It was a Sunday morning, December 7th, 1941, much like today, and around 8 a.m. when Japanese planes attacked the American Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaii Territory. President Franklin Roosevelt went on to say that it was “a date which will live in infamy.”
That surprise attack killed more than 2,300 Americans, and it destroyed the battleship, U.S.S. Arizona, and capsized the U.S.S. Oklahoma. Other ships were sunk or damaged, and more than 300 U.S. aircraft were destroyed or damaged. The property and personal loss was immeasurable. And no one was prepared for it.
The following day Congress declared war on Japan and its allies, and in a few short days, war was declared on Germany and Italy. America entered into four years of what would become the “deadliest military conflict in history,” claiming more than 60 million lives around the world, including 420 thousand Americans, according to Wikipedia.com.
I have often thought about that day, which was 14 years before I was born. I heard the stories of war from my uncle who had served. I knew of the heartache of the battle-worn civilians who worried, and waited, and worked to support the war efforts. These stories and people are the reasons I chose to serve by joining the military at a time during the Vietnam conflict when it was no longer popular to do so.
I lived in the Pearl Harbor area for two years, 38 years after the air attack. I havestood on the Arizona Memorial, remembering those who gave their lives on that day in history, as 1,102 of them continue to “lie in state” in their sunken battleship coffin, the ocean floor their grave.
As a military musician, I have played many times on military bases for the Colors ceremony at 8:00 a.m. I can only imagine what the day would have been like for all, including those military musicians who also felt the fear and terror, as they played the National Anthem on their military station in the Hawaiian Islands before running for cover for their lives.
I think about those we send off to war, even today. Some might say that they serve (or have served), because we were attacked. Knowing what is right or wrong for us to do as a nation or as an individual is something that cannot predict until we are placed in a situation that requires us to make that decision.
We must always remember that there is a price to pay for war, just as there a price to walk away from those who attack us.
Today, on the eve of the 74th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, let us never forget those men and women, military and civilian, who lost their lives that day and in the years to follow. They are the ones who paid the ultimate price.