Dec. 7, 1941 and Pearl Harbor: A date that still lives in infamy

Japan's surprise attack on December 7th, 1941 changed America's place in the world forever. Photo: Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor changed America forever. (U.S. Navy historical photo)

HONOLULU, December 7, 2013 — Seventy-two years may have passed since the Imperial Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, but the historical shockwaves of the bombs dropped on that Day of Infamy continue to be felt and remembered in Hawaii.

Present-day Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam facilities still have concrete buildings pockmarked by strafing runs of Japanese attack planes, and the wreckage of the U.S.S. Arizona continues to leak fuel from her bunker tanks, a phenomena which some superstitious survivors believe will stop once the last Pearl Harbor survivor passes away. Partially submerged off Ford Island, the twisted remains of the battleship U.S.S. Utah can still be seen jutting above the waves, quietly resting where she sank.

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Occassionally, storms and the shifting of sediment on the ocean floor expose sunken Japanese aircraft parts, misfired torpedoes and more. These and other WWII artifacts make Hawaii a treasure trove for locals and historians to see first-hand the enduring legacy of the world’s most devastating war.

Today, thousands of people are expected to gather in solemn commemoration at the Arizona Memorial and other historic battlefield sites across Hawaii. Of the 2,389 killed on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, some 48 were local civilians who perished when stray weapons fire fell on Honolulu and other surrounding areas.

“[It’s] a time reflect on those who lost their lives, and a turning point for America and history as know it,” says Hawaii resident Susan Roberts.

Honolulu resident Lauren Easley says, “To me, Dec. 7th is a time when I can reflect on instinctual heroism, tragedy and triumph, and to also remember that gumption and morality are weapons best served straight up.”

SEE RELATED: Pearl Harbor: ‘This is a day that will live in infamy’

Japan’s attack on the Hawaiian Islands not only changed Hawaii’s perception of its place as an American territory, but likewise transformed the United States’ military and foreign policy outlook for the rest of the twentieth century, catapulting a once reluctant nation to global superpower.

Dr. Edward Luttwak, senior associate at the Center for Strategic & International Studies and author of The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy, says that the attack would affect American planning well beyond WWII’s conclusion and into the nuclear age of the Cold War.

Across Hawaii, thousands will gather at the Arizona Memorial and other historic sites to remember December 7th. (Photo by Danny de Gracia/TWTC)

“The failure to deter the Pearl Harbor attack became the starting point of U.S. military strategy in dealing with the Soviet Union: a deterrent that is itself vulnerable, provokes attack, does not deter it. Out of this came the ‘second strike’ doctrine,” Luttwak said in an exclusive to the Communities.

The lessons of Pearl Harbor are also not forgotten or ignored by today’s generation of younger persons. Jamie Story Kohlmann, wife of a naval aviator, says “The legacy of the attacks on Pearl Harbor have touched America in ways that will continue for many generations beyond that Day of Infamy. I and many others especially appreciate the sacrifice our men and women render to the nation.”

Pearl Harbor, as it appears today from the Arizona Memorial. The partially submerged U.S.S. Arizona is still leaking fuel into the harbor, 72 years later. (Photo by Danny de Gracia/TWTC)

Dr. Stephen Swisher, a senior pastor at Centerville United Methodist Church in Dayton, Ohio whose ministry regularly brings him to Hawaii believes that Pearl Harbor should inspire Americans to remain vigilant and courageous in the face of evil.

“President Grover Cleveland, who served our nation over thirty years prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, said the United States is not a nation where peace is a necessity,” says Swisher. “He was stating clearly that our nation is strong, proud and invincible without the desire or need to accommodate evil just to preserve an uneasy peace.”

Visitors from all around the world including WWII survivors of both sides, heads of state and Hawaii locals often lay wreaths and flowers at the Arizona Memorial. (Photo by Danny de Gracia/TWTC)

“When our country was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the empire of Japan, the women and men in Hawaii and across America sprang into action. It was just four short months later that Colonel Doolittle and his [team] conducted an air raid on Japan’s capital city and other locations showing the Japanese their homeland was vulnerable. I am incredibly proud of our intrepid ancestors who demonstrated peace through strength is vital to democracy. My prayers are with all the survivors of Pearl Harbor and those they love.”


We salute all of the men and women of the U.S. armed forces who have served in uniform for their courage in defending America and their sacrifices for freedom, worldwide. For historical archives on the Dec. 7th attacks and information about visiting WWII military sites in Hawaii, visit the official U.S. Navy History website as well as the National Park Service’s Valor In The Pacific website.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Danny de Gracia

Dr. Danny de Gracia is a political scientist and a former senior adviser to the Human Services and International Affairs committees at the Hawaii State Legislature. From 2011-2013 he served as an elected municipal board member in Waipahu. As an expert in international relations theory, military policy, political psychology and economics, Danny has advised numerous policymakers and elected officials and his opinions have been featured worldwide. Now working on his first novel, Danny resides on the island of Oahu.

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