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Remember Pearl Harbor!

Yesterday marked the eighty-second anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and today marks the anniversary of the United States' declaration of war against Japan on the following day. As President Roosevelt described it in his request for the declaration, it was a "day that shall live in infamy."

Despite authorities at high levels having received clear and early indications of Japan's intentions to attack the United States, the military servicemen at Pearl Harbor were caught flatfooted, totally by surprise. It was at the time the worst military disaster in American history.

But the Japanese had been planning the attack for quite some time. Conceived by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto and planned by Captain Minoru Genda, the attack occurred in two waves. The first wave hit "Battleship Row" in the harbor at 7:55 a.m. Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the leader of the first wave, radioed to his pilots and the fleet from which the planes had departed the coded signal to begin the attack: "Tora! Tora! Tora!" ("Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!")

The Japanese attack was no mere raid; it was a well-planned, all-out attack designed to destroy U.S. military might in the Pacific, freeing Japan to pursue its conquest of the entire Pacific realm. The attack force consisted of 353 aircraft from four large carriers, two battleships, two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, 11 destroyers, 35 submarines, and nine oilers. Of that machinery, the Japanese lost only 29 airplanes and five midget submarines.

In their wake, the attackers left 2,403 Americans, including 68 civilians, dead and 1,178 wounded; two battleships and one auxiliary vessel sunk; six battleships, three cruisers, three destroyers, and four auxiliary vessels damaged; and 169 airplanes destroyed and 159 aircraft damaged. Providentially, the three U.S. aircraft carriers were spared by their being at sea on maneuvers rather than in the harbor at the time of the attack.

Having learned of the results of his attack, Yamamoto worried that Japan had only awakened a sleeping giant, and his thoughts proved true in the long run. Although down, America was not out. Outraged Americans enlisted in the various service branches in large numbers, and factories cranked up their industrial might. They produced war materiel in quantities never seen before in an effort to turn the tide and win the war in less than four years, despite having to fight the war in both the eastern and the western hemispheres.

A little more than four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Jimmy Doolittle led 16 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers in the first U.S. bombing raid over Tokyo. It was just a token of the punishment to come for Japan. Six months after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy decimated the Japanese naval forces in the Battle of Midway. In subsequent months, U.S. Marines and Army forces hopped from one Japanese island stronghold to another, getting closer to the Japanese homeland with every hard-won victory. The Army Air Force then unleashed a massive bombing campaign against the major cities of Japan, including devastating fire-bombings. And then came the war-ending dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

By that time, Yamamoto, aerchitect of the Pearl Harbor attack, was dead, the plane in which he was flying having been shot down over the Pacific by American pilots flying twin-tailed P-38 Lightning fighter planes. Of the ships that had been part of the Japanese fleet that had attacked Pear Harbor, only one, the Ushio, survived the war; it was surrendered to U.S. forces at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan.

The Japanese attack did indeed awaken a sleeping giant. On this date, however, we should remember not only the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor but also the tragic consequences of being unprepared and caught by surprise. Not unlike the Jews' response to the Holocaust, Americans of World War II pledged never to forget the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Sadly, however, we were again caught by surprise on September 11, 2001, when a much less sophisticated attack was launched against the United States civilian population by a much more ominous enemy. A handful of terrorists hijacked civilian airliners and crashed them into the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington and would have destroyed another target with a third plane if n0t for the brave, self-sacrificing actions of a few passengers, which caused the weaponized transportati0n to crash into the ground in rural Pennsylvania.

As we recall the attack on Pearl Harebor, let us honor those brave and unsuspecting people who died that day. But let us also recognize the dangers inherent in a failure to be prepared and eternally vigilant. Although America is the envy of the world, we must realize that not everyone in the world desires our success. We have enemies who would rather have us dead and our great country consigned to the ash heap of history. Let's vow, "Never again!" and stay vigilant and prepared.

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