2012 Anniversary of Pearl Harbor, still “infamous”


Encore and traditional post, mostly, from December 7, 2006 with updates.

1941 AP file photo, small boat rescues victims from U.S.S. West Virginia

Caption from Naval History and Heritage Command: Photo #: 80-G-19930
Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941
Sailors in a motor launch rescue a survivor from the water alongside the sunken USS West Virginia (BB-48) during or shortly after the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor.
USS Tennessee (BB-43) is inboard of the sunken battleship.
Note extensive distortion of West Virginia’s lower midships superstructure, caused by torpedoes that exploded below that location.
Also note 5″/25 gun, still partially covered with canvas, boat crane swung outboard and empty boat cradles near the smokestacks, and base of radar antenna atop West Virginia’s foremast.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection.

Today is the 71st anniversary of Japan’s attack on the U.S.’s Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Many Americans fly their U.S. flags today.  The date is not one specified in law for flag-flying.  President Obama issued a proclamation asking citizens to fly flags at half-staff today.

Our local newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, ran a front-page story on survivors of the attack in 2006, who have met every five years in reunion at Pearl Harbor. [December 7, 2006] was their last official reunion. The 18-year-olds who suffered the attack, many on their first trips away from home, are in their 80s now. Age makes future reunions impractical.

In 2010, it is estimated that fewer than 4,000 veterans of Pearl Harbor still live to remember, though, of course those surviving do.

From the article:

“We’re like the dodo bird. We’re almost extinct,” said Middlesworth, now an 83-year-old retiree from Upland, Calif., but then – on Dec. 7, 1941 – an 18-year-old Marine on the USS San Francisco.

Nearly 500 survivors from across the nation were expected to make the trip to Hawaii, bringing with them 1,300 family members, numerous wheelchairs and too many haunting memories.

Memories of a shocking, two-hour aerial raid that destroyed or heavily damaged 21 ships and 320 aircraft, that killed 2,390 people and wounded 1,178 others, that plunged the United States into World War II and set in motion the events that led to atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“I suspect not many people have thought about this, but we’re witnessing history,” said Daniel Martinez, chief historian at the USS Arizona Memorial. “We are seeing the passing of a generation.”

Another article notes the work of retired history professor Ron Marcello from the University of North Texas, in Denton, in creating oral histories from more than 350 of the survivors. This is the sort of project that high school history students could do well, and from which they would learn, and from which the nation would benefit. If you have World War II veterans in your town, encourage the high school history classes to go interview the people. This opportunity will not be available forever.

There is much to be learned, Dr. Marcello said:

Dr. Marcello said that in doing the World War II history project, he learned several common themes among soldiers.

“When they get into battle, they don’t do it because of patriotism, love of country or any of that. It’s about survival, doing your job and not letting down your comrades,” he said. “I heard that over and over.”

Another theme among soldiers is the progression of their fear.

“When they first got into combat, their first thought is ‘It’s not going to happen to me.’ The next thought is ‘It might happen to me,’ and the last thought is ‘I’m living on borrowed time. I hope this is over soon,’ ” Dr. Marcello said.

Dr. Marcello said the collection started in the early 1960s. He took charge of it in 1968. Since Dr. Marcello has retired, Todd Moye has taken over as the director.

Other sources:

While this is not one of the usual dates listed by Congress, you may fly your U.S. flag today.

End of 2006 post —

Other resources (2007):

USS Missouri Memorial – Main Battery - from the Panoramas of World War II site

USS Missouri Memorial – Main Battery – from the Panoramas of World War II site

More, 2012:

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