07 December 2005 by Published in: General musings 8 comments

Today is December 7, 2005, the sixty-fourth anniversary of the Japanese sneak attack on the U. S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. The next day, when he addressed Congress to ask for a declaration of war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said:

“Yesterday, December 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.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. This morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. 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.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounded determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.”

And with that, World War II officially began for the United States.

What astounds me is that a scant sixty-four years later, with plenty of veterans still around–my friend J. D. Petruzzi’s father survived the attacks at Pearl Harbor as a very young sailor–there has been nary a word of the significance of this date on the news or in the media. Has this date really become so insignificant as to not warrant even a glimmer of attention?

Apparently, President Roosevelt was wrong. The day no longer does live in infamy. Our lives are so focused on the here and now that we have forgotten about the sacrifices made for us by what Tom Brokaw calls “the greatest generation.” My father is 85 years old, and is a member of that generation. That’s my nexus to it, and at 85, I’m not foolish enough not to realize that he won’t be with us too much longer.

2,388 American soldiers and sailors were killed that day, with nearly half of them on the U.S.S. Arizona alone. Another 1,178 were wounded in the Japanese attacks that day. It is certainly tragic and wrong that more than 2,000 Americans have died in Iraq in a war that we had no business starting. I don’t mean to downplay their sacrifices at all. At the same time, in more than three and a half years of war, our losses in Iraq are still less than they were in that single day at Pearl Harbor. We can’t have tunnel vision and simply forget about the generation that won World War II in order to pay tribute to the sacrifices of our honored dead in Iraq, even if they died fighting a war based on a lie. There is room for both.

If you see a World War II veteran, please take a moment and thank him or her for what they did for us. They deserve nothing less.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Wed 07th Dec 2005 at 6:25 pm

    Hi Eric,

    Thanks for the post. I agree that it is unfortunate that these important dates have been forgotten. That said, what I find more troubling is the extent to which many of our important historical events have been politicized. Think back to the weeks following 9-11; you couldn’t get away from references to the attack on Pearl Harbor or other such moments of surprise. If I remember correctly, we were also hung up on a comparison with Antietam. Of course, this is nothing new. We’ve never been comfortable as a nation thinking critically about our past–much more comfortable looking ahead. Now that I think about it, perhaps the absence of news is in part a function of not wanting to compare a war that the overwhelming majority of Americans believed was justified, given the attack at Pearl Harbor with the present war which seems to have been badly mismanaged from the beginning.

  2. Mike Peters
    Wed 07th Dec 2005 at 6:35 pm

    Eric:

    Amen brother!

    If I have my numbers correct, something like 16 million Americans served in WW2. A Washington Times article dated 1 May 2001 estimated that some 400,00 vets of that conflict die each year & those numbers have probably escalated given their increasing age.

    Thank them for their service, ask them questions & listen if they’re willing to talk. If I wouldn’t have asked, my Uncle wouldn’t have told me about his incarceration in one of Hitler’s Stalags.

    Their stories are amazing!

  3. Wed 07th Dec 2005 at 7:59 pm

    Kevin,

    I agree, right down the line.

    At least NBC did a story on it on the 6:30 national news. That made me feel a little better about things, but the story focused more on the deterioration of the museum than it did on what happened that day.

    Eric

  4. Wed 07th Dec 2005 at 8:00 pm

    Mike,

    Just so. I try to hear their stories whenever I can, if for no other reason than having them understand that what they did is appreciated.

    Eric

  5. Dave Kelly
    Wed 07th Dec 2005 at 8:36 pm

    My dad is also 85 and a vet.

    He had a congenital heart murmer and although he was a high school jock the draft board 4fed him. His younger brother Don got drafted and wound up in the 3rd Armored Div as a tank commander. Got several tanks blown out from under him. The last one shattered his lower jaw and he spent months in hospital while they rebuilt his face. (He died age 60 from a brain tumor obliquely related to his war wounds.)

    Being 4fed didn’t sit well with the old man. He finally tweeked the RI Irish political machine and got into the Navy, serving as a machinists mate in the Davisville PT Boat command. Some uproariously nasty stories about Adm Buckley the pride of the PT service who routinely tried to get himself killed in his wooden boats (lol).

    Was reassigned to Europe in the PT command that supported the build up to D-Day. Post D-Day was sent to Scotland to train Russians on using boats being turned over to them. Got redeployed all the way to SanDiego CA pending invasion of Japan. Then rushed back to RI for deactivation Christmas Eve 1945.

    Ona seperate issue of Politics and History: Nothing stays the same. The new world order doesn’t want to talk about a Day of Infamy when we are suddenly trying to coax the Japanese to be militarily active after two generations of neutering.

    The day the WTC went down I’m sure a lot of governments around the world had involuntary bowel movements. Had we a fixed target, had we the desire to declare a crusade against Islam in general THE PEOPLE probably would have said “so be it”, sent our priests in Roman fashion to cast the spear of damnation into the land of the enemy, and turned the mideast to salt. (Like it isn’t already).

    Instead the message was forbearance and wait until we can define the enemy. 4 years later and we still haven’t defined the enemy. The window of opportunity has closed. All of a sudden people are whining at us for taking countermeasures against fanatics that are impolite.

    Stay tuned, the wheel continues to turn.

  6. Wed 07th Dec 2005 at 9:13 pm

    Good points, Dave, and I guess we will see how this all plays out. I do know this: “Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.”

    Eric

  7. Basecat
    Thu 08th Dec 2005 at 2:03 am

    Eric,

    I could not have said it better. Spent some time talking to my Dad who was 13 years when this happened, and relatively new to the United States, having come from Croatia 3 years earlier. The thing that sticks out with him, was just how the news that day was spread in NYC, and how quiet Times Square was, as in no one talking, but all listening to the radio.

    The other thing that caught me, he was not yet fluent in English, but could tell by looking at folks, that something was very wrong that day.

    Hope all is well.

    Steve

  8. mom and son
    Thu 14th Sep 2006 at 6:17 pm

    Eric, we have read the following for a school trivia question and were touched by everything. I have a grandfather who fought in WWII as airforce pilot. He passed away 2/12/83 My son will be doing a report on him in October for school, “family members in any war” past and present.
    I agree these people who fought for us are not reconized now because it is in the past, but it should be known for our younger generations. We have been to Washington D.C. this summer and were overwhelmed with the “Wall” and Arlington cemetery, they even saw the Smithsonian with the uniforms for that period. They didn’t even have a quarter of stuff that our troops have this day present. It is a shame that war is still existing to this day, and people should realize that there are much greater things to die from on an everyday basis. Next we come across someone from that time ,we will be sure to sit and have a word with them, it would be our pleasure.

    God bless America!

    Mom and son

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