Today is the 76th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. It’s been a quiet anniversary, unlike last year’s ceremonies to mark that it has been 75 years since Dec. 7, 1941, when Japan attacked the U.S. Naval base on Oahu.
It was, by all accounts, a remarkable success for Japan. It caught America by surprise, off guard and unprepared. While the U.S. military was aware that Japan was likely up to something, and was trying to track the movement of Japanese forces, it believed the distance of 4,000 miles was too great between Hawaii and Japan for much to happen.
Japan, through brilliant strategic planning, a bit of luck, and an America that wasn’t yet ready for war, pulled off what is considered one of military history’s greatest surprises on a peaceful, sunny, Sunday morning.
America suffered great losses. About 3,500 sailors, soldiers and civilians were killed or wounded. Nearly 20 ships damaged or destroyed. About 300 planes lost.
Pearl Harbor was not America’s finest military moment. But no one has ever questioned the courage, the bravery and valor of those stationed there. Even under a first wave of attackers, and a second, even against overwhelming firepower, even facing death, those at Pearl did not run. You don’t hear any stories of someone trying to hide or seek shelter and save themselves. You don’t hear of anyone just trying to get the hell out of there.
If you talk to the veterans of Pearl Harbor, and there were few remaining, they will tell you stories of tremendous courage in the face of defeat.
What you do hear about are men who fought, who helped each other, who saved lives, who did under fire what few could do. They held their ground. They grabbed what weapons they could. Some saw friends killed. They saw fellow sailors die. They saw the Arizona destroyed and they saw the Oklahoma go down. But they did not waiver.
Japan didn’t get what was a primary target at Pearl Harbor. The U.S. carriers were not there. All out to sea.
That would be a key point in this war when the Battle of Midway occurred six months later, considered a turning point in the war. Up to then, it was said the U.S. suffered defeats. After that, it scored victories.
Japan’s losses at Midway were major. Four carriers, a cruiser, nearly 300 planes and 2,500 casualties. It would not recover. The war would go on for another three years and three months before Japan officially surrender on Sept. 2, 1945.
Some say while Pearl Harbor was Japan’s biggest victory, it was also it’s biggest mistake. They say it awoke in America a pride, a strength, a courage, a resolve, that had been missing. Those at Pearl Harbor, and all the men and women who served in World War II, were the among the finest this country has known.
So, on this day, please remember Pearl Harbor and give thanks for the lives of those who fought there, and died there, on Dec. 7, 1941,