Today marks the 77th anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that catapulted the United States into the greatest war this planet has ever seen. Some 2,335 military personnel lost their lives as the Japanese attacked, with an additional 68 civilians, making the final tally 2,403 Americans dead once the fighting finally stopped.
The Japanese believed at the time that such a devastating attack could neuter America’s ability to help turn the tides of the war before they even started. They were woefully wrong.
A few years ago, the U.S. Navy produced a series of images that do more than show us a juxtaposition of the tragedy of that fateful day against the beautiful scenery of modern Hawaii; it serves as reminder of a not too distant past when the fate of the world landed in the hands of a sometimes loose alliance — and the brave men and women tasked with both taking lives and saving them. In a war as brutal as World War II, sometimes accomplishing the latter meant excelling at the former.
Today, we honor the memory of the lives lost at Pearl Harbor on that date that truly will live in infamy. Today we remember those warriors that sprang into action, fighting back against seemingly insurmountable odds. The American spirit isn’t about overwhelming victory: it’s about fighting for your brothers, even when that victory is far from assured. Pearl Harbor was a terrible tragedy, but through that tragedy came opportunity: an opportunity for America to show the world what it was made of.
Defenders on Ford Island watch for planes during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan)
The battleship USS California (BB 44) burns in the foreground as the battleship USS Arizona (BB 39) burns in the background after the initial attack on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan)
The Mahan-class destroyer USS Shaw (DD 373) explodes in the background after the attack on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan)