Few of you will remember December 7, 1941 unless you were born back in the 1930’s. I will never forget that day, and I still remember exactly what I was doing that Sunday morning.
Our family resided in a wonderful eight room apartment on the third floor of a three-story apartment building in the Chatham/Avalon Park neighborhood of Chicago’s south side. Dad and I had gone out to get the car washed and when we returned home Mother was leaning out of the window calling us to hurry upstairs because America was under attack. I remember Dad telling me immediately that he would be leaving soon to serve with his Illinois Army National Guard Field Artillery Unit.
Once upstairs we sat around our big floor model Philco radio and listened to a popular Sunday morning radio program titled “Hawaii Calls”, which emanated from Honolulu. The attack by the Japanese carrier based planes was in full force and we could hear the sound of the planes and bombs exploding on American soil.
Looking back, I cannot say that we were surprised by the Japanese attack, because there was much discussion that relations with Japan were deteriorating day by day. Immediately the entire nation was up in arms and ready to join together cohesively to defend our nation. There was never any alternative discussion, but a strong positive response that the United States would defend its sovereignty and honor. Japan was doomed to be defeated from the first day of the War and there was never any consideration that the result would be different. I wanted to join the Army immediately, but that was the foolish reaction of a 10 year old impressionable boy.
Aside from attacks during the Revolutionary War, brutal fighting in the Civil War, and the Mexican incursions in Texas, America had never been directly attacked and the American people were aroused and determined to defend their country at all cost. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt went before Congress and said that “December 7th, 1941 will be a date which will live in infamy,” he was definitely correct. War was declared with unanimous Congressional support and we entered into a devastating period lasting into mid 1945 with the ultimate total defeat of both Japan and Germany.
Not since that time has this great nation joined together so totally and boldly to defeat aggression and protect our democracy. Millions of lives were lost or totally disrupted, but we acted as a strong, cohesive unit with one purpose. There was little or no dissension and the press supported virtually everything our government did in the pursuit of the Wartime goals.
In hindsight there were numerous mistakes made that caused the loss of lives, but Americans turned their heads at the time. Only years later were the errors addressed and or discussed openly. In fact, a debate continues today as to whether the attack was a surprise, or if our government had knowledge of Japan’s plans. The internment of Japanese Americans and some German citizens proved to be wrong. Some military plans were seriously flawed, but swept under the rug during the pursuit of victory. Americans gladly supported wartime rationing of food and fuel. Millions of men and some women flocked to the recruitment centers and joined the military. Women quickly replaced the men who had joined the military in manufacturing positions.
September 11, 2001 was the wake-up call for the current generation. This time our country is fighting an enemy without a country and an enemy that likely walks among us. We are in combat with zealous, religious extremist ideologies…people who cannot stand our success and way of life. World War II killed millions. Let’s hope that the War on Terror does not tally that kind of human loss.
Complacency, naivety, and unpreparedness can be our biggest enemy. It is more important today that at any time in the history of our great nation to REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR.