Maria Ferraro- December 7, 2017
“Let’s remember Pearl Harbor as we go to meet the foe, let’s remember Pearl Harbor as we do the Alamo, and we’ll always remember how they died for liberty.” The strains of the old song have faded, but not the memory of the “date, which will live in infamy.” ~Franklin Delano Roosevelt
It’s been 76 years since the fateful day when the USS Arizona sank and 2,403 members of the United States military perished beneath the waves. Despite being in the past, Pearl Harbor shows us that tragedy unites hearts and minds. Despite pain and hurt, we, as individuals, as communities, and as a nation, can move forward in triumph.
There was no question in the minds of Americans as to what would be the right course of action. Simply, we had been attacked at home, we had lost fellow Americans, and we would go to war. That very day, millions of American men entered the United States military. On December 8, following the Pearl Harbor attack, then President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Declaration of War on Japan. He did so wearing a black armband, a symbol of grief and loss. The declaration had been voted on and nearly passed unanimously in both Houses of Congress, with the exception of one vote. The Senate: 82 – 0, and 388 – 1 in the House. And America fully backed the vote. There was no question that this was the right thing.
Everyone did their part in those days – patriotism bid it of them. In the following days, months and years, Americans suffered great loss in the second World War. But, we stayed the course. Posters and the media of the day encouraged Americans to do their part for their country and urged the general public to give and do more. Everyone was called to make daily sacrifices as a result of the war. And they did so willingly, from saving waste fat for explosives, to buying war bonds. No task was too small or too great a contribution to the cause of victory.
The advertisements of the day inspired patriotism and cooperation. They portrayed everything from a painting of a beaming sailor greeting Americans who were contributing to the war production, with the caption, “I’m proud of you folks, too!” to a painting of soldier and paratrooper in battle with the words, “they’ve got the guts, back ’em up with more metal.” It was patriotism that united America, and patriotism kept us fighting at home and abroad.
The 1930s and ’40s were long, tiring and sorrowful years. Millions of Americans perished on foreign soil. As the song goes, they “more then self their country loved and mercy more then life.” To lay down their lives for the freedom of America and the oppressed countries of the world. They fought and died on foreign seas, in the deserts of Africa, the fields of Europe, and the jungles of the Philippines – never to return to the land that is free because of their bravery. They died alongside brothers of different nations; yet, they strived as one to win freedom at any cost.
The Axis powers unconditionally surrendered on May 8, 1945. Within three months, Japan, too, surrendered unconditionally. That was four years after Pearl Harbor on August 14, 1945. The war was over. As the song says, there were “blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover,” since the “world is free.”
Today, Pearl Harbor may seem so far in the past. But really, 76 years is only just a few decades behind us. Regardless of when it occurred, it remains a powerful lesson of who we should still be today. When tragedy struck Pearl Harbor that Sunday morning, we took action to defend not just our nation, but also the principles of freedom that our nation values. The people of America united behind the troops of America to fight and win. Their sacrifice in the end guaranteed our success. We could not bring the fallen troops home, but we can and must “highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”
Today, patriotism commands us again this December 7, “Remember Pearl Harbor.” Remember our fallen heroes. Remember the price of freedom. Remember the lessons Pearl Harbor teaches – that the unity, courage and patriotism that won the war 76 years ago, are the powerful weapons that will lead us onward to future victories. As the song says, “Remember Pearl Harbor and move on to victory!”
“Remember Pearl Harbor”
“America the Beautiful”
“The White Cliffs of Dover”