December 7, 1941, “a day that will live in infamy”, as described by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, before a joint session of Congress, in reaction to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
It’s hard to believe that 75 years have passed since that fateful day that catapulted America into war with Japan. Only a few days later, Hitler would declare war on the U.S. and the nation would find itself waging total war on two fronts. Nearly half of those killed on Dec. 7 were sailors aboard the USS Arizona, hit by a Japanese bomb, which caused an explosion in a forward magazine that extinguished the lives of 1,177 of the Arizona’s 1,400 crewmen. By coincidence, a film crew had a camera trained on the Arizona at the moment it was destroyed.
One of the never ending theories about the attack on Pearl Harbor is that President Roosevelt knew of the impending attack and allowed it to happen. I am unsure of this, although I don’t think it is out of the realm of possibility. What I know to be true is that Roosevelt and his cabinet categorically rejected attempts by the Japanese to negotiate to avert war. Roosevelt knew that his actions would lead to a Japanese attack, and though he may not have known it to be directed at Pearl Harbor, he knew that the only way to lead reluctant American citizens to war, would be to force Japan to act. He did this by delivering an ultimatum to Japan that would never be accepted. (For a thorough discussion of this fact read here.)
Whatever the merits or folly of this decision, it was left to American soldiers to deal with the consequences. Today is another good day to honor their memories, especially those that never made it out of Pearl Harbor.
Here is an article on one of the last survivors of the Arizona and how he finally opened up about his traumatic memories after seventy years and another article on three enduring mysteries of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Updated: December 7, 2016