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Never forget date that will live in infamy

December 7 is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. It was 79 years ago that Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor to destroy our Pacific Naval Fleet. Most people who were there or heard about it on the radio news that day are gone now. For them, we must never forget what happened on that day, the date President Roosevelt referred to as “a date that will live in infamy.”

Imagine, a quiet Sunday morning on the beautiful and peaceful island of Oahu. Sailors and ships at rest in the harbor, on-duty service personnel keeping their posts while others getting ready for church services or just enjoying some leisure time. Imagine, on that quiet Sunday morning the sky suddenly and unsuspectingly filled with 353 enemy torpedo, bomber, and fighter planes, attacking like a swarm of angry bees. Fighter planes diving and strafing everyone while the other planes dropped their torpedoes and bombs on ships, airplanes, and buildings. There were explosions and fires erupting like volcanoes spewing fireballs, with thick clouds of black smoke billowing everywhere. The ships’ dark, heavy oil on fire, burning ships and men like they were kindling, on board and in the water. Sailors lay wounded and dead on the streets, ships, and in the water. Doctors and nurses were frantically trying to save the lives of so many injured Navy, Army, and Marine personnel as well as civilians, there were just too many.

In one hour and 15 minutes, the Japanese destroyed 169 planes and three ships, and damaged 159 planes and 16 ships. Of the 2,403 men and women who died at Pearl Harbor, 68 were civilians and 1,177 were from the USS Arizona. Another 1,178 men and women were wounded. Imagine the terror and pain they felt. Imagine being trapped aboard the sinking Arizona, knowing your fate was to drown because there was no way out. What would you be thinking about as your lungs filled with water? Even those not injured would feel the pain of losing their friends and comrades.

My Uncle Harold Holdaas was a “Pearl Harbor Survivor,” a U.S. Army corporal stationed in Hawaii. Harold was walking guard duty on the beach that morning of the attack. He carried the physical and emotional scars of that day with him. The events, sights, and sounds of that day were forever etched into his memory, like a colorful and vivid horror movie that played back without warning or want.

On December 8 with nearly unanimous support of Congress, war was declared war on Japan. Later, on December 11th, Congress would also declare war on Germany and Italy in response to their declaration of war on the United States. Men and boys across America stepped forward to enlist to defend their country, eager to avenge the attack on Pearl Harbor. Our country was united in its support of our troops and each other, on the battlefield and the home front. This would be the beginning of many stories of courage, bravery, heroism, and patriotism. Freedom is not free!

Lest we never forget! This December 7th take time to reflect on Pearl Harbor, to remember and pay tribute not only to the wounded and those that perished; but to all who were there, that witnessed and never forgot this horrific attack. For a better understanding of what they saw and felt, watch the movie “Pearl Harbor,” it is based on a TRUE story. Rest in peace Uncle Harold.

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