Our View: In Remembrance: Pearl Harbor

In this Dec. 7, 1941, photo made available by the U.S. Navy, a small boat rescues a seaman from the U.S.S. West Virginia burning in the foreground in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, after Japanese aircraft attacked the military installation. More than 2,400 U.S. service members and civilians were killed in the strike that brought the United States into World War II. Associated Press

The U.S.S. Arizona – still buried in its watery Pearl Harbor grave where it was sunk 75 years ago during Imperial Japan’s attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet – is one of several centers today of solemn ceremonies marking three-quarters of a century since the “date that will live in infamy.”

Deaths and damage caused by the surprise attack were staggering: The Japanese killed 2,403 Americans, sunk or damaged 19 ships, including eight battleships, and destroyed 188 aircraft.

Ironically, the pre-emptive strike on Dec. 7, 1941, was aimed at keeping the United States out of World War II.

The effect, of course, was quite the opposite. America joined the war in the Pacific the next day and, a few days later, in Europe. It did so with a singular unity that the country hasn’t seen since.

Some believe the rage with which Americans regarded that early Sunday morning attack – while peace talks between the two nations were still officially ongoing – drove the public to reject all but near annihilation of the enemy in the Pacific Theater.

In contrast, the lessons offered to today’s school children – and there are many lessons built around today’s anniversary offered online and in classrooms across the nation – emphasize the quick renewal of friendship between the two nations after the war.

The Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, for example, offered an online student symposium Tuesday “which commemorated the friendship, honor and reconciliation borne out of the horror of WWII,” reads a description of the event on the museum’s website. “The symposium will address themes of conflict, forgiveness, reconciliation and peacemaking.”

Ceremonies of remembrance have been scheduled since last weekend at locations where death and damage were particularly high during the attack, including Wheeler Field, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, and memorials for the U.S.S. Oklahoma and Bowfin, as well as the Arizona.

The U.S.S. Missouri, where Imperial Japan’s surrender was signed Sept. 2, 1945, is also among the tours available.

Real-life tales of valor during the attack abound, drawing writers and moviemakers back to the horror for countless retellings of all or part of the Pearl Harbor story.

World War II would eventually kill an estimated 418,500 Americans, 3.1 million Japanese, 8.8 million Germans and 24 million Soviets, according to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. Worldwide, 45 million civilians were killed.

It’s unlikely another Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony of today’s scope will be held after this one. Surviving veterans are in their 90s and their numbers are dwindling daily.

So we urge you to pause for a while today or within the next few days to tell the youngsters in your life about the attack that moved a nation together to action against a formidable foe, changing world history.

Share a book, a website or a movie with them so that the seminal moment of America’s Greatest Generation is not forgotten.

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