Pearl Harbor Day: A Reminder to Remember

By Pat Stansbury

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt

It was a quiet Sunday morning in beautiful Oahu, Hawaii. Without warning, the peaceful residents in paradise awakened in shock and terror as all hell broke loose around them.

The first wave began at 7:53 a.m. with Japan’s order to attack. By 8 a.m., the majority of U.S. fighter planes were destroyed. Torpedo attacks lasted 11 minutes, followed by bombers that attacked the USS Arizona’s magazine, causing devastating explosions.

The second wave came at 8:40 a.m. Another 167 enemy aircraft attacked. By 9:50 a.m., the Japanese strike force in the first wave was arriving back at Japanese carriers; the second wave was completing its attack and departing Oahu.

When the dust settled, 2,403 American servicemen and civilians were dead. Another 1,178 others were injured. Four U.S. Navy battleships had been sunk. Four were severely damaged, along with three cruisers, three destroyers and a minelayer. A total of 188 aircraft were destroyed; another 159 were damaged.

On December 8, 1941, the United States declared war on Japan.

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is commemorated on December 7, honoring the victims of that surprise attack. On Pearl Harbor Day, the American flag should be flown at half-staff until sunset. While the day is not a federal holiday, organizations that value patriotism hold special events in honor of the fallen and injured in the attack.

Especially poignant this year, Pearl Harbor Day comes just two days after the state funeral for President George H.W. Bush, who died November 30 at age 94.

At his funeral, his biographer described Bush as “the last great soldier-statesman.” He was the last commander in chief to have served in combat and the last World War II veteran to occupy the Oval Office.

Bush graduated six months after Pearl Harbor was attacked and immediately enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday. By the time the Navy fighter pilot was 20, he’d flown 58 combat missions. His plane was forced down twice: in 1943, when he ditched the plane in the sea, and in 1944, when his plane was hit and he bailed out over the sea near Japan. He was rescued by a submarine; his crewman didn’t survive.

Fewer than 500,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive today. Losing sight of the patriotism of these veterans and the civic understanding of what they fought for is a clear and present danger – as dangerous to the nation as war itself.

How dangerous? In October, a survey by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found 52 percent of U.S. millennials would rather live in a socialist or communist country than a capitalist one. Just 32 percent knew communism has killed more than 100 million people.

In November, a survey on the “State of American Patriotism” found Americans under age 38 are turning on the country and forgetting its ideals. Nearly half believe America isn’t “great” and many see the American flag as “a sign of intolerance and hatred.”

The patriotism survey found younger Americans are “becoming unmoored from the institutions, knowledge, and spirit traditionally associated with American patriotism.”

There is good news: More than 340,000 engaged followers on social media are finding hope and inspiration through the National Foundation of Patriotism. Founded in 1996, this nonprofit based in Buford, Ga., works to encourage all who love America to join in finding common ground.

The Foundation is dedicated to increasing awareness of the meaning, message and mission of patriotism in America and its relevance in the everyday lives of its citizens. Through speeches, exhibit loans and sharing the stories of American patriots, the Foundation uses a history of patriotism to inspire a future of patriotism.

Despite discouraging surveys, the fires of patriotism must be tended. Inspiring stories of the efforts of patriots, from George Washington to George H.W. Bush, deserve to be repeated. For the National Foundation of Patriotism, patriotism is the DNA of America, a unifier that brings Americans together in the best of times and the worst of times. It’s that love of country that inspires Americans to extend their helping hand through international benevolence in times of catastrophe, natural disaster, and the oppression of human rights.

Visit the Foundation at www.foundationofpatriotism.org.


Pat Stansbury, executive director of the National Foundation of Patriotism, wrote this commentary for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. The Foundation is an independent, nonprofit think tank that proposes market-oriented approaches to public policy to improve the lives of Georgians. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before the U.S. Congress or the Georgia Legislature.

© Georgia Public Policy Foundation (December 7, 2018). Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and her affiliations are cited.

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