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Howard Coop | December 7, a day to remember

Who remembers Sunday morning, December 7, 1941? That was seventy-five years ago. It has, indeed, become a day to remember. 

I remember. The next day — Monday, December 8, 1941 — while playing during recess on the grounds of a two-room country school, I wondered, “Who in the world is Pearl Harbor? I’ve never heard of that woman.” But I soon learned that Pearl Harbor was “a day of infamy.” For a long time, we were reminded, “Remember Pearl Harbor.”  And we did.

On Tuesday morning, July 13, 1967, Pearl Harbor became exceedingly real to me. After boarding the Leilani — a commercial cruse boat — in Honolulu, we went a short distance to Pearl Harbor, traditionally known as “an area of peace.” An eerie thing happened as the Leilani turned right to go around Ford Island — the center of Pearl Harbor.  A small plane came over the Waianae Mountains and landed at Hickman Field.

At 7:55 a.m., on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, all was quite and peaceful on Pearl Harbor. A small plane came across those same mountains from that same direction. Behind it, 353 more planes split into three groups of 183, 170 and 53, converged on Pearl Harbor.

When the raid was over, 110 minutes later, the devastation was unbelievable. Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy in 1941, reported that 2,897 American servicemen were dead, 878 were wounded, and 25 were missing. In addition, four battleships were destroyed or greatly damaged, and four others less damaged. Their remains are displayed around Ford Island. Many small vessels were also hit hard and some were sunk. Out of 390 planes on Oahu, 362 were destroyed.

At the east end of Ford Island, the Leilani paused for a moment of silence, although all were already silent. At the foot of the ARIZONA — an American ship below the calm water of the Pacific — the bodies of 1,102 men are still entombed. 

December 7, 1941 will forever remain “a day of infamy” to be remembered by every American citizen.