An ever-decreasing few Americans remember the devastating blow delivered against our country 75 years ago Wednesday. But, as President Franklin D. Roosevelttold us at the time, the infamous Dec. 7, 1941 must not be forgotten. Ever.

The United States was jolted out of its isolationist stupor when, in the early morning hours, the Japanese launched a crippling air attack against U.S. Navy personnel and ships docked at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of that day. It was a day that changed the world.

Up until that point, the United States had largely stayed out of all conflicts, even as Adolf Hitler and his Third Reich stormed across Europe with only minimal resistance and then had launched relentless air attacks on Great Britain and had invaded Russia with ground troops.

Most Americans certainly wanted no part of war with Japan. In a Gallup Poll taken only four months before the attack, just 24 percent of the population felt such a war would be necessary.

But that all changed with the Japanese attack.

On Dec. 8, 1941 — the day after the attack — President Franklin D. Roosevelt wasted no time asking Congress for, and receiving, a declaration of war against Japan.

Three days later, Germany and Italy formally declared war on the U.S., all of which signaled this nation’s entry into World War II.

It meant that Word War I indeed was not “the war to end all wars,” as it had been billed. Instead, the world was now at war for a second time in a quarter century.

Much like Sept. 11, 2001, is for the current generation, Dec. 7, 1941, is the seminal moment of horror for what author and television newsman Tom Brokaw aptly termed the “Greatest Generation.”

On that horrific day, 2,345 Americans were killed, much of the Pacific Fleet was crippled and nearly all of the U.S. airpower in the region was destroyed.

The Navy and Marine Corps lost 2,117 (2,008 for the Navy, 109 for the Marines) and recorded 779 wounded, while the Army lost 228 and registered 113 wounded.

The attack devastated the U.S. fleet, sinking or severely damaging 18 ships, as well as destroying 161 American planes and seriously damaging 102 more.

The Pearl Harbor attack made it clear that the United States had no choice but to be a full participant in World War II and that it had to generate a full-fledged and united commitment greater than anything it had ever before shown.

It did so.

On this anniversary of that day, the nation should mourn those who died and were injured that day as well as those who were lost and wounded in the ensuing conflicts.

Their sacrifices and those of their families were great and the country should never, ever forget it. Ever.


(c)2016 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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