Diagram for a 1944 North American SNJ-5B, a vintage World War II-era airplane
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Diagram for a 1944 North American SNJ-5B, a vintage World War II-era airplane

BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D.  This article is going to honor and remember all who made the ultimate sacrifice 72 years ago today, on December 7th 1941 at Pearl Harbor.


This column is not meant to editorialize; however, I am going to make a exception today. In a few days President Obama will be travelling to South Africa in Air Force One to attend and pay respects to Nelson Mandela.   Of course he will be accompanied by scores of minders who keep him safe in his bubble.  My guess is the exercise will cost multiple millions of dollars.  It is the right thing to do, Mandela deserves the respect of all of us and I am happy that Obama is going to represent all Americans.

What does trouble me is today, December 7th 2013 our Pearl Harbor heroes could not be honored with the traditional missing man fly over.  Evidently the government could not come up with funds to pay for the fly over by the Hawaiian Air National Guard.  Ironically, the Air National Guard were flying today on a training exercise.  One wonders why a portion of that exercise could not have been used to honor our Pearl Harbor heroes.

Our politicians, from all parties should be ashamed of themselves.  I thought the most recent Government shutdown was the ultimate in disrespect towards the people they represent. However, it seems they can stoop even lower.

Please be mindful when the elections come, and when you get badgered almost daily to contribute to their war chest, they don’t deserve our support.  Also remember these politicians only get by with this because we, the people they are meant to serve, allow it.  If we want change we have a responsibility to do what we can to bring about change.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941 (December 8 in Japan). The attack led to the United States’ entry into World War II.

The attack was intended as a preventive action in order to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States. There were simultaneous Japanese attacks on the U.S.-held Philippines and on the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

From the standpoint of the defenders, the attack commenced at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time.  The base was attacked by 353 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers. All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four being sunk. All but one was later raised, and six of the eight battleships returned to service and fought in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,402 Americans were killed and 1,282 wounded. Important base installations such as the power station, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section) were not attacked. Japanese losses were light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 65 servicemen killed or wounded. One Japanese sailor was captured.

The attack came as a profound shock to the American people and led directly to the American entry into World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters. The following day (December 8), the United States declared war on Japan. Domestic support for non-interventionism, which had been strong, disappeared. Clandestine support of Britain (for example the Neutrality Patrol) was replaced by active alliance. Subsequent operations by the U.S. prompted Germany and Italy to declare war on the U.S. on December 11, which was reciprocated by the U.S. the same day.

There were numerous historical precedents for unannounced military action by Japan. However, the lack of any formal warning, particularly while negotiations were still apparently ongoing, led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to proclaim December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy“.

Of the tens of thousands of servicemen who survived, about 2,000 to 2,500 are still living.

Delton Walling, who was assigned to the USS Pennsylvania at the time of the attack, said they’re “in the twilight years.”

“I come back to be with my comrades — meet the ones who are still alive, and we’re going fast,” said Walling, was assigned to the USS Pennsylvania at the time of the attack. He is now 92 and lives near Sacramento, California.

The crowd observed a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the minute the bombing began 72 years ago. Attendees sat in a grassy spot overlooking the memorial to the USS Arizona battleship that sank in the attack.

A vintage World War II-era airplane — a 1944 North American SNJ-5B — flew overhead to break the silence. The Hawaii Air National Guard has used its fighter jets and helicopters to perform the flyover for many years, but federal budget cuts and our politicians who would not take a stand and ensure our Veterans received the honor and respect they deserve prevented them from participating this year.

About 2,500 gathered at Pearl Harbor on today to remember those killed in the 1941 Japanese attack that launched the U.S. into World War II.

About 50 survivors returned to Pearl Harbor for the ceremony.

The Navy and National Park Service co-hosted the ceremony, which was open to the public. Their theme for the event, “Sound the Alarm,” explores how Americans answered a call to duty in the wake of the attack.

Fifteen men received Medals of Honor for their heroic actions at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  Only five of those men survived their moment of heroism, one of them dying in action 11 months later. 


The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.