77 years later, Pearl Harbor lessons resonate
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.