GratiTuesday: Pearl Harbor Memory Keepers

Tomorrow marks the 75th anniversary of the surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy. On December 7, 1941, the residents of Pearl Harbor were just waking up to a quiet Sunday morning when, just before 8 a.m., the first wave of Japanese fighter planes and bombers began their quest to destroy the Pacific Fleet and cripple the U.S. military. The following day, December 8, the United States declared war on Japan.

The USS Arizona during the attack. Photographer unknown. This photograph is in the public domain.
The USS Arizona during the attack. Photographer unknown. This photograph is in the public domain.

Ninety minutes after it began, the attack was over. 2,008 members of the military and 68 civilians died and 1,178 were wounded. Eighteen ships were sunk or run aground, including five battleships. All of the Americans killed or wounded were non-combatants, given that there was no state of war when the attack occurred.

As we continue to lose members of the Greatest Generation, this special group – those who were witness to the attack – is also dwindling rapidly. Those who were there shared the rallying cry: “Remember Pearl Harbor!” Sadly, fewer and fewer people really do. In fact, the national organization of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association disbanded five years ago after its membership, once close to 30,000, fell to less than 3,000.

Commemorations of the attack are held annually at the Pearl Harbor memorial site in Oahu. On this 75th anniversary, a key focus will be on our country’s relationship with Japan and a celebration of 71 years of peace between us. In fact, on Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that he would visit Pearl Harbor, becoming the first sitting Japanese leader to go to the site of the attack.

Yesterday’s unexpected announcement came six months after President Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the memorial in Hiroshima for victims of the U.S. atomic bombing of that city. Prime Minister Abe, in a brief statement to reporters, said he would visit Hawaii on Dec. 26 and 27 to pray for the war dead at the naval base. “We must never repeat the tragedy of the war,” he said. “I would like to send this commitment. At the same time, I would like to send a message of reconciliation between Japan and the U.S.”

I am so grateful for those who are keeping the memory of Pearl Harbor alive. As we “Remember Pearl Harbor,” it’s also important to appreciate the power of reconciliation. For anyone witnessing the attack that day it would have been nearly impossible to believe that the United States and Japan – bitter adversaries – could now be close allies. I am grateful that we are.

Author: Janis @

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

30 thoughts on “GratiTuesday: Pearl Harbor Memory Keepers”

      1. We are going to miss this President. Warren Buffett once said that Obama is the best editor of information he has ever seen. Our President-elect does not like or care to do any homework at all.

  1. What a nice and thoughtful post, Janis. I am happy with the reconciliation efforts, and I have the same sentiments as you, something that crossed my mind immediately after reading your gratitude post. We are so affected (and worried) already and he has not even been inaugurated yet. 😦

    1. This wasn’t intended as a political post at all, but when I learned about the prime minister of Japan’s planned visit – especially on the heels of our president’s visit to Hiroshima, it reminded me of how important diplomacy is to peace and reconciliation.

  2. I hope I don’t get to see another war. I was born after WW2 but I do remember Viet Nam. It’s unfortunate that power and ego get people to kill each other. If we didn’t have all that nonsense going on can you imagine how much good we could do globally?

    1. Most citizens just want to be happy and live their lives. It’s often the powerful interests that push war… which is then fought by the average – and often poorest – citizens. We really could do so much good if we didn’t need to think about, and pay for, conflicts in the world.

  3. This is a fitting ‘salute’ to an incredibly important event in world history. I am grateful for the movies, books, documentaries that will ensure this period of time will always be remembered.

  4. I echo the sentiments of the commenters above: Long may peace continue and let us work together for the global good.

  5. Janis, you brought a refreshing slant to these annual memorials…btw: my dad was a WWII navy vet, but not from Pearl – yes, they were/are the greatest generation.

  6. I went to Pearl Harbor once, but in the middle of having a fight with my ex-wife at the time. It kind of ruined the moment. Of course, given the fact that it’s an actual burial ground we probably should have risen above our pettiness. I need a do-over.

  7. Of course this anniversary was a much bigger deal when we were kids, and so much closer to the war. So thanks for remembering, and hopefully we will soon and forever be at peace.

    1. As hard as it is to imagine now, memories of 9/11 will probably also fade for future generations. I would like to believe that, just like our relationship with Japan has evolved, current adversaries will at some point become allies.

  8. It’s so important that we remember Pearl Harbor, and also that we acknowledge the miracle of a lasting peace between USA and Japan. May it continue, and not be messed up by a new administration that acts without sensitivity and understanding.

    1. I read that San Diego is the only city that has an active chapter of a Pearl Harbor survivor group… which makes sense due to our long history of being a navy town. Our local paper interviewed several members and it was amazing how fresh their memories of that day were. Thanks for the Facebook share!

  9. This is a significant historical point in time and you’re right – it’s quickly fading from memory as so few of that generation are still here to tell their story.
    Thanks for the sobering reminder.

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