Reflections on Pearl Harbor attack


December 2, 2021

Submitted and edited by Bill Tawater

Commander/Adjutant, Wah.VFW Post 5297

From the National Office of the Veterans of Foreign Wars

When the men and women serving at Pearl Harbor awoke in the early morning hours of December 7, 1941, they had no idea of the trials and challenges they would face only hours later. They did not wake in the midst of war; they were peacetime soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who were suddenly engulfed by a war that would span the globe.

For America, World War II began at 7:55 a.m. on December 7, 1941. In the span of less than two hours, more than 2,400 servicemen and women were killed, and hundreds more wounded. A large part of our naval fleet was damaged or sunk, and along with the death and destruction, America’s dream of a world where peace and freedom were enjoyed by everyone, ended forever.

No amount of training could have prepared them for what was thrust upon them, yet they held, they regrouped, they fought back, and they won.

Well before the smoke had cleared over Pearl Harbor, questions were being asked and the hardest to answer was; “How could this have happened?” Was Pearl Harbor the fault of one man or two, or a hundred? Or, was it the fault of a nation? “How could this have happened?” It was a difficult question to answer.

America in the 1920s was a country on the move. World War I was behind us and a golden future laid ahead. In the peace that so many had fought so long for, a new and better world was being built, and America was leading the way.

Military preparedness was ignored. Filled with hopeful optimism of a future free of war, the ranks of the military were thinned; arms and ammunition were not purchased, and the nation felt safe and protected in saying that it was against war.

But some in America knew better. They knew that the First World War would have been won sooner if we had been prepared. They knew that thousands of lives could have been saved if we had been prepared. And they knew what George Washington once said still rang true: “In time of peace, plan for war.”

America learned its fault of feeling safe in its isolation – an ocean to the east – an ocean to the west, and friendly neighbors to the north and south. But when the bombs of December 7 fell, we as a nation learned that we must never let our guard down.

Eighty years ago, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan awoke a sleeping giant, and with it, the will of the American people producing what is called America’s “Greatest Generation.”

Next Tuesday on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, let us take a moment to honor and be inspired by all who served and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice while fighting to preserve our nation’s freedom.

We recall the events of December 7, 1941, but more importantly, we remember the thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who died during that terrible ambush and in the years that followed.

America had never been so gravely wounded, but was strengthened by its enduring values of freedom, service and patriotism. The long odds that we faced during the dark days that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor, served to fuel the indomitable spirit of our nation. We united together, steadfast, with one goal in mind — to do whatever it would take to defend our home and freedom.

The lessons we learned that fateful day helped keep our nation safe and secure for nearly 60 years. But the tragic events of 9/11 again reminded us to never let our guard down.

Pearl Harbor and September 11th, proved one thing: our people may be attacked, our buildings destroyed, but our enemies will never be successful in destroying the American way of life. The spirit of our citizens, and the strength and dedication of our service members is far too great.

Let us leave the day with continued inspiration fueled by the memories of all who sacrificed so greatly so that America may remain the land of the free.

God bless America and all those who’ve proudly worn the uniform of the greatest country on Earth.


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