Perhaps it’s fitting that the Vice President is winding up a tour of Asian nations as this day arrives. The media is still obsessed with celebrity activities and I don’t see much recognition of this very dark anniversary, but it is certainly worth our time to remember the words of FDR some 24 hours after the events of a very bad day 72 years ago today.
Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our secretary of state a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.
It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
Oddly enough, this subject came up while eating with family members over the Thanksgiving break. One objection (of sorts) was raised, noting that at least such things are no longer likely to happen and we couldn’t be taken by surprise that way today. It’s true that radar capabilities were very limited in 1941 and it’s highly unlikely that an entire naval armada could be moved within striking distance of any US property without our seeing it in the modern era. But since a reminder seems to be needed, it’s worth remembering the words of another President nearly sixty years after FDR’s speech.
I want you all to know that America today, America today is on bended knee, in prayer for the people whose lives were lost here, for the workers who work here, for the families who mourn. The nation stands with the good people of New York City and New Jersey and Connecticut as we mourn the loss of thousands of our citizens.
I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people — and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!
The nation — The nation sends its love and compassion to everybody who is here. Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for makin’ the nation proud, and may God bless America.
There are parallels between 1941 and today, even if they aren’t glaringly obvious. We still live in an age when older “empires” are less involved in global affairs than they once were and others who were previously weak – or at least inert – are in their ascendency. Not every obnoxious action by a foreign power is a casus belli, but that doesn’t change the fact that America needs to remain perpetually vigilant. Whether it’s North Korea’s constant saber rattling and provocations, Iran’s hollow sounding promises or China’s growing sea power capabilities and expanded air control zone, the world is never truly at peace. We were supposed to learn from those speeches I referenced above. And for what it’s worth, there are those who still remember Pearl Harbor and what we need to recall from that day.
For Lauren Bruner, remembrances of the attack on Pearl Harbor were burned onto his very body.
Now 93, Bruner was a 21-year-old fire controlman petty officer aboard the USS Arizona the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, killing 2,402 people.
Bruner was gravely injured in the bombing, receiving burns to more than 70 percent of his body.
He was in Tucson this week to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the attack and to speak with groups of University of Arizona students and veterans. Bruner also viewed the collected USS Arizona memorabilia held at the UA Library’s special collections.
He is one of a handful of surviving crewmen from aboard the ship that day, and still makes trips to the annual reunion events.
Thank you, Petty Officer Bruner. Salute.