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Reflections from History and Faith

Pearl Harbor — In Remembrance

By Jeff Olson


Year after year, many of us probably remember dates from history which are very significant and consequential, some of which have altered the course of American and world history. These dates are usually a staple of my writing, and I share them most every year.

One such date is December 7, 1941, the day the Japanese empire launched a surprise and unprovoked attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor and the Army Air Corps Base at Hickam Field, Hawaii. The attack commenced at about 7:50 a.m. and by morning’s end there were approximately 2,400 people dead and 1,300 wounded, with 19 ships and more than 300 airplanes destroyed or damaged. These losses were devastating, dealing a huge blow to America’s Pacific fleet and air power.

Fortunately, our aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor and would sail to fight another day. That day and many more would indeed come, first with the Doolittle bombing raid on Tokyo the following April and then in June when the American aircraft carrier task force would hand the much larger Japanese naval force a stunning and decisive defeat in the Battle of Midway.

The attack on Pearl Harbor unified America as she had rarely (if ever) been, before or since. World War II was the costliest war in history: in lives, destruction, and far-reaching consequences. America’s “Greatest Generation” fought World War II on the combat front and home front, and it took commitment and sacrifice on both to achieve victory — a victory which is one reason I have the freedom to write this and you to read it on this day.

However, the war was not won by America alone. It also took strong and decisive leadership and resolve by other nations, especially Great Britain which had been in the war for several years prior to America’s entrance and for a while stood alone against the Nazis war machine. As Winston Churchill stated during some of Great Britain’s darkest hours: “You ask what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terror. Victory however long and hard the road may be. For without victory there is no survival.”

Ours may not be the greatest generations, but we must be great enough to make our own commitments and sacrifices needed on all fronts — including the home front — to preserve a free America; a nation which needs to return to our Christian roots and heritage and rediscover a unity based on those principles of truth and freedom which we still have in common. Remembering such events as Pearl Harbor and 9/11 is always important because they serve as reminders of the cost of our freedom and how fragile and vulnerable to extinction it is in the absence of vigilance from each generation, especially ours today!

On December 8, 1941, a somber but determined President Franklin Delano Roosevelt strapped his steel braces onto his legs and walked into the U.S. House chamber, leaning on his son Jimmy’s arm. Then and there he addressed a joint session of Congress and asked for a declaration of war against Japan. The determination and resolve in the president’s countenance and speech inspired a nation to fight and win the fight for freedom, and it still does to this day. “With confidence in our armed forces with the unbounding determination of our people we will gain the inevitable triumph so help us God.”

Much has been written about “a date which will live in infamy.” For those of you who would be interested in learning more in an excellent read, the late Gordon Prange’s classic “At Dawn We Slept” is probably the best and most thorough book on the subject.

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