“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date that will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” These words mark the beginning of Franklin Roosevelt’s famous “Infamy Speech” where he asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan.
Seventy-nine years have passed since FDR spoke these famous words. The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor in hopes that America’s navy could be destroyed. If this happened, the Japanese would have unopposed access to the Pacific Ocean. The Japanese thought that they could extend their “sphere of influence” anywhere they desired if this one naval station and the warships were destroyed.
During this attack, 1177 sailors aboard the U. S. S. Arizona died. The Arizona was sunk, and it still lays on the bottom of Pearl Harbor. The Navy has made the ship into a cemetery, and tourists from across the world travel to this site each day to pay tribute to the men who died that terrible day in December.
Miss Judy and I had always wanted to go to Hawaii, but because of the demanding business of making a living, we could never go. I always jokingly told Miss Judy that if we ever did make the trip, “I want to stay in a five-star hotel, and if my glass is empty, I want someone handy filling it up.” One day she came to me with a proposal that I couldn’t refuse. She had been talking with a travel agency, and if we wanted to go on our own, we could stay at five-star hotels and rental cars would be provided.
We took the deal. We flew to Hawaii on a Delta L1011, and for seven hours we were over the Pacific Ocean. The last land that I saw was Los Angeles which quickly disappeared behind us. We were headed West at almost 600 miles per hour. Finally, I noticed that the pilot had begun to maneuver the airplane. I looked out the window, and below us was a submarine that had just surfaced, and I knew that land and Pearl Harbor were near.
The next day, we traveled to Pearl Harbor and the U.S.S. Arizona. The Navy took us to the site, and to tell the truth, I felt some apprehension. We were headed for a site where hundreds of servicemen lay entombed in the bowels of a huge warship, and I thought about the words FDR had spoken some many years earlier - “a date that will live in infamy.”
There must have been 50 people at the ship when we arrived. Everyone was quiet and respectful almost as if they had just entered the sanctuary of a church. Slowly, Miss Judy and I made our way to a wall that contained the names of those who had perished in the attack, and we looked for names that may indicate some kinship. We found a sailor with the last name of Carroll, but that was as close as we came to finding kinfolks.
Since the Arizona was sunk, diesel has been leaking from its fuel tanks. I had read about this, but somehow, I was a little skeptical. I walked over to the side and looked out a short distance. Sure enough, diesel fuel bubbled to the surface. Our Naval escort pointed out that this leakage would probably go on for many more years until the fuel tanks were finally empty.
Nearly 3,000 servicemen died on December 7, 194l, at the hands of the Japanese Empire. What seemed strange to me was the presence of a young Japanese man and woman who had come to tour the site. When the young woman saw the sunken ship and the oil bubbling from the depths, she became very emotional. I wished that I knew the rest of her story, but I can only guess that someone in her family had been present on “the day of infamy,” and she knew that her nation had done something terrible. A Japanese Admiral remarked after the attack, “I fear that we have succeeded in awakening a sleeping giant.” I remembered these caustic words as I watched this young couple board the boat that would take them back to land, and I wished history had been less cruel.