Pearl Harbor Remembrance

Gunnar Strom, Contributor

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December 7, 1941, said to be “a date that will live in infamy” by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This date is known as the day where thousands of Americans, both military and civilian, were killed in a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. December 7 is also now known as the day that catapulted the United States into the bloodiest war in history.

The attack occurred right before 8 in the morning of December 7. The Empire of Japan had managed to sail aircraft carriers close to the shores of Oahu with a fighting force of about 350 fighter-bomber planes, as well as several midget submarines. The hope for the plan was to destroy American morale and to hopefully cripple the United States naval fleet long enough to gain enough power to be a formidable foe for the Americans. The first wave arrived with about 200 of the planes, catching the United States completely off guard. The second wave came about 45 minutes after the first wave. At the end of the attack, the Japanese had destroyed about 170 American aircraft and had damaged 160 more. The Japanese also damaged 21 ships. Three of these, the USS Arizona, the USS Oklahoma, and the USS Utah, were sunk and considered a total loss by the military. All were large battleships with hundreds to thousands of crew members aboard. The rest of the 18 ships were restored and later put back into service. 3,700 Americans lost their lives on December 7; 68 of them were civilian lives. The attack only cost the Japanese Empire 29 aircraft, 5 midget submarines, and 130 servicemen.

Out of every ship that was hit, the USS Arizona was the biggest loss of American life. The ammunition room on the ship was hit by a bomb, causing the ship to explode violently and quickly sink with 1,512 U.S. servicemen on board. Out those men, 1,177 went down with the ship, leaving only around 300 survivors. While the Japanese plan was successful on some fronts, it ultimately backfired later. They were able to decrease American morale and cripple the United States Navy for several months, but it did not prevent the United States from entering the war. In fact, it became the reason that the United States entered the war and eventually one of the killing blows to the Axis Powers.

As of December 7, 2018, only 5 crew members of the USS Arizona are still alive. They are Lauren Bruner who is 98 years old, Lou Conter who is 97 years old, Lonnie Cook who is 98, Ken Potts who is 97, and Don Stratton who is 96. Unfortunately, none of these veterans were able to make it to the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Ceremony this year. This is the first time this has ever happened. Many of them could not make the trip due to health concerns, as even the youngest World War II veterans are now in their nineties. According to The Washington Post, “One of the five living USS Arizona survivors, 97-year-old Conter, said it was “doctor’s orders” that prevented him from making the trip from his home in Grass Valley, Calif., to Oahu this year.” However, he has plans to return to Oahu next year if his health permits it.

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