December 7th, 1941 will forever be in the hearts and minds of the American people. Though there is only a few men and women that were there for the event living today, the accounts of what happened are numerous and impactful.
Imagine you are sitting on the boat floating in beautiful Oahu, Hawaii. Nothing special is going on. You’re just hanging out with your friends and brothers in arms going through your assigned chores. You guys had just finished up breakfast when alarms start going off. “Great, another drill.” You think, unaware of the Japanese bomber that was spotted off the coast.
Your job is to check on the airplanes strapped down. They are kept together to keep from sabotage. Of course, hindsight is 20-20.
On your way out of the boat, you hear a giant boom and feel a huge shockwave and start scrambling for the exit. You come out onto the deck to see smoke in the distance. Then you hear more explosions and more shockwaves follow. You’re losing your footing. When you hit the ground, you realize that you’re being attacked.
This is probably pretty similar to what some of the soldiers woke up to on the morning of Sunday, December 7th, 1941.
There were 126 aircraft strapped down. 42 were completely destroyed, 41 were damaged and useless for defense, only 43 were fit for service, but only 6 were able to be deployed for defense against the first wave of Japanese bombers. In total, 180 aircraft were destroyed during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The majority of damage was done within the first 30 minutes of the bombing. The USS Arizona was exploded. One account said it burned so hot that people aboard were burned to ash, their dog tags and guns just melted with them. The USS West Virginia and USS Utah both were sunk. The USS Oklahoma was completely flipped over by the numerous bombs and torpedoes that struck its side. The flagship boat of the pacific, the USS California had to be abandoned as it sank in the shallows of the ocean of the coast.
All that was in the first wave that started at 7:55 AM. The second wave proved to be less destructive, but it was nonetheless effective. It commenced at 8:50 AM
The second wave resulted in the USS Nevada, which was positioned at the end of the line and was trying to mobilize, being destroyed and blocking all movement of the ships. The USS Pennsylvania and the two destroyers moored near it were essentially ruble at the hands of the second wave of bombings. The USS Shaw was split in half by bombs. The attack ended in Japanese withdrawal shortly after 9 AM.
Totaling more than 3400 casualties, including 2300 deaths, were accrued by the Pearl Harbor attack.
The Japanese were believed to have lost only between 29 and 60 aircrafts, 5 midget submarines, maybe 1 or 2 fleet subs, and less than 100 men.
The only bright side is that not every ship was in dock. 2 aircraft carriers were on missions and a third was delayed coming in because of weather. This also meant that 7 cruisers and an entire division of destroyers were out at sea.
How to Remember
This attack led to the United States coming into the Second World War, which was believed to be inevitable anyway. It was more of a question of “when” instead of “if”.
There was only one person that voted against joining the war. Representative Jeanette Rankin of Montana, who also voted against going to war for the first World War.
The lives lost during this tragic event led to an even greater loss of life in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This also brought the second World War to conclusion.
For you to really remember any terrible event, it is important to study it. There were some warning signs that were ignored or took too long to be transferred to the right people, so the military base was not as prepared as it should be. This is why technological advancement was so important. It also led to further measures being implemented to better communication and prevent any events like this occurring in the future.
The National Parks Service of the United States now has a memorial to Pearl Harbor. If you get the chance to go, I believe it is important to do so. Remember those that gave their lives for the greater cause of the United States.
If you’re home but want to do something to help remember those that gave their lives, then make sure to pass of the importance of American ideals. Learn and pass on the reason that these people joined the military in the first place. Read the Declaration of Independence to see what the main purpose in founding the country was and should be to this day. Read the Bill of Rights to learn all the rights that are legally protected to prevent tyranny overcoming the nation and why America fights for the democratic republic ideal and spreading of democracy.
Develop a personal philosophy of what it means to be a great citizen and go about carrying that out to help the nation in the long run. The best way to maintain liberty and improve a larger part is to improve what you can control and try to spread that message. The only thing you can directly control is yourself. Improve yourself and be an example in the dark. That is the goal of the United States of America. Trying to be the example for others. When people ask for help, America is to be the example. You are to be the example.