I originally posted this in 2005 and have updated it a couple of times. I like to present it every December 7th as the story is as poignant as ever, especially with our troops still in theater in Afghanistan and now being tasked to thwart the ISIS threat and help in the Ebola-stricken countries of West Africa. They really are our best and brightest — far too many were lost 73 years ago today.
Last year in the November issue of Smithsonian Magazine, one of the objects rescued from the sinking USS Oklahoma was the ship’s postmark handstamp dated Dec. 6th, 1941. It was featured in the article “101 Objects That Changed America”, and although this item itself certainly didn’t change anything, the events of that fateful day changed EVERYTHING.
We came together as a nation after the attack on Pearl, and after our own generation suffered the attack on 9/11/2001. Here in 2014, we find the United States about as divided in ideology as it was just before the Civil War, and our Executive branch of government seemingly want to ignite the race war to end all race wars. We must never forget what happened 73 years ago, as well as only 13 years ago. There are still tens of millions of radical Islamists out there that want ALL of us dead. The policies of the last 6 years have fractured our relationships with friends and enemies alike. The Middle East is in MORE turmoil, and the stability achieved in the hard fought win in Iraq is crumbling, as is the plight of women in Afghanistan, again. The Islamic State is on the rise, and slaughtering innocents and hostages alike, posting their evil deeds online for the world to see.
We Americans saved the world from tyranny in WWII, not sure that we have the stomach for ever doing that again. However, the world will always be a dangerous place, with tyrants and dreamers of nightmares to inflict on their fellow humans… Like the Talking Heads song says, “Same as it ever was . . . same as it ever was.”
— Okie, 12/7/2014
This post is one that I wrote in 2005 to commemorate this tragic, special day. Instead of just linking to it I decided to post it anew, as the stories of those that worked valiantly to save as many lives as possible deserve to be told again. The comments that I made about our brave men and women serving in Afghanistan and Iraq are even more true today. Our fathers, mothers, uncles and aunts — The Greatest Generation — stepped up, took on the mantle of terrible responsibility and did their duty — history awaits whether we will stay the course and complete the tasks that destiny has assigned to our own.
[From ‘Okie’ — 2005:]
It’s Pearl Harbor day, and most veterans, especially those that saw battle, never talk to non-veterans about their military service. In my own family, I know that all of my uncles served, many in WWII, but only much later, most after their passings, did I find out only a little of what they had done in the war.
My wife’s and my father were Navy guys, mine a pharmacists mate on a troop/supply transport ship named the “Mighty A”. The most dangerous thing that he ever told me about was his ship being hit with a dud torpedo. If it hadn’t been a dud, the story would have been more exciting, but he would not have been the one to tell me about it! I know nothing about my wife’s father’s Navy experiences, I just have a picture of him in his dress blues, dashing in appearance, with a small earring worn in a defiant manner, along with a scan of his honorable discharge that I worked into a pictorial tribute that accompanied his funeral almost a decade ago. Several of his brothers were also in the Navy, a couple were in the BUDs area of service that later became the Navy SEALS, and were covert operatives in Naval Intelligence and served in later branches of the intelligence services during Korea and Vietnam.
Which brings me to today, Pearl Harbor Day. I don’t know if any of my uncles were at Pearl Harbor. If they were, they never talked about it with me. In reading the LA Times this AM, I learned that the USS Oklahoma, a 27,500-ton Nevada class battleship, and the men who served and died aboard her, have finally been given their own special acknowledgment.
Tribute to Pearl Harbor Battleship Is Unveiled
From Times Wire Reports
Sixty-three years after the surprise attack that plunged the United States into World War II, hundreds of men who died aboard the battleship Oklahoma are finally getting their own special tribute.
A new exhibit of photos, artifacts and oral histories was unveiled in Honolulu to honor the 429 men from the Oklahoma who died in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack by the Japanese.
That is the second-highest number of Pearl Harbor casualties behind the battleship Arizona, where most of its 1,177 killed crew members remain entombed after the ship sank in the attack.
I guess King Neptune had plans for this mighty ship, other than allowing her to be scrapped. The Kansas City Star adds more information to the above.
The Oklahoma was refloated in 1943 and sold for scrap after the war, but it sank in the Pacific Ocean while being towed to California.
Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu lasted two hours. Twenty-one ships were heavily damaged, and 320 aircraft were damaged or destroyed. In all, about 2,390 persons were killed and about 1,178 were wounded, according to the National Park Service, which maintains the Arizona site.
Powerline has a wonderful tribute that includes President Franklin Roosevelt’s speech asking Congress for a declaration of war and Churchill’s reaction.
As we remember those lost and those who fought so bravely on this day, 63 years ago, let us reflect on the fact that Japan is now one of our strongest allies and important trading partners. It took a long time to help them overcome the damage to their country and society caused by their leaders’ wartime ambitions, but with our guidance and financial help, Japan was brought into the modern world and became an important part of the world’s economy. They are a part of the “Coalition of the Willing” in Iraq.
We must look to our past and not be too impatient in our present. The same fighting spirit of our fathers and forefathers exits within the warriors that are helping the Iraqi people even at this very minute. Many will come back, and not tell their stories for years to come, if at all, but they will be valiant stories, none the less! . . . db
According to the Navy site the following is what was going on here, as taken from a Japanese fighter:
Torpedo planes attack “Battleship Row” at about 0800 on 7 December, seen from a Japanese aircraft. Ships are, from lower left to right: Nevada (BB-36) with flag raised at stern; Arizona (BB-39) with Vestal (AR-4) outboard; Tennessee (BB-43) with West Virginia (BB-48) outboard; Maryland (BB-46) with Oklahoma (BB-37) outboard; Neosho (AO-23) and California (BB-44).
West Virginia, Oklahoma and California have been torpedoed, as marked by ripples and spreading oil, and the first two are listing to port. Torpedo drop splashes and running tracks are visible at left and center.
White smoke in the distance is from Hickam Field. Grey smoke in the center middle distance is from the torpedoed USS Helena (CL-50), at the Navy Yard’s 1010 dock.
Japanese writing in lower right states that the image was reproduced by authorization of the Navy Ministry.
U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.
Vertical aerial view of “Battleship Row”, beside Ford Island, during the early part of the horizontal bombing attack on the ships moored there. Photographed from a Japanese aircraft.
Ships seen are (from left to right): USS Tennessee with USS West Virginia moored outboard; USS Maryland with USS Oklahoma moored outboard; and USS Neosho, only partially visible at the extreme right. West Virginia and Oklahoma are gushing oil from their many torpedo hits and are listing to port. Oklahoma’s port deck edge is already under water. Nevada has also been torpedoed.
Rescue teams at work on the capsized hull of USS Oklahoma (BB-37), seeking crew members trapped inside, 7 December 1941. The starboard bilge keel is visible at the top of the upturned hull.
Officers’ Motor Boats from Oklahoma and USS Argonne (AG-31) are in the foreground.
USS Maryland (BB-46) is in the background.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.
I hope that the Navy won’t mind that I’ve “borrowed” these three images and descriptions to help make this a better presentation and memorial for this day. I urge anyone interested in Pearl Harbor to follow the links to the Navy Archives site to better comprehend the full extent of the tragedy and valiant courage that defines this “day that lives in infamy”!
Postal Stamp Image is from here: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/aroundthemall/2009/12/remembering-pearl-harbor/