This is a very important day for the United States of America and as the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “…a date that will live in infamy.” Your Commander was 10 years old and I remember exactly what I was doing on that Sunday morning as if it were yesterday. I was lying on the living room floor reading the Sunday morning Chicago Tribune funny papers and a special announcement came over the floor model Philco radio that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. When my Dad returned from getting his car hand washed at the local gas station, he, Mom, and I sat in front of the Philco to hear the tragic details of death and destruction.
A very small percentage of present-day Americans were alive back in 1941, so it is significant that some vital details be brought to your attention at this time. A total of 16,112,566 US individuals served in the Armed Forces during that War, there were 291,557 battle deaths, 113,842 other non-combat deaths, 670,846 non-mortally wounded, and as of May 11, 2011 there were only 2,079,000 veterans of World War II still alive.
During World War II a total of 464 Medals of Honor were awarded and 266 of those were posthumous. As of August 12, 2011 there were 14 recipients of the Medal of Honor from that war still living.
It is estimated that 850 American WWII veterans die each day, and the median age of the WWII vets is approximately 86 years.
It is with deep regret that I personally have few remaining friends who remember that War and most of my associates know little or nothing of those years of strife and sacrifice that influenced our entire country and the world to this date. Much has been written, but many facts and stories are yet to be told and questions yet to be answered. It is in that vain that I draw your attention to a very important article that recently appeared in The Washington Post that addresses ‘Five myths about Pearl Harbor’. This should be considered essential reading for all Americans on this date.
Summarizing, I remember the often questioned suspicion that the American government knew in advance of the Japanese plan to attack on Pearl Harbor. It is a proven fact that Washington knew in advance, and that President Roosevelt permitted the attack to ease America into the World War against Germany, Italy, and Japan. In fact, at one point it was believed an attack would take place November 30th.
While the majority of death and destruction occurred in Hawaii, the Japanese also attacked the Philippines, Wake Island, Guam and Malaya, Thailand and Midway Island on that day.
The major misconception of that war was that America retaliated immediately, but that is not a fact, because American forces did not respond until February 1942 when the Pacific fleet engaged in battle in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands. Another misconception was that the Japanese were the only U.S. citizens rounded up after the Pearl Harbor attack. Over 120,000 individuals were detained including Japanese, Germans and Italians.
The Pearl Harbor attack did sway American public opinion to enter the War, because prior to the attack the country supported an isolationist agenda. America declared War on Japan on December 8, 1941, but did not declare War against Germany and Italy until December 11, 1941.
Since that time our country has been engaged in several major wars, such as Korea where I served, several small regional conflicts, Viet Nam, and substantial conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is yet to be determined by historical study, but the World War II conflict was the most influential in changing the entire world politically that has occurred in my life time. It is important to know about that war, and I pray that we are never drawn into a conflict of that magnitude ever again. Every effort must be rendered to achieve peace around the world, but we must be strong in defending our homeland from attack by foreign influences bent upon doing our country great harm.
Join me today in saluting all veterans of American Wars, especially our WWII vets.
GOD BLESS AMERICA