An anniversary remembered–December 7, 1941

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the “date which will live in infamy.” Each year on December 7th Americans are encouraged to reflect upon the deadly Japanese offensive attack on Pearl Harbor and to hold in memory the thousands who were killed or injured.  The date is also significant and widely held as the flash point plunging the United States into World War II.

USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor

I wonder if school-aged children are brought to this attention the way that I was as a child.  Does a 70th anniversary feel like ancient history to freshly minted elementary school teachers? I think it’s possible that September 11, 2001 has eclipsed December 7th for some, but I was raised with sharp attention to the significance of Pearl Harbor, the American war effort from citizens at home as well as abroad, and the scale and scope of such a terrible war.

A few facts we might remember today:

  • 2,388 Americans died in the attack
  • 1,178 Americans were wounded
  • 21 American ships were sunk or damaged
  • 323 American aircrafts were destroyed or damaged
  • 1,177 Americans involved in the attack were serving on the USS Arizona
  • 333 servicemen serving on the USS Arizona survived the attack

In May of this year the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated approximately 2,079,000 American veterans still living, with the median age of WWII survivors at 88 years old.  It won’t be long before the survivors will no longer be living witnesses to tell the story.  I think it’s great that thanks to major Hollywood influence from Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg younger generations have been educated through film –Band of Brothers, The Pacific—with the hope that passing generations won’t forget both the sacrifice and significance of the lives that were given to make a difference in the outcome of such a horrendous war.

Wall of Memory USS Arizona Memorial

I hope that wherever you are today you might spend a few moments in solemn reflection.

I know I will.


18 thoughts on “An anniversary remembered–December 7, 1941

  1. A beautiful tribute, Debra, to those who were lost and those who still remain as living history books. I must share with you my father’s recollection of that day prompting his own military service. Brave and dedicated were many then, and many now.

    1. I did think of your dad, Ellen. I was watching a History Channel feature last night and I was amazed, again, at all the young faces. The service members were so young, of course, you wonder how so much courage and bravery could even kick in! I’d love to hear more stories of your father’s recollections! Debra

  2. Dear Debra,
    I feel chagrined that I’d forgotten this date today. I was so tuned in yesterday to the feast of St. Nicholas and totally forget what December 7th commemorates. Thank you for reminding me.

    Like you, I am grateful to all those men and women who served in the armed forces in World War II and the men and women who continue to serve today. And I am grateful to Hanks and Spielberg for helping all generations remember.


    1. I’m glad to have had the chance to just bring the date back to the forefront, Dee. I am completely sure that other years I have not given it quite the attention it deserves. I was looking at some old photos this past weekend–my husband’s father was involved in post-war reconstruction in the South Pacific..and those photos are what got me thinking about 70 years! I know that we all hold a lot of gratitude for the sacrifices, even if we can hardly fathom what that actually meant to those who were there! Blessings, Debra

  3. Linda

    I too was brought up knowing and understanding the significance of this day in our history. I think I am especially touched each year having visited the Arizona memorial in Hawaii. How profound that experience was in my life. Thank you for sharing this lovely tribute.

    1. It is a profoundly sobering Memorial, isn’t it! I’m glad, too, that we had the opportunity to visit. I understand that there may be reasons in the not-so-distant future for closing the site as it is today, due to structural issues. I didn’t look that up to be current with my information, but it makes some sense. I knew you were already very Mindful today, my friend. Debra

  4. Catherine Wade

    Years ago I visited the monument at Pear Harbor. Even though the attack on Pearl Harbor happen a number of years before I was born, the emotions it sturred in me was tremendous. I can’t being to express the sadnes I felt knowing the number of lives that were lost that day. Thinking that it could have been my family member who was buried there. A day or so later I visited the Punch Bowl Cemetery in Honolulu. It was the day before Memorial Day and the cemetary was being decorated for the holdiay. Families were decorating plots and the floral displays were beautiful and abundant. American Flags were being place on the graves. I remember walking down the main drive and reading headstones as I went. It was a beautiful day and the sky was a gorgous blue with white fluffy clouds floating overhear. I came upon a headstone that simply read “Unknow Died Decebmer 7, 1941.” Such simple words. Sorrow overwhelmed me and I just stood there crying. Crying for a soldier who was never identified and who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

    Each year as this day arrives, I remember the feelings I had on that day. Although I knew that many men and women had sacrificed their lives for me, it became emotional for me that day. So to all of the men and women who have served and to those that have paid the ultimate sacratice for our freedom, I say Thank You. Thank you for your sacrafices that allow this country to remain free. Such samll words but they come from a very full heart.

    1. Catherine, I can see that such an emotional experience would leave a strong and lasting impact! I never did make it to the Punch Bowl Cemetery, but I am sure that would be an amazing and overwhelming experience. I’m so glad you shared your thoughts. As we lose the WWII Veterans it will be up to subsequent generations to continue as memory-keepers. Beautifully shared. Thank you! Debra

  5. Thank you for reminding us and honoring those lost at Pearl Harbor, Debra. I, too, have visited Pearl Harbor, though not yet born when the attack occurred, and I experienced the same emotions that Catherine did there. It is an overwhelming experience or sorrow and of sacredness.

    I have a very dear friend who was born and raised in Hawaii. Now almost 75 years old, Marilyn was a child on December 7, 1941. That morning, her father, one of few who had a car, had to rush Marilyn’s cousin, just a few years older than Marilyn, about six or seven, to the hospital that morning. The cousin died from injuries from enemy shrapnel.

    1. Oh my Penny! The more I hear stories from others the greater my awareness that I have never even considered certain implications. I never once really thought about civilian casualties…and to think of a child dying from enemy shrapnel is chilling. I can’t imagine. I’m sure that you hold this day very significant on your own, but also with attention to the stories and shared memories from your dear friend, Marilyn. Thank you for sharing her story. I won’t forget it! Debra

      1. The implications never occurred to me either, Debra, until I met and became friends with Marilyn about ten years ago and she eventually told me about that day and its aftermath. You wrote such a poignant post, I just wanted to share this story. I know there are many, many more.

  6. A terrible day. To be taken by storm, and so many lives lost: remembering is all we can do to honour them. That war was marked by such atrocities.

    A truly though provoking post and comments, Debra, thank you.

  7. This is a thoughtful tribute… As we pause to honor our veterans, it is my prayer that we add a wish that there be an end to all wars… every tragic war has pain and suffering on both sides. 😦

    1. I completely agree with you on the issue of both sides. It’s sometimes difficult to address, but one of the most complex issues of any war or conflict is separating the decisions of world leaders from the citizens caught in the middle of the conflict. Here we are seventy years later and world conflict is still with us, citizens caught in the middle. I have been very moved about what you’ve written about this yourself. Thanks for always being so compassionate. Debra

    1. I’ve noticed the dates on your posts and wondered if they are reposts? I just haven’t been sure. Schedule changes for someone as dedicated as you have been to a writing schedule must be a real challenge! You are missed when not up and running 🙂 Debra

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