Associated Press 1941 file photo of a small boat assisting in rescue of Pearl Harbor attack victims, near the U.S.S. West Virginia, as the ship burns.
Today is the 65th anniversary of Japan’s attack on the U.S.’s Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Our local newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, has a front-page story on survivors of the attack, who have met every five years in reunion at Pearl Harbor. Today will be 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.
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.
- Be certain to check your local newspaper.
- Official U.S. Navy history of Pearl Harbor
- National Geographic‘s “Remembering Pearl Harbor” site, with video
- U.S.S. Arizona National Memorial
While this is not one of the usual dates listed by Congress, you may fly your U.S. flag today.