Pearl Harbor Remembered

By Brian Sousa
In Op-Ed
Dec 7th, 2010

It’s been 69 years since Japanese planes woke up the Oahu coast line by bombing Pearl Harbor.  The early Sunday morning surprise attack brought the United States into World War II.  For the young men and women in the military and every citizen, life would never again be the same.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said “A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty of peace.” For the young sailors having fun in the big surf and vast sandy beaches of the Hawaiian islands, the shock of watching their friends die helplessly would be too much for most people to handle.  But for these young men and women they knew peace was a far-fetched fantasy and the reality of what had to be done next was clear, fight.

The damage that was done that day was extensive. A total of 2,403 service men and 68 civilians died and another 1178 were wounded.  The Japanese sank or damaged 188 aircraft, eight U.S. Navy battleships, three destroyers, three cruisers, and one minelayer.

Repairs on the ships and the port started immediately and by February some of the ships that had the least amount of damage were ready for combat.  The Psychological damage inflicted by the bombing took much longer to repair and tormented the sailors, nurses and civilians alike.   Joan Martin Rodby, 10 years old at the time of the attack, carried a gas mask everywhere she went, “It was more or less living in constant fear they were always going to come back,” said Rodby.

U.S. Army Nurse Corps 2nd Lt. Harriet Moore Holmes saw more then she could ever imagine, “My first three patients suffered burns over most of their bodies and shortly died,” Holmes said. “When I tried to swab one’s with alcohol for an IV, his entire forearm skin came off.

To say that the United States was angry with Japan about the surprise attack was an understatement. Japan didn’t declare war until the attack was underway.  Admiral Halsey said, “Before we’re through with them, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell!” In the months following the attack the idea of a military response was in the works but with a now depleted pacific fleet carrying out an organized response proved to be challenging.  The Navy knew that the longer the response took the worse off people like Joan Rodby and Nurse Holmes would be.  Not to mention the sailors that were present during the attack were now itching to avenge their fellow seaman.

A raid on Japan was planned and ultimately led by Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle.  The plan was to launch sixteen B-25 bombers from USS Hornet which took place on April 18, 1942.  The bombing which caused little military damage raised moral back at home.

“It was hoped that the damage done would be both material and psychological. Material damage was to be the destruction of specific targets with ensuing confusion and retardation of production. The psychological results, it was hoped, would be the recalling of combat equipment from other theaters for home defense thus effecting relief in those theaters, the development of a fear complex in Japan, improved relationships with our Allies, and a favorable reaction on the American people.” —General James H. Doolittle, 9 July 1942

Pearl Harbor was attacked 69 years ago.  Service men and citizens lost their lives and the survivors had to live in fear.  It was only after a united effort by the people of the United States that they would show the world that they could stand up together and fight back after such a horrific tragedy.  That point is important because even today we feel the waves of freedom from sea to shining sea.  The men and women who lost their lives on that faithful day 69 years ago are heroes that gave the ultimate sacrifice.  In turn, the least we can do is stop, reflect and say thanks to those who died, thanks to those who fought, thanks to the everyday citizens who helped, and thanks be to God that we live in the Unites States of America.


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