A Day That Will Live In Infamy Plus 79 Years

The average life expectancy of an American is 78.7 years according to CDC statistics. Extrapolated this means that the average American born on December 7, 1941 would have recently passed away. The attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy has become something that is remembered in history books and in movies with very few actual survivors alive to tell of it.

As I noted last year, for my parents it was their “where were you when” event. It was also personal. The older brother of one my mom’s best friends was an ensign aboard one of the battleships and survived. As the story goes from my mom, he was up and getting ready to go to Mass when the attack started. The Noxema shaving cream on his face kept his face from being burned too badly. Apocryphal perhaps, but that was the story passed down to me.

The commemorative event held annually in Pearl Harbor will be closed to the public this year thanks to the pandemic. However, the ceremony will be broadcast live here and on Facebook.

A Day That Will Live In Infamy Plus 78 Years

As I have noted many times in the past, the attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy was a watershed event for my parent’s generation. My dad had already been in the US Army for a year. My mom was working for the British Lend-Lease office in New York City. It was their “where were you when Kennedy was shot” or “Challenger explosion” event.

Both of my parents would be 100 if they were alive today. They were both 22 on December 7, 1941. They would be a bit older than many of the enlisted sailors but about the age of the young ensigns or Lt. JGs in Hawaii that day.

I don’t mean to go all maudlin on you but I think it is important to remember those who fought and died on that sunny December morning. The teaching of history has become perverted in recent times. I’ve always thought revisionist historians were suspect.

As to those who say the US provoked the Japanese into crossing the Pacific and attacking Pearl Harbor, they can shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. It was a strategic, though erroneous, decision made to keep the US Navy at bay while Japan went about creating the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

A Day That Will Live In Infamy Plus 77 Years

Today marks the 77th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is also marks the first time that a surviving member of the crew of the USS Arizona will not be in Hawaii to commemorate the event.

From the news reports:

No one who survived the bombing of the USS Arizona battleship will be in the audience.

“This is the very first year,” said Daniel Martinez, historian with the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

Health issues and doctor’s orders prevented Lou Conter from coming.

“She said you cannot go. You better cancel out,” he said in telephone interview from his home in California.

Conter is 97. The handful of survivors of the battleship’s sinking are all in their 90s…

About 300 USS Arizona sailors survived Japan’s surprise attack.

Only five are alive: Conter, Don Stratton, Ken Potts, Lonnie Cook and Lauren Bruner.

The hatred and enmity between the two countries is in the past. Now you have survivors who fought on each side coming together in ceremonies like the Blacked Canteen ceremony which celebrates peace and reconciliation.

A Day That Will Live In Infamy Plus 76 Years

Most of those who were involved in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, whether as attackers or defenders, are not alive today to tell their story. It is up to us in the succeeding generations to remember it and to tell it.

First, let us remember those men and women on the American side who died during the attack. The casualty list is here. As to the Japanese, I’m not sure where to find any of those records.

The US Navy has an official account of the attack. It was compiled by CINCPAC for the Secretary of the Navy and was dated 15 February 1942. The report gives the disposition of the US Pacific Fleet on December 7th, an after action report, damage reports, and the current state of readiness after the attack. It is quite comprehensive.

Remembering that there was no social media at the time, the role of propaganda posters was critical for energizing the populace of the United States on to a wartime footing. Some of these posters were simple and some were not. The last poster below shows the Japanese wearing glasses. That plus buck teeth seem to be the common characterization of the Japanese in these propaganda posters. There are many other posters I could have used but I thought them too overtly racist. Unlike the war in Europe, World War II in the Pacific Theater was brutal, nasty, racist, and without mercy. A good book on war in the Pacific is John Dower’s War Without Mercy.

Finally, of the movie accounts of the attack, I still think Tora Tora Tora is the best. Sometimes it is included with Amazon Prime and sometimes not.

A Day That Will Live In Infamy Plus 75 Years

When an event that was discussed by your parents when you were a kid is now about to have its 75th anniversary, you begin to feel a little old. I was born a little more than 15 years after the Japanese Imperial Navy launched their attack on Pearl Harbor.

My mother would tell me the story, probably apocryphal, of a young Navy officer who grew up in her Staten Island neighborhood who was saved from facial burns by his Noxzema shaving creme. Likewise, she would tell me the story of how my Uncle John skipped class at Manhattan College on December 8th along with some of his fellow classmates to join the Navy.

It was a different time and a different war.

Every year I search for new propaganda posters that include the phrase “Remember Pearl Harbor”. Here are a couple of the more different ones.

A Day That Will Live In Infamy – 74th Anniversary

74 years ago today, on December 7th, 1941, fighters and bombers of the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the US Pacific Fleet in their home port of Pearl Harbor at 7:55am local time. IJN fighters and bombers also attacked US Army Air Force installations at Hickham, Wheeler, Bellows, and other air fields destroying most of the aircraft on the ground.

