In a manner of minutes, our nation was thrust into a war we didn’t want. We had watched Hitler’s advance across Europe, wanted to stay out of his war and let Europe deal with Europe. We were minding our own business and yet Japan attacked US!
It was horrific. On the USS Arizona alone, 1177 sailors were killed.
From that day, we had to join the fight. The war had come to OUR doorstep.
Those old enough to participate stepped up to the plate, setting aside their plans for the future. I wasn’t alive that day, but my parents were. My dad was a college student. He joined the Army Air Corps. Two of his brothers also joined, one in the Navy. My mother went to work building tanks. Parents said what was in many cases their last goodbyes to their valiant sons who would never marry and have families of their own.
We honor them today and all who gave so much for us.
Pearl Harbor reminds us of how fragile our lives are, how they can change so dramatically in an instant. Let us use this reminder to hug our loved ones today and express gratitude to our God that though the sacrifices for our country have been great, we are able to stand today in the land of liberty.
Here’s a special video produced by FamilySearch about that day: Pearl Harbor Video.
Ancestry has a collection titled, “Honolulu, Hawaii, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl), 1941-2011.” You may wish to search this database. (You can get there through the Ancestry link on my sidebar.)
The Arizona Memorial commemorates 1102 of the 1177 sailors killed on the USS Arizona on 7 December 1941. If you know someone involved that day, you can check the Casualty List or the Survivor List for their names.
If you plan to visit Pearl Harbor, check in with the National Parks Service for details. I’ve been there. Twice. The first time was on my honeymoon. Bruce’s parents used to live on Oahu and he had visited them many times, so he planned all these wonderful sights for us to see and things for us to do for the week we were going to be there.
By riding the city bus, we covered that island from top to bottom and side to side, taking in the North Shore, the Polynesian Cultural Center, Hanauma Bay, Diamond Head, and the beaches at Waikiki. On our very last day there, a Saturday, we took the bus to the Swap Meet. It was very hot (July), but we scoured the sales for treasures to take home, Kukui bead necklaces, T-shirts, hats, a bathing suit wrap, etc.
Then, we headed to Pearl Harbor. Luckily, we got in on the very last tour of the day. When the tour started, they took us to an auditorium to view a film about that terrible day. We sat down in the cool theater, they turned off the lights, and the film began to roll. It was so refreshingly cool and invitingly dark that within minutes Bruce and I were both sound asleep! We slept through the whole movie!
I was bummed. I AM a historian. It was important to me.
Not to worry. We decided that after the tour we’d purchase a copy of the movie and take it home. I was appeased … for the moment.
Next we boarded a boat that took us to the USS Arizona Memorial. We could see the shadow of the sunken ship just below the surface of the water. It’s a reverential, sacred place.
Finally, we got back on the boat and headed for shore.
At the gift shop we searched for a copy of the movie to purchase. They didn’t have one. Could we order one? No. They don’t sell it! THAT movie is only available for viewing AT Pearl Harbor!
I was REALLY bummed.
We didn’t have any choice. We were done with Oahu and were leaving, but we vowed that the next time we came, Pearl Harbor would be FIRST on our island tour.
The next time we went to Oahu, we visited Pearl Harbor first. We made it our priority. The beaches and tourist spots would wait. While there, it reminded me of the things that are important: honoring our dead and expressing gratitude for the sacrifices so many made that day and in the days to follow.
May we take the time from our Christmas preparations today to pause and honor those who have sacrificed so much to make this nation great.