77 years later, Pearl Har­bor les­sons res­onate

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION -

You can make the ar­gu­ment that the world changed for­ever at 12:55 p.m. on Dec. 7, 1941.

It was 7:55 a.m. in Hawaii on what ap­peared to be a sleepy Sun­day morn­ing.

Not for long. At that in­stant Japan launched a dev­as­tat­ing sneak at­tack on the United States naval base at Pearl Har­bor.

The “date that will live in in­famy” had com­menced.

When it was over, 2,403 Amer­i­cans had lost their lives, in­clud­ing 68 civil­ians.

An­other 1,178 were wounded. More than 300 U.S. air­craft were de­stroyed. Six bat­tle­ships were dam­aged; two were de­stroyed.

Al­most half of those who lost their lives that day were on board the USS Ari­zona, which was hit four times by Ja­panese bombers.

Seven­ty­five years later, oil con­tin­ues to seep from the Ari­zona, a daily re­minder of what was lost that day.

It is im­por­tant to take stock of the events that tran­spired that fate­ful morn­ing, not only to pre­serve his­tory, but to learn from it, and hope­fully as­sure it never hap­pens again.

The at­tack on Pearl Har­bor plunged the United States into World War II.

Three-quar­ters of a cen­tury later, eye­wit­nesses to what hap­pened that morn­ing are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly rare.

The per­son who said old sol­diers never die ap­par­ently never tried to find sur­vivors of Pearl Har­bor. In fact, that Great­est Gen­er­a­tion, the men and women who lit­er­ally saved the world, are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing an en­dan­gered species.

The hero­ics of “The Great­est Gen­er­a­tion” have been very much on our minds this week.

The na­tion stopped to re­mem­ber and pay re­spects to the 41st pres­i­dent of the United States, Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush.

Bush was born into wealth, but it did not de­ter him from an­swer­ing the call when his coun­try was plunged into war by the at­tack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Har­bor.

Bush was just 18 years old when he en­listed in the U.S. Navy. He be­came a pi­lot and flew mis­sions over the Pa­cific. It was there that his jet was shot down. Luck­ily, he was re­cov­ered by a U.S. ship be­fore the Ja­panese found him.

Bush of­ten said that mo­ment - be­ing forced to bail out over the Pa­cific - was the sin­gle sem­i­nal mo­ment of his life.

It was only the be­gin­ning of his ser­vice. Bush went on to serve in Congress from Texas, as well as be­ing named am­bas­sador to China, then di­rec­tor of the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency.

Even­tu­ally he would serve two terms as Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan’s vice pres­i­dent be­fore be­ing elected com­man­der-inchief in 1988.

But he never for­got the men and women he once served with, as well as those who would fol­low his foot­steps into the mil­i­tary, de­fend­ing the prin­ci­ples of democ­racy that he so revered.

He held a spe­cial place in his heart for vet­er­ans, and the ser­vice and sac­ri­fice they dis­played. Nearly eight decades ago, the na­tion was rocked to its core.

On a sleep Sun­day morn­ing, a “sleep­ing gi­ant” was awak­ened, in the words of one Ja­panese mil­i­tary of­fi­cial who feared the back­lash from Amer­ica af­ter the at­tack. He was not wrong. Now is not the time for for­get.

Now is the time to honor those who have served. Men and women like Ge­orge Her­bert W. Bush.

And in par­tic­u­lar the 2,403 Amer­i­can lives that were lost on this day.

You likely can­not talk to a Pearl Har­bor sur­vivor to­day.

But you can visit places like the Penn­syl­va­nia Vet­er­ans Mu­seum.

The heart and spirit of those 2,403 men and women who lost their lives is still very much alive there.

It is im­por­tant to take stock of the events that tran­spired at Pearl Har­bor, not only to pre­serve his­tory, but to learn from it.

The Penn­syl­va­nia Vet­er­ans Mu­seum is in the Me­dia Ar­mory at 12 E. State St. in Me­dia. It is open from noon to 5 p.m. Thurs­day through Sun­day. Ad­mis­sion is free.

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