Reflections on Pearl Harbor

Cpl. Harold Holdaas is shown in this photo at Pearl Harbor. He survived the Dec. 7, 1941, attack at Pearl Harbor. Submitted Photo

As most of us know, the Japanese succeeded in a surprise attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor at approximately 7:50 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941. The attack struck a critical blow to our Pacific Naval Fleet, destroying and severely damaging many of our ships and aircraft, and leaving approximately 2,400 men dead and 1,200 wounded.

We know that the next day President Roosevelt addressed Congress to approve a Declaration of War against the empire of Japan. His speech bega.n with his now famous quote: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy.” The Senate’s vote was unanimous, the House 388 to 1. Three days later Germany and Italy declared war against us, and our government responded in kind.

In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt named Admiral Chester Nimitz to commander of the Pacific Fleet, and Admiral Nimitz was just what our nation needed. In the midst of a spirit of despair and defeat, Admiral Nimitz saw the positives. He stated, “The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?” The mistakes he saw were:

1) They attacked early Sunday morning when the majority of the crewmen were still ashore on leave. Had their ships been lured to sea, the loss of sailors would have been at least 10 times greater.

2) With all the battleships lined up in a row, the Japanese focused on destroying all of them and never bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. Destroying our dry docks would have forced the Navy to tow every ship to America for repairs. Instead the Navy was able to raise, repair, and man the ships for battle in the time it would have taken just to tow the ships to America.

3) The Japanese failed to destroy the ground storage tanks for fuel that were just five miles away. Those tanks stored all the fuel in the Pacific Theater of the war. Without that fuel, there would have been no fuel supply for all our troops in the Pacific.

Admiral Nimitz’s positive spirit carried through to our nation; men and boys, as young as 14 years of age answered the “call to arms” to defend their country. Bottineau Army Veteran Harold Holdaas was one of those young men, he was walking guard duty on the Oahu Beach at the time of the attack. He remembered rescuing a frightened child that was on the beach, getting her to a safe place. Harold, a corporal in the Army, was one of the lucky ones, one of the Pearl Harbor survivors. (Harold died in 2005.)

Reflecting on Admiral Nimitz’s words, which do you think it was? God Bless our veterans and our present armed forces personnel who put their lives on the line to protect us…..“In God We Trust!”

Lois A. Schaefer, Bottineau, State Americanism Chairman

VFW Auxiliary Department of North Dakota