On this day in 1941 – 75 years ago – Japanese warplanes bombed the U.S. naval base at Oahu Island’s Pearl Harbor. Having received intelligence reports of intercepted coded messages from Tokyo to the Japanese ambassador in the United States, the president anticipated Japanese reprisals for his government’s refusal to reverse economic sanctions and embargoes against Japan.
Franklin Roosevelt had remained firm in his demand that the Japanese withdraw from China and French Indochina and renounce its alliance with fascist Germany and Italy. At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, 360 Japanese warplanes attacked Pearl Harbor, followed by 200 aircraft, which decimated the American ships, destroying 180 planes, and killed more than 2,400 men.
In the short term, the Japanese goal of crippling U.S. naval strength in the Pacific, and thereby giving Tokyo free reign to gobble up more of Southeast Asia and the South Pacific in its dream of imperial expansion, was successful. But the war had only just begun.
Only four percent of the veterans of World War II are still with us. We owe them a debt we could never pay. What happened 75 years ago today was devastating. But America did what she always does. She rebounded. As a part of her response, American troops would set up a communications outpost on the South Pacific island of Bougainville. My dad was a part of that action. Sadly, he would be one of only 17 of 300 men in his unit to survive the battle.
This is a day to remember, reflect, and even rejoice. America was down – but not out. May the spirit that carried us from that day, 75 years ago, to victory, be ours again today.