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Joan Collins: Remember to honor sacrifices on Dec. 7

Dec. 07, 2012 @ 01:24 PM

For many older Americans, the strains of "Remember Pearl Harbor" still elicit memories of that unforgettable day in history — Dec. 7, 1941.  

While Hawaiians and U.S. Naval personnel began their Sunday morning rituals, and as eight battleships and a multitude of cruisers, seaplanes and destroyers lulled in the harbor, a flash of the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan appeared on a dive bomber as it broke through the clouds ahead of 360 Japanese war planes.

The surprise attack delivered a critical blow to the U.S. Pacific Fleet and propelled us into World War ll.  

In that one surprise attack, we had lost five battleships and three destroyers; seven other ships had been sunk or severely damaged.  

The Battleship West Virginia was struck by up to 9 torpedoes and sunk. Nearly 2400 Americans were killed and 1200 were wounded. Japan lost 30 planes and five midget submarines and 64 men.

 The majority of Americans had clung to the doctrine of isolationism since way back in 1776 when Thomas Paine wrote his pamphlet, "Common Sense." As Germany invaded Poland and Japan expanded her empire, it had become evident that we wouldn't be able to stay out of the global conflict much longer. The next day on December 8, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt went before a joint session of Congress and declared the United States had been deliberately attacked by the forces of the Empire of Japan and asked Congress to approve a declaration of war; the Senate complied 82-0 and the House likewise assented 388-1. A few days later Germany and Italy declared war against the U.S.

 While we talk of the "surprise attack," events had been leading up to this since the 1920s.  

At that time Japan had begun to expand her territory and by 1931 she had invaded Manchuria and in 1937 was at war with China.  

People in the West were already uneasy about the Japanese expansion and along with France and the United Kingdom had provided loans for war supplies to China. In 1940, Japan invaded French Indochina in an attempt to prevent supplies from reaching China.

To reciprocate, the U.S. halted shipments of planes, tools and gasoline which further provoked Japan.

 Early in 1941 President Roosevelt moved the Pacific Fleet from San Diego to Hawaii in hopes of discouraging Japan's aggression. In July the United States

ceased oil exports to Japan.  Needing another source of fuel, Japan proceeded with plans to take the oil rich Dutch East Indies by attacking the American base in Hawaii. They had carefully planned to strike that Sunday morning when Naval crews would be on shore leave and the fleet in shallow water. They also knew that the U.S. Pacific fleet's aircraft carriers were absent .

 The attack on Pearl Harbor took place before any formal declaration of war was declared by Japan. Japan intended to uphold the conventions of war and still achieve surprise by informing the United States thirty minutes before commencing the attack, but transcribing the 5000 word message sent to the Japanese Embassy in Washington took too long for the Japanese ambassador to deliver in  

time. For decades this explanation that no official warning hinting of war was issued because of inept delivery was accepted. However, in 1999, Takeo Iguchi, a professor of law at Christian University in Tokyo, discovered documents about a debate inside the government over whether to notify Washington of Japan's intention to break off negotiations. One faction did not want to give a prior notice and apparently they prevailed.

 Congress has designated Dec. 7 of each year as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day by Public Law 103 308. It is not a federal holiday. Government offices, schools, businesses and other organizations do not close. Some groups hold special events in memory of those killed or injured at Pearl Harbor. At the direction of the President, the flag of the United States of America should be displayed on the homes of Americans, the White House, and all government buildings. The flag should be flown at half-mast to honor those who died in the attack.

 The Kanawha Valley Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution encourages all Americans to observe this solemn day of remembrance and to honor our military, past and present, with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

Joan Collins is an Honorary Regent, Kanawha Valley Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. She lives in Hurricane.

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