Remembering 'a date which will live in infamy'

By Howell Dennis


Long before 9/11, the date that most Americans associated with an attack on our country was December 7, 1941 or as Franklin D. Roosevelt famously referred to it “a date which will live in infamy.”

It was on that date that the Japanese navy launched a surprise attack on our Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii which eventually resulted in the United States becoming militarily involved in World War II. The attack was intended to be a preventive one to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from influencing the war that Japan was about to wage in Southeast Asia against Britain, the Netherlands, and the U.S.. It did not have the result that the Japanese had intended.

The attack sank four U.S. Navy battleships (two of which were raised and returned to service late in the war) and damaged four more. 188 aircraft were destroyed as well. The human toll was catastrophic. 2,402 were killed and 1,282 were wounded.

President Roosevelt immediately declared war on Japan and joined the Allied Forces against Germany and Italy shortly afterward.

The aftermath of Pearl Harbor was unlike the Gulf Wars or Vietnam. Everyone it seemed wanted to be a part of the war effort from the men on the front lines to the women who worked in factories back at home. World War II was the last war in our nation’s history that had widespread popular support and young men lined up to sign up for the armed forces.

The Japanese, it seemed, vastly underestimated the resolve of the Americans, who eventually were the ones who got the Japanese to surrender after turning the tide in the Pacific Theatre and of course, dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In another famous quote after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto correctly predicted “I think we may have awakened a sleeping giant.”

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