Pearl Harbor Day--Your Grandpa's 9/11

  • Published
  • By Col. Ron Wilt
  • 934th Operations Group commander
Pearl Harbor Day was established to remember those who lost their lives on December 7, 1941. Hawaii was only a US territory at the time, and would not become a state until 1959. The attack was a tactical success for Japan and killed more than a thousand American Sailors. The reaction of the United States from the surprise attack in Hawaii was that of unity, much like our reaction to the attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.

In 1941, the United States was a country with a desire to remain isolated, not willing to intervene in world matters. It soon learned that there were responsibilities that are required as a major player in world political and economic arenas. Imperial Admiral Yamamoto cautioned his Japanese superiors not to attack the United States; and was quoted after the attack as saying, "We have awakened a sleeping giant ...." The Japanese Imperial Fleet did not just cripple the United States Pacific Fleet; it struck a blow to the spirit of America's Freedom. That was something that the people of the United States could not tolerate. America sent its sons and daughters to support the war machine. Does any of this sound familiar?

It happened about 60 years before 9/11; but it was as devastating to America as the falling of the Towers in 2001. Four years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, an unconditional surrender was signed by Japan on the USS Battleship Missouri which is still at Pearl Harbor today. The efforts in the Pacific as well as those in Europe required much sacrifice from the American people. Remember and respect what your grandparents went through. They are members of the Greatest Generation.

When Pearl Harbor Day comes, I am humbly reminded of my duty as an American Airman... Guardian of Freedom and Justice. The American public expects nothing less. The same was true in the 1940s. So if you get a chance to visit Pearl Harbor, I recommend you do so. Visit the Tomb and Memorial of the Battleship Arizona. See the bullet holes that remain in the buildings at Pearl Harbor. The visit is a nice reminder that freedom is not free. I am proud to be an American; I am proud to be an American Airman. Pearl Harbor Day is one of those days that gives me the will to continue; and I will not fail.