It has been 75 years since more than 2,000 sailors learned that sometimes late is truly better than never.
On December 6, 1941, the weather around Honolulu, Hawaii, was clear and characteristically warm. But miles out at sea, wind and waves made travel difficult.
After a stop on Wake Island, about halfway between the Philippines and Hawaii, the U.S.S. Enterprise headed for Pearl Harbor. Rough seas slowed her down so she was still at sea when reports began to come in that Japanese forces had begun an attack on the U.S. Naval base in Honolulu.
On the island, Japanese forces struck. Military personnel were called to their posts. Screaming and panicking civilians were told to remain calm even though bombs were falling in the harbor and gas masks were being distributed to residents.
One resident even recalled seeing military trucks full of dead people a few hours after the attack which had been planned for more than a year and achieved a successful hit rate of 80 percent. More than 2,400 were dead after the torpedoes and bombs stopped causing destruction.
The Nazis cheered the Japanese success and immediately saw it as a sign that they would surely win the conflict.
America had just been drawn into World War II.
When he addressed the country the next day, President Franklin Roosevelt told the world Americans would never forget this attack.
“Yesterday, Dec. 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,” FDR told a frightened yet emboldened nation.
Roosevelt went on to decry the deceit with which Japanese diplomats had operated in helping their country pull off a devastating attack.
“No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory,” the President said. “Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.”
Those hostilities continued for years. Thousands of lives were lost from every side of the conflict. Two devastating nuclear weapons were used against the country that pulled the United States into the conflict.
Fittingly, the ultimate surrender by the Japanese forces came aboard an American battleship four years after the surprise attack.
The impact of those bombs falling in Pearl Harbor is still felt in global politics 75 years later.
America’s greatest generation was spawned from the moments of that first attack and developed throughout the years of war and its aftermath.
On Wednesday, this country reflected on the events that shook our foundation 75 years ago. We will remember those whose lives were lost that day and in the days and years to come.
We will honor their sacrifice and be encouraged to sacrifice again for our great nation that was preserved by the actions in the days after that horrible attack.
Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.