Most of the veterans on both sides have now passed away due to age. The National Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, in fact, disbanded at the end of 2011 due to the advanced age of the remaining survivors.

One of the few live broadcasts of the attack was from KGU Radio in Honolulu.

A list of the ships of the Pacific Fleet in port on December 7th can be found here along with the damage suffered. As bad as the attack was, most of the battleships went on to fight again later in the war.

The battle for Wake Island began simultaneously with the attack on Pearl Harbor. The IJN and the Japanese Imperial Army launched widespread attacks beginning December 8th on the British in Malaya , the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), and the Americans and Filipinos in the Philipines and Guam.

One immediate impact of the attack was that the industrial base of the United States shifted from a peacetime to a wartime footing. The propaganda poster below was meant to urge workers on.

A Day That Shall Leave In Infamy, 73rd Anniversary

Today marks the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I like to honor this day by remembering those veterans – Army, Navy, and Marine – who were there on that fateful day as well as those stationed on Wake Island and in the Philippines. These vets are dying out daily and the time will shortly come when no one who faced the waves of Japanese bombers will still be alive. So if you know one of these vets, take the time today to thank them for their service.

Magazine of the USS Shaw exploding after being hit by a bomb

More of these photos can be seen here.

That generation of men and women would go into action to avenge these losses and they would win.

Purl Harder!

One of the more unusual propaganda posters published after the attack on Pearl Harbor has to be the one below.

It is trying to encourage the women of America to do their part by knitting wool socks and sweaters for the fighting men. You will notice that the knitting needles form the “V for Victory”.

The poster above is part of the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

A True Hero From December 7, 1941

“Battleship Row in Flames” by John Hamilton

In looking for material for today’s post on the 72nd anniversary of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s attack on Pearl Harbor, I came across the story of Wesley Ruth. Mr. Ruth lives in Matthews, North Carolina and is one of the older survivors of that day at age 100. At the time, he was a young Navy ensign assigned to an unarmed photography squadron as a pilot. He was having breakfast that Sunday morning when the attack began. When he saw the Japanese bombers, he jumped into his convertible and drove to the north end of Oahu to get a handle on what was happening.

“I was about a quarter-mile from the Arizona and I saw the Arizona bombed. There were powder pellets about the size of my finger that flew that distance, from the ship to me, coming down on me just like snow.”

Worried the Japanese would spot his convertible and strafe him, Ruth said, he headed for the airfield and passed the clinic on his way. “I could see a number of dead bodies on the lawn.”

After arriving at the airfield, Ruth was assigned to a reconnaissance mission:  find the Japanese fleet. His plane was a Silkorsky S-43 which the Navy had renumbered as the JRS-1. The S-43 or Navy JRS-1 amphibian was primarily used as a passenger plane by Pan American Airlines for trips to Cuba and Latin America. It was nicknamed the “Baby Clipper”. Ruth was to fly 250 miles north and 10 miles east along with a copilot and three observers to find the Japanese. His armament for this mission were three bolt-action Springfield rifles given to the guys in the back of the plane. The JRS-1 would have been easy pickings for any Japanese Zero but Ensign Ruth had a mission and he did it.

For this mission, Ensign Ruth was award the Navy Cross. His citation reads as follows:

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Wesley H. Ruth, Lieutenant, Junior Grade [then Ensign], U.S. Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of an airplane, and for extraordinary courage and disregard of his own safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Although contact with the enemy meant almost certain destruction and despite lack of armament in this type of plane, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Ruth voluntarily piloted a JRS amphibian plane, with only Springfield rifles, in search of and to obtain information of the enemy forces. At a point two hundred miles north of Oahu, Lieutenant Ruth did contact an enemy aircraft and only through prompt and extremely skillful handling of his plane did he succeed in escaping and returning to Pearl Harbor. Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Ruth’s outstanding courage, daring airmanship and determined skill were at all times inspiring and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

While his citation says they encountered an enemy aircraft, Ruth in his interview says they didn’t encounter anything. It really doesn’t matter in the long run. Taking off in an unarmed plane – I don’t count the guys with the Springfield rifles – and completing his mission knowing the whole time he was a sitting duck is heroic enough for me.

Ensign Ruth went on to complete a Navy career of 20 years and retired as a Commander.  I can only hope that his final few years are easy ones because he already did the hard part 72 years ago.

A Date That Will Live In Infamy

Today marks the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I like to honor this day by remembering those veterans – Army, Navy, and Marine – who were there on that fateful day as well as those stationed on Wake Island and in the Philipines. These vets are dying out daily and the time will shortly come when no one who faced the waves of Japanese bombers will still be alive. So if you know one of these vets, take the time today to thank them for their service.