Pearl Harbor: A galvanizing tragedy and a united America
The Japanese attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, in the Hawaii territory, on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, was intended as preventative action to keep the U.S. Pacific fleet from interfering with Japanese planned military action against locations in Europe.
At 7:48 a.m. local time, the base was attacked by more than 350 Imperial Japanese aircraft in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers. When it was done, four U.S. battleships had sunk and all eight at the base had been damaged. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, a minelayer and destroyed more than 180 U.S. aircraft.
More than 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,170 were wounded.
The Japanese may have thought at the time that their mission was a success. Such a huge loss of life, vital equipment and ships was exactly what they were hoping for in the surprise attack.
In the end, the Japanese would be proven wrong.
Pearl Harbor may have caught us off guard, but it galvanized Americans in the war effort, thrusting the country into World War II, which ultimately lead to allied victory four years later.
Our enemies around the world soon got a taste for what Americans were capable of when unified behind a single effort. Droves of men, and some women at the time, signed up for military service. People who didn’t found ways to help at home. Everything, it seemed, shifted its focus to the war effort that was the top priority.
The fight would lead to many more American lives lost. More than 290,000 American servicemen would die before the war was done. It was a tense time. Along our coast here in the Golden Isles, people living near the beaches and marshes were asked to turn off their lights at night. German U Boats lurked off our shores and in 1942 torpedoed vessels carrying supplies off the coast of St. Simons Island.
The war was an event unlike one we will ever see again. It was a time of terrible loss and excruciating pain for many, but it was also a time when Americans were together behind a common cause in a way that had not happened previously, and has not happened since.
That unity, combined effort and willingness to do whatever needed to be done was the lasting legacy of the Greatest Generation. It set the tone for decades of American dominance on the world’s stage and solidified ours as the superpower of the world, both militarily and economically.
While America is still the greatest it in its might and its economic influence, we are far removed from the unity we once shared. Instead, we seem more deeply divided along political, racial and even gender lines than perhaps ever before.
We could learn a thing or two from the the World War II generation. Sacrifice, service and selflessness were part of the fabric of our nation — they were ingrained in the people. These are qualities we could use in 2017, a time when self seems to rule the day.
We hope and pray it doesn’t take another Pearl Harbor to remind us of the importance of those qualities.
(c)2017 The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.)
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