Remembering December 7, 1941.

12月7日

A letter I received via email from the office of Senator Daniel Inouye on the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

 

Dear Friends,

Seventy years ago today I was preparing to go to church.

December 7, 1941 was a Sunday.

I was putting on my neck tie and listening to Hawaiian music in my bedroom in my parent’s home in Moilili when the disc jockey broke in and started screaming.

“The Japanese are bombing Pearl Harbor! The Japanese are bombing Pearl Harbor!”

At first I thought this was another replay of Orson Wells.  But he kept screaming and yelling.

I went and got my father and said ‘let’s go outside.’

We walked into the front yard and out into the street and turned to look in the direction of Pearl Harbor.

That’s when we saw the black puffs of smoke bursting against a blue sky.  It was anti-aircraft fire from the ships anchored in the harbor.

Then we heard a deep rumble from above and looked up to see three aircraft fly right over our house.  They were pearl grey with bright red dots painted beneath each wing.

I knew what was happening.  And I thought my world had just come to an end.

Nearly 2,400 American sailors, soldiers and civilians died that morning.

I was a medical aid man and for the next several days I barely slept.  We rushed to aid the wounded and collected the dead.

Lunalilo Elementary School was a makeshift aid station and morgue. I remember the tables covered in white cloth where we stacked the bodies.

In the aftermath of the attack I quickly became familiar with the horrific cost of war.

We have an extraordinary Constitution, we have extraordinary sets of laws, but throughout the history of mankind, war has provided leaders the justification to set aside those laws.

Soon after December 7, about Christmas time, the government of the United States gave all Japanese the designation “4-C” or “enemy alien.”  Thousands of Japanese, citizens and immigrants, were rounded up and sent to internment camps.

Part of the justification for the internment was their classification as enemy aliens.

Eager to prove our loyalty to our country, and willing to die to do it, many of us petitioned the government to allow us to fight.

We had an extra burden because it wasn’t just about serving our nation in uniform, it was about proving our loyalty.

The 100th Battalion, 442 Regimental Combat Team, two infantry units consisting of Japanese American enlisted men, would go on to become the most decorated unit of its size in the history of the American military.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor signaled the start of World War II and began a period of my life when I fought and bled alongside thousands of my brave brothers who served in Europe.

My experiences on the morning of December 7 and the fighting we did in France and Italy changed my life forever.

Fifty years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a national survey of high school seniors was conducted and the students were asked a simple question.

“What is the significance of the date, December 7, 1941?”

Sadly, less than half of the respondents were able to link the date to that infamous Sunday morning.

As we continue to lose members of the Greatest Generation, those who witnessed the attack, lived through the War, and saw the world change, we must remember the events of December 7.

If December 7 can teach us anything, it should be that we must remain ever vigilant but we must also do our best to avoid the horrors of war.

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