Pearl Harbor Day: 70 years after

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawai’i.  The “date that will live in infamy”, as denounced by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, marked the United States’ entry into World War II.  Mere hours after the bombings of the U.S. Pacific Fleet by Japanese bombers, Roosevelt went to Congress for a declaration of war, which was granted immediately.


2,400 Americans died in that attack, along with 62 Japanese.  Nearly half of the American casualties occurred on the USS Arizona, when a bomb detonated a munitions depot on the massive battleship.  The hull of the USS Arizona still rests in its watery grave, and is topped by the iconic, white structure of the memorial building.  From Wikipedia:


US Navy 070409-N-4009P-281 Sailors manning the rails render honors as they pass the USS Arizona Memorial while entering Pearl Harbor aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).jpg

“The national memorial was designed by Honolulu architect Alfred Preis who had been detained at Sand Island at the start of the war as an enemy of the country because of his Austrian birth. The United States Navy specified that the memorial be in the form of a bridge floating above the ship and accommodating 200 people.

The 184-foot (56 m)-long structure has two peaks at each end connected by a sag in the center of the structure. It represents the height of American pride before the war, the sudden depression of a nation after the attack and the rise of American power to new heights after the war. Critics initially called the design a “squashed milk carton”.[6]

The architecture of the USS Arizona Memorial is explained by Preis as, “Wherein the structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory … The overall effect is one of serenity. Overtones of sadness have been omitted to permit the individual to contemplate his own personal responses … his innermost feelings.”[7]

I find it interesting how this day seems to mean less to Americans today, than it did in the two or three decades after the attack itself.  Time passes, veterans pass on, and the memories fade into relative obscurity.  Still, the enormity of that day cannot be completely forgotten.  The pictures are striking in their grimness.  The stark, black-and-white photos of diving planes, explosions, and sinking, burning ships are powerful – one cannot fathom the sheer horror that was witnessed first-hand, by the dwindling numbers of the veterans who saw history unfold before their very eyes.

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