Dec. 7‘A day which will live in infamy’

Published 10:08 pm Saturday, December 1, 2012

On a quiet, seemingly ordinary Sunday morning 71 years ago this Friday, America found itself changed forever. Japanese bombers decimated the U.S. military base in a place that would become synonymous with The Greatest Generation.

The surprise attack at Pearl Harbor thrust the United States — far from the military power it would become — into a global conflict against evil. The war would be fought on two continents over the next four years and claim an insufferable number of casualties.

More than 405,000 Americans were killed during World War II and about 2,400 of those were killed on that first sunny Sunday morning.

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They earned the monicker The Greatest Generation for accomplishing what was seen as an insurmountable task. The collective effort — every American pitched in — turned the tides of war in favor of the Allies. On June 6, 1944, allied forces stormed the beaches of northern France to push back Adolph Hitler’s Nazi juggernaut. In the Pacific, the fighting already had gone on for more than two years by the time the U.S. invaded Europe.

Eleven months after storming the beaches, in May 1945, Germany surrendered, ending the European theater of operations. Five months and two atomic bombs later, Japan also surrendered, bringing a close to the second great war.

We mourn for those who left us and never came back. We hold those in The Greatest Generation in the highest regard. We marvel at their willingness and tenacity to do what was needed to be done, rationing food and gas, taking up arms against a militarily superior opponent and walking away victors.

On Friday at 11:55 a.m. Vicksburg time, we will remember the minute America was thrown into a war it did not seek, did not want, but would not ignore. We’d like for you to put yourself back in 1941, on Dec. 8, sitting at home by a fire, or walking through a winter’s chill. Then turning on the radio to hear President Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking to the nation.

In part, he said:

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

“… The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

“… No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

“Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.”