Pearl Harbor: a day that will live in

By AnnMarie Chacko
December 8, 2005

Many people think Sept. 11 was a day that America underwent a personal attack that shocked the world. However, before this tragedy ever occurred, another one just as horrible happened. On Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese airplanes.

Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt named the day “a day that will live in infamy.” The first hit was at 7:53 a.m., the second at 8:55 a.m. By 10 a.m., five of eight battleships were sunk, and over 2,400 Americans were dead.

The surprise attack was the turning point in U.S.-Japanese relations that had been touchy for more than a decade. It was the final straw that persuaded former President Roosevelt to enter the war that most of the world was already taking part in.

People were scared and confused. Most were wondering what could have pushed the Japanese to attack in such a way. Others, after giving it much thought, considered that there were clear warning signs. Dr. James Hedtke, a history and political science professor, said, “The attack wasn’t like a bolt out of the blue.”

During the time of World War II, Japan was in expansionist mode. They wanted to take over China, and America was very friendly with China. The U.S. had an embargo on Japanese oil. Japan had begun to rely on America to provide the natural resources. The Japanese looked for an alternate provider and found one in the Dutch East Indies, what is now known as Indonesia. American fleets harbored in Hawaii stood in the way of Japan’s plan to get the oil they so desperately needed. The new plan was to destroy the Pacific fleet in Hawaii to get a clear route to Indonesia while crushing American morale as well.

Dr. Jolyon Girard, a history professor, said, “It was a brilliant tactical success, but strategically it was disastrous.”

Our fleet was in Hawaii, which wasn’t even a state yet. It was a Sunday morning. Our men in uniform were still sleeping. Our President was working on his stamp collection. We had absolutely no idea. Or did we? There has been speculation for some years now that it was known Japan would attack.

Winston Churchill, prime minister of England at the time, was a good friend of FDR. He wanted the U.S. to help England win the war. America had the capacity to produce ammunition and tanks, and according to Churchill, the war could not have been won without America becoming involved. In fact, after the bombing, companies that originally manufactured cars and other machinery started to make the very tanks and ammo needed. Japan had started something they clearly did not think out completely. America was going to fight back.

President Roosevelt declared war on Japan following the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Americans fully supported this war after getting over the initial shock of the sneak attack. “There was a rush to enlist. My brother, in the middle of his senior year, came home and told us he had enlisted in the Navy. I thought my mother would kill him,” Sr. Mary Louise Sullivan, adjunct history professor, said. There was a united home front; everyone worked together to win this war. Hedtke agreed by saying, “My grandmother wanted her sons to prove they were American. So they enlisted at 16.”

War bonds became the norm, where money would be deducted from peoples’ paychecks to help pay for the war expenses. People had to live on rations and use ration books to help pay for food and other items. “My parents lived on rationing for food, gasoline and nylons,” Hedtke said. Victory gardens were planted all around where you would grow your own vegetables. Blackouts happened frequently where you would pull down black shades and all your lights would be turned off, so if the enemy tried to bomb your city, they couldn’t find it. After the drills were over, wardens knocked on doors stating it was all clear. Signs of red, white and blue were hung on windows with little blue starts in the middle. This meant you had someone fighting in the war and if it turned gold, they were dead.

Pearl Harbor was a major moment in America’s history. Lives were lost, but morale and devotion were not. When needed, everyone came together and proved to be united and strong- willed.

Loquitur welcomes your comments on this story. Please send your comments to: The editors will review your points each week and make corrections if warranted.

Posted to the web by Matt Schill

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AnnMarie Chacko

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