To many Americans “Remember Pearl Harbor” is ancient history. Probably one in 25 Americans today knows what happened at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that day changed the lives of most Americans as the attack plunged this country into World War II.
When word of the attack reached America, the majority of people didn’t know where Pearl Harbor was, and knew little about the Japanese. Although the attack caused major damage to our fleet in the Pacific area, many Americans thought we would defeat the Japanese in short order. That didn’t happen. It was in August 1945 before the Japanese surrendered.
This country was headed toward a war with the Axis forces in Europe, mainly Germany, so after Congress declared war on Japan Dec. 8, 1941, and after Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. Dec. 11, 1941, Congress issued a declaration of war against Germany and Italy that same day.
“Remember Pearl Harbor” was the battle cry, especially on the home front. The entire nation was mobilized for the war — to an extent never seen before in this country. The war effort reached into youthful lives, women did their part and the men (and some women) entered military service, to be gone up to four or five years. The draft of men began in 1940 and for most duty lasted for the duration of the war. Women left their homes to work in defense plants. That was the beginning of women entering the workplace in large numbers. Young men graduated from high school, entered military service shortly thereafter and many were in combat four or five months later.
There was rationing of many food items, gasoline, and no new cars were built during the war years. Civil Defense reached new heights. There were “blackouts” for air raid drills early on after we entered the war. There was fear this country would be invaded and especially that we would be bombed. Most of the construction was for the war effort. Many events were canceled during the war and life was anything but normal. But Americans persevered on the war fronts and at home.
This Friday will be the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. There aren’t many survivors left who were at Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, and our World War II veterans are leaving us at a high rate every day of the year.
World War II is becoming ancient history. It was the great war. It not only changed America forever, it did the same for the world. The sacrifices that were made by all Americans reached a new height. That war touched all Americans. The all-out effort, the sacrifices made, our victory not only preserved our freedoms but the country was united to become the greatest force on earth. As one of the high-ranking Japanese officers said about the attack on Pearl Harbor, “We have awakened a sleeping giant.”