“More than seven decades ago, on a calm Sunday morning, our Nation was attacked without warning or provocation. The bombs that fell on the island of Oahu took almost 2,400 American lives, damaged our Pacific Fleet, challenged our resilience, and tested our resolve. On National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we honor the men and women who selflessly sacrificed for our country, and we show our enduring gratitude to all who fought to defend freedom against the forces of tyranny and oppression in the Second World War.”
That’s the start of the proclamation that President Barack Obama issued this week in remembrance of the day Japanese pilots bombed Pearl Harbor and pulled the United States into World War II.
Though all Americans reaped the benefits of the sacrifices multitudes of U.S. military men and women, and others, made in response to those attacks, far too many today don’t bother to take the time to acknowledge or remember that momentous event. It wasn’t always that way.
One Observer reader, writing in response to the editorial board’s request for remembrances, wrote about the reaction she got from a receptionist when she learned of her daughter’s birth date, Dec. 7, 1979:
Wrote Paula Brandle, “a quick grimace and glance followed ... My daughter apologized to the older woman for being born on that day. Rachel Suzanne is well aware of the emotions that revolve around her birthday. Pearl Harbor Day – a day of infamy. When we heard the date she was due, both my husband and I made the same grimace and glance that the receptionist had made ... These days most people do not react to her birthday. Is that a good thing? I think not.”
We think not too.
As the president’s proclamation avows, “let us remember those who fought and died at Pearl Harbor, acknowledge everyone who carried their legacy forward, and reaffirm our commitment to upholding the ideals for which they served.”
For some Charlotte residents, remembering is easy.
Donny Cates writes that his “dad and two uncles were all born in Hawaii.” After Pearl Harbor was bombed, they all left – “and came all the way to Charlotte, N.C., with my grandmother.”
Two stories captured the trauma and chaos of the event. A sailor and a soldier recounted that fateful day to their daughters, and they retell it to us.
From Carol Drum, daughter of Hayes Drum. Both live in Catawba, N.C.:
“Hayes Drum enlisted in the U.S. Navy [in] January 1939 and after his training was assigned to a repair ship, the USS Whitney AD-4 stationed in Pearl Harbor in 1940. The weekend of December 6, 1941, Drum had liberty and, celebrating his promotion, spent the night in Honolulu with a shipmate and his wife.
“When the explosions woke them up the next morning, their first thoughts were, ‘What is the Army doing holding maneuvers on Sunday morning?’
“After learning about the attack on Pearl, they made their way back to their ship. The attack was over by the time they were able to get there but the massive destruction is a picture that remains with Drum to this day.
“Drum, who is now 96, retired from the Navy in 1965 with the rank of Master Chief.”
From Dorothy Swisher Hardison, daughter of Dr. Otto Swisher, Jr. She lives in Wadesboro. The accompanying picture was taken on Dec. 6, 1941.
“My father, Dr. Otto Swisher Jr. was an Army Capt. stationed at Pearl Harbor. He was sleeping when the attack came on Dec. 7, 1941. He thought there was some kind of maneuvers and went back to sleep.
“His friend woke him up and shouted, ‘It's an attack!’
“Dad jumped into an ambulance with a driver and rushed to help any survivors. A Japanese plane dropped a bomb close to the ambulance causing it to turn over. The plane returned and strafed it.
“Thank goodness my father survived.”
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