A sleeping giant was awoken 76 years ago

It was the most profound and cowardly sneak attack in the history of mankind. At exactly 7:55 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States was suddenly plunged into a great conflict that would become World War II. The Imperial Japanese Navy launched over 250 planes in two waves from six aircraft carriers. The destination — target — was the island of Oahu, Hawaii, specifically Pearl Harbor. The morning Pacific sunshine glistened on the wings of unleashed bombers, torpedo planes and fighter planes. Many were the long-range and deadly effective Zeroes adored with the distinctive Hinomaru or “circle of the sun” emblem found on main wings and fuselages.

The Japanese did not miss. They struck quickly and they struck hard. History would be forever changed. Shhh and listen: echoes of the bombings resonate today. The United States’ Pacific Fleet was ravaged. The Japanese sank four battleships, three cruisers and three destroyers. Destroyed were 188 American aircraft. Wounded were 1,176 service personnel. The American death total numbered 2,403 including 1,177 casualties alone on the U.S.S. Arizona, many of whom are entombed for eternity in the submerged wreckage which is a national memorial. Seeping oil from the ship — called “Black Tears” by many — continues to become one with ocean water. Pearl Harbor today remains an active military base.

What took the Japanese mere minutes to do on a beautiful Hawaiian Sunday morning 76 years ago today was destined to forever alter world history. The attack — a surprise and unprovoked — stirred patriotism which remains unchallenged.

Public opinion, which had favored isolationism, emerged as support for direct participation in the war. The sleeping giant indeed was rudely awoken. It was angry. The United States did participate in war. It won wars on both sides of the globe. It is a near incomprehensible feat that ranks as the biggest achievement in our country’s history — the greatest achievement by our nation’s greatest generation. Appreciate the effort because those heroes from World War II are leaving us each and every day. In 2013, there was an estimated 1.7 million WWII veterans. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, we were losing 372 veterans per day in 2016: only 620,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II were alive last year. There were 26,523 WWII veterans living in Ohio in 2016. Of course, as we enter 2018, those survivor figures are reduced even more. The aging process moves onward. Twilight always beckons.

You really have to pause in this day and age and wonder if our country could do now what it did then in fighting simultaneously and defeating two monsters. And you have to wonder just how much this staggering accomplishment is lost on today’s younger generations. If not completely. How well is this prodigious chapter in our nation’s history being taught? Hand an average high school student a globe. Or even an advanced college student. Does today’s student even know where Pearl Harbor is? Let alone what it represents and what it means to any of us of a certain age? Think of what it means to the dwindling number of World War II veterans. Our country is free because of these wonderful Americans and the patriotic efforts they made.

Today, on the anniversary of the brutal attack by the Japanese, let us remember all of the lives lost, all of the lives forever changed and all of the sacrifices made. We are the greatest nation ever and it is because of the unbelievable effort and wherewithal that Americans displayed during World War II. That should never be lost on any of us. Nor should it be lost now that 76 long years removed from that brutal attack and 72 years since World War II’s closure we continue to lose to the ages a precious commodity on a daily basis: our veterans from that conflict who are reaching the ends of their own cycles of life. The vast majority are nonagenarians, all deeply entrenched into their 90s by now. God bless them all. They are living treasures.

Today we stop and thank those served. It is sad that advancing time is claiming so many of our World War II veterans, many of whom fought the Japanese in the Pacific Ocean Theater. We have many veterans in our own area. Take time to thank them. Thank them before it’s too late to do so. Let’s strive to pass along to our children and future generations the importance of appreciating the efforts made to keep the American way preserved. Let’s do that in and out of the classrooms. Go ahead and hand them a globe.

Legendary President Franklin D. Roosevelt was right when he declared that Dec. 7, 1941, was a date that would live in infamy. It has and always will. We must never forget or disregard Pearl Harbor Day. On this day, each and every citizen should pause, reflect and be grateful for the effort it took to repel evil. That is indeed the American way.

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