As time takes away more and more of the people who remember the Pearl Harbor attacks of Dec. 7, 1941, it is of utmost importance that we act to preserve those memories.
In marking the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, baby boomers recently recalled that shock and sadness.
The nation was likewise stunned 72 years ago when Imperial Japanese Navy planes swept over the U.S. Army and Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
On that quiet Sunday morning, the surprise strike killed more than 2,000 Americans and injured another 1,000.
Younger people might get some perspective on that by thinking about the 2,606 people who died at the World Trade Center during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Hearing about the Pearl Harbor attack is still a vivid memory for many of our older citizens, just as Kennedy’s murder and the terrorist attacks were to later generations.
At the time, no one thought the violence of World War II would reach American shores.
The attack came in two waves, according to the U.S. Navy Museum, “the first consisting of 183 aircraft, which included 40 torpedo planes, 49 level bombers, 51 dive bombers and 43 fighters. The second wave included 170 planes, 54 of them level bombers, 80 dive bombers and 36 fighters.”
It was devastating to learn that the enemy had penetrated our airspace and delivered such a disastrous blow. Hearts wrenched for the lost soldiers and civilians.
It was also crippling militarily because the United States lost more than 160 aircraft and two battleships.
In an address to Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt called the bombing of Pearl Harbor “a date which will live in infamy.”
But, in reality, it won’t — unless we see to it that the children of today know about what happened that day and its significance in history.
The Japanese had hoped the attack would curb U.S. influence in the Pacific. But it actually escalated World War II because the next day, the United States declared war on Japan, finally entering the fray.
As of 2012, only 1,000 Pearl Harbor survivors were estimated to still be alive nationwide.
And each year, we lose not only survivors but people who can remember what the day was like — where they were when they heard of the attack, the impact it had on family and friends, the anxiety and the patriotism that followed.
Tomorrow is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. It is not a federal holiday, though, on the direction of the president, U.S. flags are supposed to be flown at half-staff.
We suggest that teachers use part of their day today to talk about Pearl Harbor. In future years, maybe local veterans or senior citizens can be brought in to classes to talk about that day.
Hearing remembrances first-hand from members of the older generation will have a lasting impact on students.
We need to capture those memories while we can.