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Pearl Harbor Day

Pearl Harbor Day

Image result for pearl harborIt's Pearl Harbor Day.  Seventy-five years ago today, at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appeared out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II. The next day, President Roosevelt called it, “…a date which will live in infamy.” 


From the Boston Globe, 12/7/16, available here.

                When Robert Greenleaf closes his eyes, he still sees the red circles painted on the wings of Japanese warplanes headed toward nearby Pearl Harbor. He was 19 then, a gunner’s mate third class in the Navy. Suddenly, he was at war, frantically loading Browning .50 caliber machine guns. 

                “When we saw the red meatballs on the wings,” he recalled, “we realized who they were.” Greenleaf, now 94, is among a dwindling number of veterans who were on the Hawaiian island of Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941, when a Japanese surprise attack killed more than 2,400 people, and propelled the United States into World War II. 

                Now, 75 years later, the impact of that day — ingrained in the psyche of earlier generations — is softened by the passing decades and the more recent tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. The front page of the Globe’s morning edition on Dec. 8, 1941, was dominated by coverage of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Greenleaf was promoted weeks before the attack, which claimed at least 1,177 lives when the USS Arizona sank.

                “I asked a girl one day at the high school track what she knew about Pearl Harbor,”Greenleaf recalled, “and the girl said, ‘Who is she?’” 

                The number of living veterans of the Pearl Harbor attack is not known, according to the Pentagon and Navy. But Lou Large, department president of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor survivors, said he had heard only 400 remain alive.  Greenleaf, who is house bound, does not plan to be there. Neither does George Hursey, a 96 year old Brockton man attached to the Army artillery on Oahu 75 years ago. 

              “We did what we trained for,” Hursey said. “It’s years and years and years ago. My God, 75 years.” As vivid as those memories are for Greenleaf and Hursey, that day is ancient history for nearly everyone else. 

Seventy-five years is a long time. My dad at 92 remembers. He wasn’t at Pearl Harbor, but he was alive and he remembers. Lots has changed in 75 years, but some things haven’t. I hope we all remember, on this day and every day, that we live in a country where we are free. Free to say just about anything that is on our minds. Free to make mistakes. Free to make a million dollars.  We must remember we owe our freedom to many, many people who sacrificed much.


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