As a Navy veteran, December 7th, what my grandmother called Pearl Harbor Day, has special meaning to me. In recent years, however, its symbolism has taken on new dimensions.
Seventy-four years ago, without first declaring war, the Japanese Imperial fleet attacked the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor causing considerable damage to the Navy’s Pacific Fleet and bringing America into World War II.
A total of 2,402 American servicemen lost their lives that day, four battleships were sunk and 188 aircraft destroyed. President Roosevelt called it “a day that will live in infamy”, actually a phrase first attributed to Hawaiian Queen Lili’uokalani spoken on the day, in 1893, that the American government overthrew the native Hawaiian government.
The attack broke the U.S. out of its isolationist attitude and presaged America’s ascendency to world leadership. Americans united behind the phrase “Remember Pearl Harbor” as the nation embarked upon a nearly four year war to defeat the armed forces of Japan, Germany and their allies.
True, on December 6, 1941, the isolationist members of Congress still held great sway in the halls of that institution as the fighting in Europe was considered best for America to stay out of. One day later, everything changed in Washington, D.C. and across a now united nation.
Seventy-seven years later, none who survived that day remain and the cohesiveness and combined
commitment of that time are not apparent in today’s political environment or society at large. We face great challenges, possibly greater than we faced on December 7, 1941, although economic dangers are not as easy to identify as military dangers from foreign forces.
We should be clear, however, that today’s dangers in the national economy are every bit as grave as the military dangers we faced 74 years ago. The industrial might and national wealth that the U.S. marshaled to support its war effort, and those of its allies, have been lost.