From Assemblyman Steve Hawley:
Seventy-nine years ago, America was attacked by Imperial Japanese forces. The Attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike upon the United States against the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. It was the day that officially forced the hand of the United States into the conflict that would come to be known as World War II.
That day saw much tragedy, as did the months and years of conflict following it, which is why we remember it today.
Being so far removed from the attack, it can be challenging for current generations to reflect on why exactly this day is so important. In a time when global war was once again on the rise, and recognizing America’s strength and influence, our enemies had coordinated an attempt to prevent us from pushing back against their own plans of expansion and domination. And in a time when the world was truly just beginning to open itself up, to globalize in the political, social, and economic sense that we know it today, many world powers were making their claim for dominion wherever they could.
Reflecting on the Attack on Pearl Harbor today can bring up many diverse and confusing feelings, especially with where the country is today. Despite the clear, distinct, and harsh rivalry America and Japan had as a result of this attack, today, we remain some of the strongest allies to each other. Despite America’s commitment to the freedom and prosperity of its citizens, there was a period following this attack that many American citizens of Japanese descent saw their freedoms stripped for the sake of aggressive security measures, such as with the case of Fred Korematsu. Tensions rose within the country as a result, leading to a lot of social strife, which was only exacerbated with America’s entry into the war and joining the fight on the Western Front.
This is a day of remembrance: for what followed, absolutely, but also in recognition of the brave heroes who fought in the face of true adversity, in the face of a complete surprise, in the face of losing everything in an instant.
Wartime tactics like these aren’t seen often, and aren’t publicized the way Pearl Harbor was; and to know that there were still soldiers, sailors, airmen, nurses and civilians fighting through those wee hours in the morning to get to another day, to save their fellow American, and to push back against aggression, is something worth remembering.
In the aftermath, 15 Medals of Honor were given. 51 Navy Crosses. 53 Silver Stars. Four Navy and Marine Corps Medals. One Distinguished Flying Cross. Four Distinguished Service Crosses. One Distinguished Service Medal. Three Bronze Star Medals. And following the attack, the Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal was given to all veterans of the attack.
These tokens of recognition serve as but a small way to show to America, and indeed to the rest of the world, the courage, bravery, and sacrifice those men and women gave all those years ago. Because that’s what we think about when we remember Pearl Harbor.