SMITH: Remembering attack on Pearl Harbor

Published 7:49 pm Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tora! Tora! Tora! is the coded message Captain Mitsuo Fuchida sent back to the Japanese fleet after flying over Oahu to indicate complete surprise had been achieved at Pearl Harbor. The attack occurred on a sleepy Sunday morning 76 years ago on Dec. 7, 1941.

Needless to say, it had caught our U.S. Pacific Naval Fleet docked at Pearl Harbor off guard although there had been warning signs.

For whatever reason, the warning signs went unheeded and disaster ensued.

The attack lasted from 7:55 a.m. until 9:45 a.m. It was a devastating blow to the fleet resulting in the death of 2,335 U.S. service personnel and 1,143 wounded. There were 68 civilians killed and 35 wounded.

The USS Arizona (BB-39) was severely damaged and ultimately sank resulting in 1,177 crew member deaths. It suffered the greatest loss of life of any ship that day.

Three other battleships had losses of 100 or greater. They were the USS Oklahoma (BB-37) 429, the USS West Virginia (BB-48) 106, and the USS California (BB-44) with 105. Hickam Field, the principal Army airfield in Hawaii, had 191 killed according to Pearl Harbor.org.

Missing crew members from the Naval ships at Pearl Harbor are still being identified. The effort is a result of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhuming nearly 400 sets of remains from a Hawaii cemetery two years ago.

The military just last Friday, Dec. 1, announced it had identified 100 sailors and marines from the USS Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma was capsized during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The government expects to identify about 80 percent of the missing crew members by 2020.

Of the U.S. Navy ships and supporting vessels in Pearl Harbor that morning, there were 5 battleships sunk and 3 heavily damaged, 3 cruisers damaged, 2 destroyers sunk and 1 damaged.

In all, 19 U.S. Navy ships were damaged or destroyed including the 8 battleships. Fortunately, our aircraft carriers were all out to sea, and the Japanese were unable to find them.

We also lost 188 airplanes and another 155 damaged. All Pearl Harbor data was gleaned from a variety of internet sources.

Shortly after the World War II Memorial opened to the public on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a controversy arose.

According to an email circulated, a portion of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speech to Congress on Dec. 8, 1941, requesting a declaration of war against Japan inscribed on the memorial was errant. It claimed “so help us God” had been omitted from the memorial. The facts are, the portion chosen for the inscription did not contain that plea to God. It came later in the speech.

The inscription on the memorial reads as follows:

PEARL HARBOR

DECEMBER 7, 1941, A DATE WHICH WILL LIVE IN INFAMY…NO MATTER HOW LONG IT MAY TAKE US TO OVERCOME THIS PREMEDITATED INVASION, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, IN THEIR RIGHTEOUS MIGHT, WILL WIN THROUGH TO ABSOLUTE VICTORY.

-President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speech as delivered picking up at the disputed passage in all caps through to the end.

But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

NO MATTER HOW LONG IT MAY TAKE US TO OVERCOME THIS PREMEDITATED INVASION, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, IN THEIR RIGHTEOUS MIGHT, WILL WIN THROUGH TO ABSOLUTE VICTORY.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces — with the unbounding determination of our people — we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

-FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT

Hopefully, this will clear up the continuing misunderstanding about the inscription on the memorial. God Bless.