From the spectacular pineapple plantations on the North Shore, to the tranquility of Kaneohe Bay, to the hustle and bustle of a seemingly overpopulated Honolulu, the Hawaiian island of Oahu sits tranquil amid its isolation in the Pacific.
Yesterday, December 7, the island state remembered when 69 years ago hundreds of fighter planes from the Imperial Japanese Navy stunned a sleeping population and military personnel with a massive air attack on Pearl Harbor.
On that day, 350 Japanese aircraft attacked. The United States lost four battleships, 180 aircraft, 2,400 sailors. Japan lost 29 aircraft and 55 pilots.
Dr. Ken Kotani writes, “From a tactical point of view, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was one of the most brilliant operations in naval history” (The Pacific War Companion). Indeed it was. It would end U.S. reliance on battleships and launch an era of aircraft carrier power.
Visiting the updated $56 million Pearl Harbor Museum and uss Arizona memorial is an experience never to be forgotten. A few days ago, about a hundred of us made up of general public and Japanese school children solemnly boarded a boat to take us to the uss Arizona memorial. The officers in charge made a special point of recognizing two survivors who were with us on this day. They were Donald Armstrong of the uss Tennessee and Luke Conter of the uss Arizona. Mr. Conter, who survived the attack on the uss Arizona, told us of the horror of the attacks, especially for uss Nevada, Utah, California, Oklahoma and Arizona. He spoke of the screaming, the pain, the panic, and the bravery under fire as the majority of his crew mates died before his eyes.
The memorial is positioned directly over the sunken Arizona. You can see the wreckage, the rust, the still-leaking oil. The solemnity gives way to the silent screams of the thousands whose names adorn the wall of memory. The two survivors made the tour more meaningful as they shared their experiences with many in attendance.
Luke Conter mused on the past to his sons and those of us nearby: “Do you know, we spent six days diving on the sunken Arizona pulling mostly dead and very few living from the fiery, oily, bloody wreckage.”
Admiral Yamamoto had hoped that a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor would decimate the U.S. battleship fleet and break the nation’s morale. History shows the opposite happened. A sleeping giant was awakened.
Looking from the Arizona memorial, you see in the distance the uss Missouri, on which the Japanese unconditionally surrendered to U.S. supremacy. That’s the last time an enemy surrendered to the greatest single nation in history.
Oh, how times have changed.
Today, 69 years later, an air of weakness emanates from the once great superpower.
The results of a long list of wars and skirmishes—Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Rwanda, Somalia, and today Iraq and Afghanistan—all too readily demonstrate that the will to win complete victory by vanquishing the enemy is a phenomenon of America’s past. The pride of the once great superpower is now demonstrably diluted, divided and all but broken (Leviticus 26:19).
Madmen with nuclear ambitions and jihadist terrorists wave their fists with impunity at America, all the while declaring their hatred for the land that once lived up to its exalted claim to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
With the U.S. in hock to China and EU bankers, the dollar mocked by so-called allies, a national debt so huge that the nation is unable to sustain troop deployments in foreign theaters of conflict, the catchphrase of the day is no longer “victory”—it’s drawdown!
The Pearl Harbor survivors are a dying breed. Yet the bravery of such men as Armstrong and Conter is still a powerful reminder of the magnitude of the sacrifice that seven decades ago guaranteed such freedoms as Americans still enjoy to this day.
Pearl Harbor should have taught us to watch our back and to never again allow enemy nations to perceive us weak and lacking the will to fight.
Today we are left asking the question, would America react the same way as it did 69 years ago if an unprovoked, surprise attack struck its citizens and servicemen in an effort to destroy its military capability and weaken morale?
Well it happened on September 11 almost a decade ago, and despite all our vaunted, sophisticated technology, we still have not vanquished the real perpetrators, a mere handful of wicked men—just a rag-tag bunch compared to the massive hoards that sought to destroy our nation almost 70 years ago.
So, how many stopped to remember the seventh of December? The answer is too few, far too few. Then again, America has always been a forgetful nation—forgetful of the true source of its once massive blessings.
We shall yet rue having forgotten the powerful lessons of that fateful day, Dec. 7, 1941, a day on which a massive enemy attack broke the back of the uss Arizona and laid it to rest at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, there to remain a mute and silent witness to the last time that America truly answered the trumpet call to a battle to win ultimate victory over its enemy. ▪