Rushville Republican

Columns

December 6, 2012

Recalling the attack on Pearl Harbor

RUSHVILLE — In just a couple of days, on Dec. 7, we will be commemorating the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was that single event which brought the United States into World War II. The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a speech before a joint session of the Congress, portions of which are worth remembering.

He said, in part, “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan…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…With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding 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, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.”

For those Americans born since about 1960, the attack on Pearl Harbor is remembered only as an event briefly studied in school. Like so many historic events, there is very little reality about the attack. How quickly world-changing events are relegated to the pages of history and become little more than a date that needs to be remembered only because what happened on Dec. 7, 1941, might be a question asked on a quiz. Yet, there are still a few people alive today who vividly remember that Sunday morning so long ago. Some are even survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Altogether, the Japanese attack force consisted of six aircraft carriers and 423 planes along with approximately 30 other support ships. The main targets were the battleships moored inside the harbor. In all, eight of our battleships were damaged. All but two, the Arizona and the Oklahoma, were repaired and put back into service. The Japanese had hoped to attack America’s three aircraft carries in the Pacific (the Lexington, Enterprise, and Saratoga), but they were not in port at the time and escaped the attack. Over 180 American aircraft were destroyed on the ground during the attack.

Total American casualties were 2,335 service men and approximately 68 civilians, with an additional 1,178 people wounded in the attack, which lasted less than two hours, from approximately 7:55 to 9:45 a.m. A significant part of the total American losses were the 1,100 men who were killed aboard the USS Arizona. The Japanese lost only 65 men in the attack.

The attack was a total surprise to the Americans. The island’s defenses were completely unmanned, and no measures had been taken to put Pearl Harbor on high alert, despite the fact that an attack was expected (although no one knew when to expect it). As a result of the failure to take even basic precautions, Admiral Husband Kimmel and General Walter Short were both relieved of duty.

The net effect was to unify the American people as few other events could have at the time. The sneak attack, as it was called, brought the American people together in a concerted effort to defeat the Japanese and, ultimately, end the war with the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan.

The commander of the Japanese fleet was Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto who, upon hearing of the success of the Japanese attack purportedly said, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.” Whether Yamamoto actually uttered that quote is a matter of speculation, although it may have reflected his real feelings about the attack. What Yamamoto actually did say was, “Should hostilities once break out between Japan and the United States, it is not enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Francisco. We would have to march into Washington and sign the treaty in the White House.”

Just a few days later, on Dec. 11, 1941, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy both declared war on the United States, which expanded the conflict into a truly world war, the second such conflict in less than 25 years. When Hitler was told about the attack on Pearl Harbor, he reportedly said, “We can’t lose the war at all. We now have an ally which has never been conquered in 3,000 years.” Well, there is a first time for everything, and the Japanese eventually did lose the war and became the first nation in history to feel the full effects of the dawn of the Nuclear Age.

Perhaps Prime Minister Winston Churchill put it best in his account of Pearl Harbor, that “there were some in England who feared the consequences of that fateful blow and doubted the ability of the Americans to stand up to the test of modern war. But I had studied the American Civil War,” he said, “fought out to the last desperate inch, and I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.”

The “boys,” most of whom are gone now, who were at Pearl Harbor 71 years ago were as alive and full of anticipation of what life held in store for them as any young man today. It’s good, therefore, to be reminded of those times and the sacrifice that was made by so many all those years ago.

1
Text Only
Columns
  • We are still the United States It seems to me that America has in the past had an idea of destiny, one that started at Concord and continues to today. A great experiment was begun with the shot heard around the world. It continued on through the remainder of the Revolution and spa

    April 22, 2014

  • Mail Tales: Of postcards and wishing where you were This week we're going to explore the exciting world of Deltiology. I know that "Deltiology" sounds vaguely scientific, which means some of you are probably worrying that this is another one of my sneaky attempts to foist upon you a poorly researched,

    April 22, 2014

  • An important election this year I wonder if anyone has to be reminded that we're in another election year. The current election season is often referred to as an "off-year" election because it's not a year in which we vote for a president. This will be, nevertheless, one of the mos

    April 22, 2014

  • In a perpetual comma I misplace a lot of things: keys wallet gloves the dog's leash. Recently I misplaced something that may not seem very important unless you read that last sentence carefully. Then you will realize that believe it or not I can't find my comma. Yes it's

    April 22, 2014

  • Crate art Paper labels from 1880-1930, collectively referred to as "Crate Art", are a unique form of American Folk Art. Originally designed to be glued to the ends of wooden crates to identify produce during shipping, the graphically attractive labels are stil

    April 22, 2014

  • This column will self-destruct in 5 seconds I've become completely infatuated over the past few weeks with a gift I received a few Christmases ago. It was a completely unexpected gift from one of my big brothers: a set of "Mission: Impossible" DVDs. No, not home videos of me begging my kids to

    April 15, 2014

  • Don't sweat the small things There are a few things in life that really get under my skin, one of which is complaining. Yes, I complain sometimes, but it doesn't last too long at all before I put myself in check. There was a story this week that really touched my heart and like

    April 15, 2014

  • The timeless beauty of wicker No matter what the day may bring, I can leave it all behind when I take my evening walk. Strolling through our historic neighborhood on Indy's south side is a multifaceted treat. It is good for my heart, it erases the cares of the day and it affords

    April 15, 2014

  • Self deposit box I love where I bank. It's a branch inside of a big supermarket. I can make a modest withdrawal and then go and blow every last penny in the cookie aisle. The tellers at the window appreciate me. They know about my obsession with round numbers and und

    April 15, 2014

  • Change can be done here In previous columns I've suggested that one of the factors holding this community back is the relatively poor image many of us have of our town. The point, as some may recall, was made by several people who live in other communities who said Rushvill

    April 15, 2014