A few days ago I decided to write a few words about Pearl Harbor Day. Here is the best I could do. The statisticians who know how to figure these things tell us that in six short years they will all be gone -- those men and women who served as part of the Pearl Harbor generation. There will be an occasional holdout here and there, a curiosity nodding off his last days in a wheelchair in some nursing home. Some people just never seem to get the word, but we will only see them once a year for a while, and soon they too will be gone too.
But it was something to behold, the America of late 1941 and the months of war that followed. You should have been there. It was truly a privilege to witness. We remember the career soldiers and the National Guard training for war with hoe handles and broomsticks, and the spiffy ROTC candidates in colleges, the men in the CCC camps across this nation, the unemployed peddling nickel apples on the streets of Chicago and New York, the anxious mothers and fathers, the bankrupt, drought-plagued farmers, the young girls who became women as shipyard welders and aircraft riveters, the grocer, the gas station attendant, the postman, the children flocking to the farms at harvest, the crowded recruiting offices -- they were all a part of it, for it was Dec. 7, 1941, and Pearl Harbor had been attacked by Japanese warplanes and all of America was at war.
Why should we remember Pearl Harbor Day? Yes, it was a dreadful, terrible day in our history, but like a bright sun peeking through the ominous storm clouds of a dreary winter's day it was a time of magic too. We launched 10,000 new ships, delivered 100,000 new planes. We hammered out guns and cannons and artillery and boots and uniforms and medical supplies by the tons. Three thousand men died at Pearl Harbor that day, and because of that, 20 million men and women would serve, 300,000 would die while 100 million other Americans would serve by working, waiting, watching and praying.
We remember Pearl Harbor today because soon they will be gone and then this day, "Pearl Harbor," will be but a two word notation on someone's desk icon.