December 7, 1941… The Hawaiian Islands… 7 a.m.
It was articles written in 1866 by Mark Twain that first brought attention to these lovely, dreamy Polynesian islands. The islands became a territory of the US in 1898 and four years later work began on dredging and widening the channel into Pearl Harbor on one of the islands -Oahu. By 1940 the US had Army and Air Corps posts as well as small marine and navy bases all around that island. In February 1941 the US Navy Fleet was divided into the Atlantic Fleet and the Pacific Fleet, the latter to be based at Pearl Harbor.
The US, in its attempt to stop Japan from committing aggression toward China, Manchuria and other small Pacific islands, placed an oil embargo against Japan and discussions were underway between the US and Japan about these issues. There was talk about a possible Japanese strike against the US, and the likeliest place was felt to be the Philippines.
7:53 a.m. It was not quite 8 o’clock and Pearl Harbor was already buzzing with activity. Then a droning sound like bees was heard coming from beyond the Waianae Mountain Range as the sky began to darken with Japanese torpedo planes.
Eleven minutes later nearly all the US planes at their various bases had been destroyed. A second wave of 167 bomber planes arrived less than an hour later. In all, 20 ships were damaged. Eight were battleships. One, the Arizona, was struck by four bombs and could not be reclaimed. The Arizona had been the largest ship in the Pacific Fleet and carried a crew of 1,514, of whom 1,177 died that day.
News of this catastrophic event reached the mainland via radio broadcasts within the first hour of attack and was released to the public by official sources almost immediately.
As the years passed a momentum built for a permanent memorial to be erected. On Memorial Day, 1962, a bridge constructed over – but not touching – the Arizona was opened to the public and dedicated. Eighteen years later a visitor’s center opened on shore.
December 7, 2021… the Hawaiian Islands… Pearl Harbor…This year, as in every year, a ceremony will be held to honor and remember the military personnel and civilians who died that day. The remains of many who were unable to be retrieved are still on the ship, which lies about eight feet below the surface of the water. About 44 of the crew who died years later have had urns holding their ashes placed beneath gun turrets on the ship to join their fellow crewmen. Oil drops still find their way to the surface from the fuel tanks that had been filled the day before. The scene, though solemn, appears to be a living force.
December 7, 1941… is a “date that will live in infamy.”