Few dates in our nation’s 243-year history have made such a huge impact on the trajectory of world history or can stir an immediate emotional response than that of December 7, 1941. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s wise words remain true today – it is “a date which will live in infamy.”
On December 7, 1941, more than 2,300 people – members of the military and civilians – were killed during a surprise attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor, as well as other areas on the island of Oahu. It was the impetus for the United States to enter into World War II.
Many people aren’t aware that Pearl Harbor was just one of a number of military bases attacked by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. Members of the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, the same U.S. Army division that I was assigned to decades later, were among the many soldiers and airmen who served bravely and fought valiantly on that infamous day in history.
My father was a 15 year old living on the island when his father who was stationed at Schofield Barracks on the morning of the attack. I would later serve two tours on Oahu and be stationed at Schofield Barracks too. The military post was one of the first military installations hit by Japanese fighter pilots on that fateful day in December 1941. When I was there, buildings on the post still held bullets lodged during the waves of aerial attacks by the Japanese.
As with those bullets in the buildings at Schofield Barracks, the island of Oahu holds many reminders of those who selflessly served their country – with thousands making the ultimate sacrifice – on December 7, 1941. For decades, the Arizona Memorial is where many veterans and their families have gone to pay their respects to those who perished in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
In 1994, the date of December 7 was designated as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. It is a day when we can each take the time to remember and to honor the thousands who lost their lives and the more than a thousand who were injured – military and civilian – during the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is also a time to remember and to appreciate the men and women who proudly and selflessly served during World War II, as well as to honor and to thank our World War II veterans and their families.
You don’t have to travel to Oahu to pay your respects. On December 7, you can chose to attend a National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony, pay a visit to the Georgia War Veterans Home in Milledgeville, or simply say a prayer of gratitude for those who courageously fought and for those who lost their lives on that infamous day in 1941. We are forever in their debt.