Friday, December 7, 2012

When a holiday is not a holiday

On this date in 1941, Americans suffered the worst single catastrophe and loss of life in history on US soil that was only eclipsed by the larger loss of human life on 9/11/2001.

I want to thank Wikipedia for these photos and information I gained from various articles they published.  Because I'm on hiatus, this is a scheduled post.

Of the 2402 persons killed that day, nearly half (1177)  lost their life when the USS Arizona's forward magazines exploded after being hit by a Japanese torpedo about 8 am (1941).

You can read about this historic battle here or watch one of several fictional or factual movies that have been made of that day.

According to Wikipedia, a navy photographer took this photograph just as the USS Shaw exploded, 

while an unmentioned observer shot this photo of the explosion at the same time from a different location.

However, what struck me was the eventual turn of events that came about after the Japanese commander decided not to send in a third wave after the first two waves took out most of the battleships and aircraft.  This wave would have targeted the infrastructure, which included the oil storage tanks, the Navy Yard, and the submarine base.  According to the article:
In retrospect, sparing the vital dockyards, maintenance shops, and oil depots meant the U.S. could respond relatively quickly to Japanese activities in the Pacific.
The submarine base and the old headquarters building, left unharmed, proved more important than any battleship because US submarines were given credit for taking down the Japanese Navy's battleships.  US submarines brought Japan's economy to a halt by virtually eliminating the transportation of oil, steel, and other raw materials.  The US Navy cryptographic station, in the basement of the old headquarters building, decoded and encrypted messages, including those that were crucial in the attack on Midway.

US battleships were large, slow, and cumbersome.  Although six of those not destroyed on December 7, were soon returned to duty, the US had already considered and implemented a plan that would include fighting in both the Atlantic and the Pacific.  Battleships were hoarded by the Japanese, who thought the ultimate battle would take place using them.  That didn't happen.

Per the article:
Fortunately for the United States, the American aircraft carriers were untouched by the Japanese attack, otherwise the Pacific Fleet's ability to conduct offensive operations would have been crippled for a year or so (given no diversions from the Atlantic Fleet). As it was, the elimination of the battleships left the U.S. Navy with no choice but to rely on its aircraft carriers and submarines—the very weapons with which the U.S. Navy halted and eventually reversed the Japanese advance. While six of the eight battleships were repaired and returned to service, their relatively slow speed limited their deployment, and they served mainly in shore bombardment roles.

And finally, just like 9/11, December 7, often called Pearl Harbor Day, is not considered a federal holiday in the United States, although many schools and government buildings across the US usually lower the American flag to half-staff.

So when is a holiday not a holiday?  When it honors the men and women who served in Hawaii on that fateful December day in 1941.  It doesn't mean we can't honor these often forgotten heroes.  After all, there aren't many of them left!

4 thoughtful remarks:

Corrine at said...

So true, it was the first thing I thought of when I awoke this morning and how thankful I was that my Dad made it back from that war and how many lives were lost overall...I went on the Arizona memorial once and it was a most powerful experience. Their souls are all still there. xox

Angie said...

What a brilliant post ...thankyou for informing me of this 1941 tragedy ....they should not be forgotten...ever.

Craftymoose Crafts said...

I visited the Arizona Memorial 21 years ago, and it was certainly a very moving experience.

Marilyn Rock said...

Thank you for such a meaningful and informed post. I agree; the day should not be forgotten.