Originally Published: December 6, 2008 9:41 p.m.
The Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor was one of the most defining moments in history. The attack removed the United States Navy's battleship force as a possible threat to the Japanese Empire's expansion. The assault also abruptly thrust a weakened America into World War II.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt had transferred the fleet to Pearl Harbor as a deterrent to Japanese aggression. The Japanese military, deeply engaged in the seemingly endless war it had started against China in 1937, badly needed oil and other raw materials, according to a U.S. Department of the Navy website. In July 1941 the Western powers effectively halted trade with Japan. From then on, as the desperate Japanese worked to seize the oil and mineral-rich East Indies and Southeast Asia, a Pacific war was inevitable.
By late November 1941, with peace negotiations clearly approaching an end, informed U.S. officials fully expected a Japanese attack into the Indies, Malaya and probably the Philippines.
They did not anticipate an attack in our direction as well.
The Japanese planes hit Pearl Harbor just before 8 a.m. 67 years ago today. Within a short time five of eight battleships at Pearl Harbor were sunk or sinking, with the rest severely damaged. Of the other 90 ships there, including cruisers and destroyers, the day's events left 11 also badly damaged - and 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians lost their lives.
Today we remember that fateful day, our fallen fellow Americans, and what its events showed: our true mettle.
The memory of the "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor fueled a determination to fight on. Once the Battle of Midway in early June 1942 had eliminated much of Japan's striking power, that same memory stoked a relentless war to reverse Japan's conquests and remove her, and her German and Italian allies, as future threats to world peace.
It also showed our country's resilience - of the eight battleships damaged in the attack, we raised and put back into action six of them; the USS Arizona and Utah still rest there.
Don't ever consider America down and out.