians.
The number of vessels either damaged or destroyed was astounding. Nearly 20 Navy ships, and that included eight battleships, were either temporarily or permanently destroyed. Also, more than 300 combat aircraft were put out of commission.
This heinous raid did not accomplish the Japanese goal of knocking out the American Pacific Fleet. That’s because none of the four aircraft carriers, which would be vital to American success, were at Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack
What Pear Harbor did do is force America’s hand. Unwilling to enter the fray which began in Europe on September 1st of 1939 after Germany invaded Poland, the United States had no choice but to become involved. FDR immediately asked Congress to issue a declaration of war. On December 8th, with only one member dissenting, the United States declared war on the Japanese Empire.
On December 11th, the Japanese ally Germany declared war on the United States. Now, World War II was officially a world conflict. Before it would end in August of 1945, 30 nations would participate as combatants with somewhere between 70 and 85 million military and civilian casualties making it the deadliest conflict in human history to date.
In August of 1994, Congress designated December 7th as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. This year, due to the pandemic, a very small gathering of veterans will be held at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center that will closed to the public.
Please take a moment today to remember those brave men and women who lost their lives at Pearl 79 years ago today. Also, keep in mind the hundreds of thousands of Americans that made the “Ultimate Sacrifice” during World War II to preserve our American way of life. RIP.