Tomorrow, December 7, is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
This is a day where Americans remember and honor all those who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941 America’s naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was attacked by aircraft and submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy.
My grandfather, Howard Kirby, was at Pearl Harbor. He was one of the lucky ones who survived the attack. After a few other close calls he was able to return to his family at the end of the war.
While my grandfather was a survivor of the attack, more than 2,400 Americans were killed and more than 1,100 were wounded on that December morning at Pearl Harbor.
The attack sank four U.S. Navy battleships and damaged four more. It also damaged or sank three cruisers, three destroyers, and one minelayer. Aircraft losses were 188 destroyed and 159 damaged.
Each year the Wings over Houston Airshow includes “Tora! Tora! Tora!” which is a reenactment of the bombing of Pearl Harbor as a way to try to show what the attack was like.
As impressive as the “Tora! Tora! Tora!” show is, I know it is nothing compared to what that actual Sunday morning would have been like for those young men and women who forever had their lives changed.
The attack, on the “Day that will live in infamy” ultimately changed the United States forever as well and led to America’s entrance into World War II.
In the years following the attack several books and movies have been released that have posed the question of whether the attack could have been prevented, or at least better defended against, if more advanced warning had been given.
Hindsight is always 20/20 and as with any event fingers of blame are often pointed afterwards.
While I certainly believe in learning from history so as not to repeat its mistakes I am also a firm believer in honoring those who sacrificed instead of blaming the blame game.
In the spirit of honoring the fallen, many of whom were buried with their sunken ships, memorials have been built to remember the day and its events.
The USS Arizona memorial, which was dedicated in 1962, is a marble memorial over the sunken battleship USS Arizona that honors and remembers all military personnel who were killed in the Pearl Harbor attack.
Another memorial is that of the USS Utah, a battleship that was attacked and sunk in the attack. A memorial to honor the crew of the USS Utah was dedicated on the northwest shore of Ford Island, near the ship’s wreck, in 1972. The ship was added to the National Register of Historic Places and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
I was fortunate enough to travel to Pearl Harbor as a teenager and also saw the valley where the attacking planes made their assault.
While both areas are quiet and peaceful now they still bear the scars from the attack that occurred over 60 years ago.
Each day there are fewer and fewer people still alive that were at the attack. There will come a day in the not too distant future where all of the members of the greatest generation are gone.
But while there are still veterans of World War II among us take time to thank them for their service and their sacrifice.
Much like the veterans of World War I, and the Revolutionary War, the veterans of World War II will live on long after they are gone through the memorials and the written account of what they experienced as they are passed down from generation to generation.
I have visited battlefields and memorials from one end of the country to the other and each one tells a story of bravery that helped shape the country into what it is today.
It is through these memorials and National Parks that the Nation’s story is told to future generations as a way to ensure that the history of America is preserved.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready to put my flag at half mast.
Copyright 2013 R. Anderson