HONOLULU, December 5, 2014 — Seventy-three 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.
Occasionally, 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.
This Sunday, 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.”
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.