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Infamy...


My son just came into the room while I sit here writing, and I asked him if he had ever studied Pearl Harbor in school yet. He hasn't - he's working through the Revolution and Civil War this year - so I motioned for him to sit down - insert tween eye roll accompanied by a sarcastic, "Mom! It's Friday! Do I have to learn now?"

Sit down kid.

I began to briefly...oh so briefly...explain the events of Pearl Harbor to my 12 year old, accompanied by the old photos I had found, noticed he wasn't impressed (seriously, do you see this ship on fire and sinking?), and quickly brought up an aerial image of the memorial where you can actually see the USS Arizona underneath the surface of the water. THAT impressed him.

Oy. 12 year olds.

"...December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our secretary of state a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese government also launched as attack against Malaya.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Wake Island.
And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us. . .

Source: Courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.


What does that word "INFAMY" mean? *abomination, atrocity, evil, outrageousness, scandal, villainy, wickedness*

All words that describe the events of this day 71 years ago.


National Archives/Getty Images -
The USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941
I am quickly reminded that in December 1941, my grandfather was a young 17 year old living in Hawaii...well, I think he was. I know he was born there, but I'm not entirely sure when he left to come to the mainland. I didn't meet my Grandpa Wright until maybe 1978 or 1979, I was just a youngster and grandma had a new "friend" at work. A new friend who was a dark-skinned, straight from the islands, Hawaiian man. All of his family was still living on the islands at the time, but here he was in Northwest Ohio with us. We all kind-of wondered about his life, and my parents tried to get him to open up, but the most we ever found out was that he had come from a large family with many brothers and sisters.

He also told us that after the attack on Pearl Harbor he worked with the Army Corp of Engineers. That's it. No details. He would clam up and say no more. We assumed the memory of what had happened - what he may have been witness to - that it was too vivid in his memory, too disturbing for him to want to share any more. So we never pushed. We never asked. We never found out.

Today I'm remembering my grandpa Wright. My historical inquisitiveness causes me to look at old photos from that day 71 years ago in fascination and wonder, trying to put emotions to what those living at that time may have felt as they experienced it. I think of his parents, and his many siblings who were on the islands as well, and the fear they most definitely felt at what was happening in the world around them.

C.

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