Dec. 7, 1941. President Franklin D. Roosevelt called it, “A date which will live in infamy” – the attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago. As he would so many times, the president described with lasting eloquence what had happened early that morning, when Japanese threats came to deadly reality. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, there was genuine concern as to whether the United States of America would survive as a democracy. The attack was surprising, demoralizing.
Today, the more than 2,200 military personnel who died in the attack will be profoundly remembered, and the USS Arizona, which lies at the bottom of that harbor as a permanent memorial, will be visited. Later this month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will himself visit the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor with President Obama. He is the first Japanese leader to do so.
The Pearl Harbor attack, of course, launched the United States into World War II and changed the world forever. Germany and Japan were defeated, after a long and deadly struggle that decimated many countries in Europe and reordered the global power structure. The United States would thereafter dominate the world as the greatest military power.
Some 1,177 officers and crewmen of the Arizona died in the attack and it lies beneath the harbor’s waters today as a lasting, powerful monument. No American visits the site without being moved by it, and by memories of loved ones who died in the worldwide conflict, and those, some still with us, who bravely served.
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