Editorial: Remember day of infamy

At

7:55 a.m. Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese bomber and fighter aircraft swooped

down on the U.S. Navy ships, Air Force and Army bases

in their infamous sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The toll

was more than 2,400 Americans killed and 1,100 wounded. The

Navy lost four battleships sunk and four damaged, as well has many

other ships, aircraft and army facilities destroyed or

damaged.

On this day, the 72nd anniversary

of the event, we observe National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. It is a

day to remember

the dead from that attack, as well as honor the Pearl Harbor

survivors who have died since then and those who are still with

us.

It is also a day to remember the high price that is paid when we let down our guard as a nation, and a day to renew commitment

to vigilance and preparation.

Herb Weatherwax, 96, one of the few Pearl Harbor survivors, was recently interviewed by The Associated Press in Honolulu and

his words of wisdom are reflective of his generation.

He volunteers at a memorial for the USS Arizona, a battleship that sank in the 1941 Japanese attack. The retired electrician

is one of four former servicemen who lived through the aerial bombing and now greet people at the historic site.

People like hearing stories directly from the survivors, Weatherwax says.

“This is my reason to continue to keep going,” he says. “Otherwise, it’s time for me to say goodbye.”

Weatherwax was a 24-year-old Army

private living in Honolulu when he heard loud explosions the morning of

Dec. 7, 1941. He

saw the sky fill with black smoke and heard anti-aircraft guns

firing. When he turned on the radio, he learned Japan was bombing

Oahu and all military personnel were to immediately report to

their stations.

He saw the USS Arizona enveloped in

flames and the USS Oklahoma turned on its side as he headed to his

post. Twenty-one ships

were sunk or heavily damaged that day while 320 aircraft were

damaged or destroyed. Some 2,400 sailors, Marines and soldiers

were killed.

At their peak in the early 1990s, 21 survivors volunteered, says National Park Service historian Daniel Martinez.

Meeting a survivor enlarges or enhances the experience of coming to Pearl Harbor for many, Martinez says. It can give people

a tangible connection to meet someone who was on site when the bombing happened.

Their numbers are dwindling, however.

The three others who remain are also in their 90s. During the week, Weatherwax is joined by Sterling Cale, who was a hospital

corpsman assigned to the shipyard dispensary in 1941, and Alfred Rodrigues who was stationed at the mouth of Pearl Harbor.

On the weekend, USS Pennsylvania survivor Everett Hyland greets visitors.

The world is still a dangerous place, and if history is any guide, it always will be. The ultimate lesson of Pearl Harbor

is “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

Remember Pearl Harbor today and its important lessons.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.