Other than “Fourscore and Seven Years Ago-Our forefathers brought forth”; “Yesterday December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy” is arguably the most famous words ever uttered by a President of the United States.
Up until 8:00 AM on that now infamous Sunday morning, Honolulu, Hawaii had been just like any other sleepy tropical town. The Pacific Islands have a unique way of drawing you into a different lifestyle. Everything seems to slow down in life, and it’s almost as if you become one with gently swaying palm trees that line the beaches. Life is more relaxed, even if you’re a member of the military stationed on this picturesque tropical paradise.
Only hours earlier, sailors were on “liberty” (time-off) and soldiers and airman from the local air stations were dancing, and drinking in the local hospitality. Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey were most likely playing loudly as our servicemen and women danced the night away.
Almost as if Satan himself had opened the gates of hell, 8:00 AM struck, and life as these young men and women would be changed forever. Over 2,400 would die in a matter of minutes as a result of two waves of Japanese bombers and fighters (numbering in the hundreds) viciously attacked the sleeping Americans.
A dozen or more warships would be sunk or severely crippled. Hundreds of fight planes would be blown up, along with hangers, barracks, and support structures. If the pilot had tried hundreds of times, he would never be able to duplicate again the direct hit that sunk the U.S.S. Arizona in a matter of seconds. One bomb managed to find it’s way into the main storage magazine for the great warships arsenal of ammunition. Hundreds of very large shells exploded instantly, sending the pride of the Pacific Fleet to a watery grave. With the Arizona’s sinking, over 1100 of America’s finest went with her.
Japan’s future was forecast as the Japanese departed the Hawaiin islands that day. The Flight Commanders, Captains, and other leadership had wanted to send in the third wave to “finish” off the American fleet for good. Admiral Yamamoto (the Fleet Commander) denied them their desire. The “unknown” for the Japanese was the location of our two aircraft carriers. Yamamoto feared being attacked while his bombers were at Pearl Harbor. He would have been totally defenseless if that had happened. He knew that “by now” the carriers would have been contacted and were most likely searching for his fleet. Of course, we now know today, that was not the case. It was at this point that Yamamoto made his infamous quote about the United States; “I am afraid all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
It was this event that forced President Roosevelt to enter into a wartime footing. It was this cold-blooded, and calculated attack that pushed FDR over the edge and commit to joining a war that up until now, the United States had managed to remain devoid of.
For month’s, Adolf Hitler and his war machine had been unmercifully punishing the British. He had already conquered Italy, Spain, Poland and most of Europe. He was now pounding London and the rest of the British Isle with his swastika encrusted bombs.
The tough-talking, cigar-chomping rotund British Priminister Winston Churchill had been pleading with FDR for help, and it would not be until Pearl Harbor was covered in oil and on fire that he would finally relent and have America enter a war.
This war would not be like any war that America would ever fight. This war would have us embroiled on two separate sides of the earth. This war would have America fighting and dying on islands in the South Pacific that most Americans had never heard of. Islands like Saipan, Corregidor, Guam and Luzon would become household names.
This war would ultimately become so devastating for our nation, that Roosevelt would commission scientist to investigate the possibilities of nuclear weapons. These weapons would be created and tested in probably the most top-secret mission our country had ever participated in. Entire towns in some cases were involved in this process. Cities such as Oak Ridge, Tennessee would be created just to support this project known as “The Manhatten Project.” Our first two functioning bombs were even given the names of, “Fat-Man and Little-Boy.” The first one “Little Boy” was donated to Hiroshima, Japan while “Fat-Man” was delivered to Nagasaki, Japan. The Emporer of Japan finally said, “enough” and ordered his military to surrender.
These two weapons would be so devastating that Russia and the Soviet Empire would almost immediately begin working on their own programs to neutralize America’s vastly superior war strength and advantage. By the mid-1950’s, nuclear weapons had become one of the most feared events that could transpire on planet earth. Presidential elections would ultimately be decided by those who would and could prevent a nuclear holocaust from happening.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor changed the maps and living conditions for hundreds of millions of humans across the globe. Japan was forced into surrendering it’s land grabs in the Indo-China area of Asia. Germany lost Poland, and all that Hitler had conquered. The United States established a military presence across the entire globe. We installed military bases in Japan, the Philippines, Germany, Italy, Spain, and even a little island known as Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
Because of America’s unwillingness to be defeated, we became the mightiest military power the world has or had even known. For 75-years now, we have been referred to as the globes “Freedom-Fighters” for good. Anywhere where tyranny reigns and oppresses, the United States more often than not will show up and free a nation while eradicating the oppression.
The lives that were sacrificed that day 75-years ago at a little American Navy Base known as Pearl Harbor changed the map, altered nation’s (some forever), gave a nation the will to fight for freedom and created war machines the world is still to terrified to ever unleash again.
This year on the 75th Anniversary, say a prayer for those that gave the ultimate sacrifice (America lost over 400,000 in this war). This year, we will only see a few show up to the Arizona Memorial as they have for decades prior. We only have some 300 brave souls still alive and only a few can travel to the beautiful tropical island. It doesn’t matter, though, for every ship that passes that sunken cemetery still plays taps and still stands at attention and I suspect they will for all time.
If you have a patriot in your home, give them this great coffee mug for a stocking stuffer this year. Let them know how much you appreciate their silent devotion to our nation. The image is available on many different styles including a travel mug.