On a sleepy Sunday morning in December of 1941 while the Japanese talked peace with the US Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, the Japanese Navy was steaming towards Hawaii to launch aircraft for an attack that would plunge the United States into World War II. National and local news was delivered twice a day in the local newspapers from Charlotte and Gastonia or for those more fortunate, they could listen to radio broadcasts from stations located as close as Charlotte or as far away as New York, Chicago, or Nashville depending on the time of day.
On that fateful day, CBS Radio was opening its afternoon news program, The World Today, at 2:30pm when the first news of the attack on Pearl Harbor was delivered. John Daly opened the program with, “The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by air, President Roosevelt has just announced. The attack also was made on all naval and military activities on the principal island of Oahu.” Like today’s social media storms but without the instantaneous feedback, the news of the attack spread throughout the country and fired a righteous anger towards the Japanese and their treachery.
“A date which will live in infamy” was a comment made by President Roosevelt in his speech to Congress on December 8th requesting a declaration of war against Japan. That comment galvanized the American people and many young men rushed to enlist in the Navy and Marines to revenge the attack. For almost four years, the American people worked together to bring an end to the tyrannical totalitarian regimes of Japan and Germany. The years 1941 through 1945 were not always filled with successful outcomes. There were many opportunities for failure but, the unity of the American people behind President Roosevelt helped the country overcome many setbacks and lead to the victorious outcome after those dark and bleak days immediately following the attack on December 7, 1941.
In the seventy-five years since the attack, Americans have forgotten the unity it took to overcome its enemies and have become more complacent and less willing to join with their neighbors and friends to overcome common trials. During the Great Depression which preceded the US entry into World War II, people willingly helped their fellow man and gave of their time and talents to help communities grow and thrive even while their personal situations were less than ideal and could be fraught with economic crises.
My goal in my visit to Pearl Harbor during the 75th Commemoration of the Attack will be to connect with those men and women of the “Greatest Generation” and find out what I can do to help lead the way in my community to start conversations and build unity. During my visit, I want to soak in the scene of the harbor on the sleepy Sunday morning and stand in the places where young men met the enemy for the first time. I am sure it will be a moving experience which will leave me longing for days long past when Americans were unified and pulled together to overcome any obstacle put before them.