National Pearl Harbor remembrance

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 6, 2006

To the Editor:

It was a sleepy tranquil Sunday morning unlike many other Sundays out in the Pacific Ocean. To some, Honolulu, Hawaii was about as close to paradise as you might find here on earth. The island was just beginning to show signs of life when the first wave of Japanese invaders flew overhead on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

Pearl Harbor was home to the Pacific Fleet and a big portion of the fleet was docked in the harbor. Hickam Field was a stone’s throw away and they too were standing down with planes parked on the tarmac in rows like soldiers at parade rest.

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Although there had been warning signs the night before and earlier in the morning, there appeared to be no urgency in awakening those who might have figured out an attack was imminent.

Much like the dastardly attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, intelligence wasn’t interpreted well enough to avoid an attack. We were slow to react on Dec. 7, 1941 as well as on Sept. 11, 2001.

Swarms of zeros, torpedo planes and dive bombers appeared on the northern horizon and rained death and destruction to the docked Pacific Fleet as well as aircraft on Hickam Field.

In the span of about thirty minutes, paradise was ablaze and emergency vehicles were scurrying around trying to save those who weren’t dead.

What a terrible tragedy inflicted upon unsuspecting victims of Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

It was 65 years ago and more than 2,400 Americans lost their lives that day. Almost half are still entombed in the USS Arizona resting on the bottom of the harbor.

Natalie and I had the opportunity to visit the Arizona Memorial and stand on the platform over the sunken hull.

It is an eerie feeling standing above the tomb and watching the occasional oil bubble drift slowly from the murky depths of the wreckage to the top of the sacred waters. The names of the 1,177 men who gave their lives on the Arizona are displayed on the memorial platform.

The memorial is a stark reminder of how tragically bad things can be when we least expect it.

President Bush in his proclamation to display the American flag at half staff all day on Dec. 7, commented on the national resolve resulting from Pearl Harbor. He praised the commitment to meet and defeat those who would attack our country and way of life.

President Bush also paid tribute to those brave Americans who have stepped forward in the global war on terrorism. According to our President, we are yet again threatened and freedom around the world is under attack.

Let us not forget the attack at Pearl Harbor was against military targets and military personnel, the attack on the World Trade Center Sept. 11, 2001, was a cowardly attack against American civilians and institutions.

That alone should galvanize Americans in a spirit of patriotism and resolve to meet the challenge of the 21st Century.

It is our duty to preserve and protect freedom, democracy and our way of life against all enemies whether they be foreign or domestic.

In remembrance of those who suffered and died in the struggle to maintain life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, God Bless each one as we pause to give thanks for your life on this Dec. 7, 2006.

James G. Smith

Public Relations Officer

The American Legion Post 20