“Yesterday, December 7th, 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….”— President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, December 8, 1941, speaking to a joint session of Congress.
The world changed — massively — for Americans on that December day. While most of us were going about our Sunday routines — perhaps sitting in church for the day’s sermon or Sunday school, or getting out for brunch with friends — a squadron of Japanese aircraft carriers were turning into the wind and launching attack bombers. Japan was stymied in its plans for expansion of its “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” by an American embargo on oil, machine parts and other needed goods, and afraid that the U. S. would respond if it attacked British interests in Southeast Asia, and planned a preventive strike against the American Pacific Fleet in Hawaii to forestall any action against it. The Japanese had planned to shave its “notification” to the U. S. government of hostile intent as closely as possible to keep a warning from being sent to the American bases in and around Pearl Harbor; but clerical problems in decoding and typing the message eliminated any validity to their weak attempt to observe the niceties.
The Navy, which had been able to break the top Japanese diplomatic code, had a rough inkling that something was going to happen, and a copy of the Japanese response had been decoded and distributed to top American officials; however, nothing explicitly stating that the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor was ever sent or decoded by us. If it had been, Pearl would have been notified, and the outcome of the battle would surely have been much different.
And so some 350 Japanese planes attacked the sleeping base early on Sunday morning, Honolulu time, in two waves. Four out of the eight battleships at anchor, including the USS Arizona, were sunk, three more were damaged, and the last ran aground as it tried to make out of port into open water. We also lost three other ships and nearly 200 planes; over 2,000 people were killed. In this, the Japanese were successful; but no American aircraft carriers were in port, and so one of the planners’ main goals failed. The next day, President Roosevelt opened his speech to Congress with the words above, and they voted overwhelmingly to declare war on Japan. Only one no vote was recorded, by Jeanette Rankin, who had also voted no to declaring war on Germany in 1917.
Pearl Harbor was cleared of all wreckage, except for the Arizona, which was so badly damaged from the explosion of her forward magazine that she was considered unsalvageable, and the Utah. The Arizona was ultimately decommissioned 1, and a memorial to her dead and all the dead of the Battle of Pearl Harbor built across her sunken hull in the 1950s. A replica of this memorial exists today in Second Life, in Oahu region. I asked my friend, Conan Bankersbox, if he would pose there for me, and he happily obliged, first dressing in Navy casual whites as an ensign in tribute to the men who died that day, 70 years ago now. Their comrades who survived, and all the others who came through the crucible of that war and helped keep our country free, are now very old men and women, and dying as the years progress. I hope you will join me in honoring their sacrifice, their heroism and their dedication in Real Life today. In addition, there will be a ceremony of remembrance at the Arizona Memorial replica today at 2:00 p.m. SLT, with music, remembrance of those lost, and the chance to throw a lei into the harbor water in tribute.