Today marks the 76th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor that would propel the United States into the largest conflict ever seen on the face of the planet. On this date in 1941, a surprise attack carried out by the Japanese on American naval assets in Hawaii led to the death of over 2,000 American service members and the loss or damage of hundreds of American ships and aircraft.
Despite the overwhelming tragedy of the day, the memory of Pearl Harbor lives on in our collective recollection of the strength and heroism exhibited by the American men and women who faced sudden and seemingly insurmountable odds. A combination of training, quick thinking, and a fair amount of luck carried survivors of the attack through to the other side, but now, so many years later, the remaining survivors of that attack are being claimed by another looming opponent on the horizon, the passage of time.
Fortunately, some of these incredible men and women have chosen to share their stories with the world in videos and interviews, so their tales of survival and sacrifice can live on to inspire and inform Americans of each generation, even long after the veterans of their massive conflict, and indeed the conflicts that were to follow, have all passed on.
Floyd Welch, who was a 19-year-old electrician in the U.S. Navy stationed aboard the USS Maryland during the Peal Harbor attack, is just such a man. Welch was, by his own account, fortunate that day. The damage to his vessel was minimal compared to some others, and although he lost four friends in the attack, he recognizes that it could have been much worse.
In this short video, Welch tells the story of trying to save sailors trapped inside the capsized USS Oklahoma:
Of course, men weren’t the only people who were caught in the onslaught of the Japanese attack. Young women serving as military nurses also found themselves in the fray, working tirelessly to save the lives of the injured as they too fought to stay alive. In the brief video below, you can learn the stories of two such incredible women.
Image courtesy of the Department of Defense