Sunday, December 7, 2014

The First Day of Infamy

I penned this years ago. It's as true today as it was then. Sadly.

It was a Sunday morning on the East Coast seventy-three years ago today when the world as we knew it changed, and became the world we know now. Our nation which had struggled for over a decade to recover its economic equilibrium after a world wide collapse on a now-distant Black Friday was still righting itself when half a world away, in the early morning hours, war came to America. 

On this date, seventy-three years ago, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. Most of the rest of the world had long been engaged and engorged in what historians now call World War II as German tanks roared across Europe and through Northern Africa and the Japanese Co-Prosperity Hemisphere spread across Asia.

Elsewhere today on pages of newspapers large and small across this country and around the world, you can read recollections by those who fought and remembrances of those who died. But Pearl Harbor is more than history, it is our story. New England has a place of honor in America's maritime history and in shipyards from Bath and Portsmouth to Groton, we have long built the ships in which men (and now women) go down to the sea

Shortly after eight o'clock in the morning, seventy-three years ago today, the USS Arizona, taking a direct hit, sank in nine minutes killing its entire crew of 1,177 Sailors. When the attack on Pearl Harbor ended, eight Navy battleships had been damaged and four had been sunk. Also sunk or damaged were three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and a mine layer. Almost 200 (188 to be exact) U.S. aircraft were destroyed and 2,459 Americans were killed and another 1,282 had been wounded.

Some sailors were trapped in ships that had sunk. Two days after the attacks, rescuers found thirty-two sailors alive inside the USS Oklahoma, but it was far too late for those aboard her sister, USS West Virginia. Shipyard workers rebuilding the raised battleship discovered marks on bulkheads below decks to indicate some sailors survived for seventeen days after the attack.

All of those stories are part of the larger story of the United States of America, which after its own War of Independence, strove and succeeded more often than not to be in Splendid Isolation in the world community. Our involvement in World War I, while intense and decisive had been brief in comparison to so many other nations. That was to not be repeated in World War II.

Seventy-three years ago today, how Americans viewed the world changed. And as a result of the efforts of our grandparents and parents, after World War II, how the world looked at the United States changed as well. We emerged as a super power and leader of what we called for decades the "Free World." What we are today is all part of a world that came to be as a result of Pearl Harbor.

And we learned (again) another lesson: the price of freedom is eternal vigilance or as Frank Loesser wrote in 1942, "Down went the gunner-a bullet was his fate. Down went the gunner, then the gunner's mate. Up jumped the sky pilot, gave the boys a look and manned the gun as he laid aside The Book, Shouting Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!"
-bill kenny

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