Remembrance of the “Day that will live in infamy” should be more than a statistical recital of dead and wounded, of ships sunk and airplanes shot down. It should also be a moment of understanding of what happened and an appreciation of the impact it had and continues to have on our national psyche. And of course is should be a solemn moment of reflection and reverence for sacrifices made.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor galvanized public opinion in a manner never seen in American history. As there were an almost unbelievable series of sequential and parallel events that collectively made it possible for a high risk attack to become a stunningly brilliant tactical victory (albeit a massively failed strategic one), an equal number of Japanese mistakes ensured that the American public would forever see it as the most treacherous and backstabbing behavior any country has inflicted on another. Japan would pay a severe price for that mistake.
For a few years historical revisionists drunk with conspiracy theories and empowered by a culture of political correctness sought to blame American foreign policy or even FDR himself for the Pearl Harbor attack. Looking through the hysteria of such academically anemic behavior and at the facts only returns us to an indisputable truth: the United States and Japan were not at war and were actively engaged in diplomatic talks to avert such a horror when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on the morning of what most Americans considered a religious day, killing over 2,000 people. In a court of law that would be considered premeditated murder with special circumstances. In politics it is considered an unwarranted act of war.
The Japan that committed such a dishonorable act no longer exists. By September 1945 that Japan was so thoroughly defeated militarily, economically, emotionally and psychologically, that after the end of the war the Japanese people almost immediately became our friends and have remained so to this day.
A few years ago when I was sitting through the introductory film at the Arizona Memorial, I noticed a large number of Japanese visitors, teenagers for the most part, and I was glad they were there. I was aware that the current Japanese education system teaches the war as beginning with an “incident” in China and ending with the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As the film progressed and the teenagers witnessed the attack, most looked dumbfounded and slowly sank down into their seats. They were particularly quiet and respectful when the Navy launch took us to the memorial. We must, and do forgive the subsequent generations of horrendous acts, but we must never forget. There are 1,102 men resting in the Arizona and an estimated 47 resting in the Utah on the bottom of Pearl Harbor that will always remind us.
Remember Pearl Harbor.