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Sunday, March 3, 2024
March 3, 2024

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In Our View: Remembering Pearl Harbor on Dec. 8, 1941

The Columbian
Published:

In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, today is the date that will live in infamy. On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese naval forces launched an air strike on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and other U.S. outposts in the Pacific, bringing the United States officially into World War II.

Now, 82 years later, the direct memories of that Sunday morning in Hawaii have faded as a generation of veterans has passed. But the war lives on in the consciousness of Americans whose parents, grandparents and perhaps great-grandparents fought in Europe, in Africa, in the Pacific, or contributed to the war effort at home. The war changed Vancouver’s destiny; a small town best known for prunes and lumber became a city that was home to a mighty shipyard.

Here are excerpts from The Columbian’s editorial published on the afternoon of Monday, Dec. 8. The editorial, which appeared on Page 6, was simply headlined “War!” (We have removed a couple of slurs commonly used in those days):

“The United States and Japan are at war! The slender thread that held the sword of Mars suspended over the Pacific has been severed. The ghastly scimitar has fallen and is dripping with the blood of Americans.

“The declaration of war by the United States is but a formality since this country’s forces swung into battle the moment the Japanese committed their dastardly attack on Honolulu. A full-fledged conflict is now raging and there is no choice left for America but to wipe the (Japanese) off the face of the earth …

“The treachery and deceit of Japan are matched only by similar traits of her pro-axis partners, Germany and Italy …

“Even though the bombing of Pearl Harbor and Honolulu is an accomplished fact it still seems unbelievable and more like a lurid chapter out of an Oppenheim novel than grim reality. Although military and naval experts must have been prepared for such an eventuality, there were few who believed that Japan would be so rash as to undertake such a desperate gamble. On the surface the (Japanese) appear to be idiots and fools to launch an attack so many thousands of miles from the home bases but there must be some good strategy involved besides the mere hammering of Hawaii. Perhaps Japan hopes to create a diversion there that will prevent Pearl Harbor’s forces from being used in the principal theater of action, which will probably be in the western Pacific.

“But there is one great thing that Japan’s unwarranted attack has accomplished. It has unified America such as nothing else could have done. Within the hour that the first bomb was dropped, a wave of patriotism swept the country, welding hitherto divergent interests into a concerted, unified entity. No longer is the United States divided. Grievances that heretofore appeared unconquerable are being buried under the common cause of defeating the enemy. The enormous strength that is America’s will now be concentrated on the task at hand — and Japan and the other axis powers will be treated to a display of power such as the world has never known.”

Although the full damage was still being assessed, and kept under wraps by wartime censorship, the editorial proved prescient. By the time the war against Japan ended on Aug. 14, 1945, more than 400,000 Americans — and an estimated 65 million people worldwide — had died in the war, according to the National World War II Museum. But the United States had emerged as the world’s leader and foremost global power.

Today we remember Pearl Harbor and appreciate the sacrifice of those who were there on that sunny Sunday morning.

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