It was a Sunday morning, 76 years ago, when Japanese forces bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
In marking this horrific event’s anniversary, we honor the sacrifice of those who gave their lives that day, as well as acknowledge the survivors who are still with us.
They are elderly now, and their numbers are dwindling.
Military organizations guess there may be around 2,000 to 2,500 left, but the national Pearl Harbor Survivors Association disbanded six years ago so it is difficult to know for certain.
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What we do know is that with each passing year, the “date which will live in infamy” passes from living memory to history.
But we must not forget.
The attack crippled the country’s naval forces and left 3,500 Americans dead or wounded, according to the Veterans of Foreign War.
Japanese aircraft attacked in two waves, hitting 19 U.S. vessels, including eight battleships, three destroyers and three cruisers.
The following day, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt — in what has become one of the most famous speeches in American oratorical history — addressed Congress:
“Yesterday, December 7th, 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 attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.”
His speech helped galvanize the country, launching the U.S. into World War II and launching our community as well.
The Hanford nuclear reservation was established for the war effort, creating plutonium for the first atomic explosion and then the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.
Four years after the tragic events at Pearl Harbor, weapons that had not existed before were used to bring the war to an end — an end that to this day is controversial.
Forever our community will be linked to the horror of Pearl Harbor and World War II. The memory of those days is still vivid in our community.
The VFW notes that the attack on Pearl Harbor “awoke a sleeping giant, and has become synonymous with our nation’s determination and unbreakable spirit. It continues to stand as a testament to future generations that while our homeland may be attacked and our buildings destroyed, our enemies will never defeat our republic or our way of life.”
We must ensure Pearl Harbor is not forgotten. Each new generation should know the sacrifices made by previous ones.
And the infamy of that day — Dec. 7, 1941 — continues.