Day of Infamy

Day of Infamy as viewed from Hickham Field.

Pearl Harbor as viewed from Hickham Field.
Day of Infamy as viewed from Hickham Field.

News reports via Mutual Broadcasting System – December 7, 1941 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

Seventy-two years on, the event which triggered our involvement in World War 2 is getting further and further from the collective memory. Much the same way the beginning of America‘s involvement in World War 1 has been all but forgotten. The witnesses have, almost completely gone from World War 1 and the witnesses from World War 2 are fading at an almost daily rate.

Just before 8 a.m. on that Sunday morning, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes descended on the base, where they managed to destroy or damage nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships, and over 300 airplanes. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack, including civilians, and another 1,000 people were wounded. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan, declaring December 7th a Day of Infamy.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise, but Japan and the United States had been edging toward war for decades.

The United States was particularly unhappy with Japan’s increasingly belligerent attitude toward China. The Japanese government believed that the only way to solve its economic and demographic problems was to expand into its neighbor’s territory and take over its import market.

Still, one terrible event, a surprise attack which took the lives of some 2400 military personnel and civilians living in Hawaii around Pearl Harbor on this day in 1941 became etched into the collective psyche of a nation. Much the same way you can’t say 9/11 and not conjure up some memory of that event.

For those of you vaguely familiar with the events surrounding the Day of Infamy, here are several news reports presented on December 7, 1941 by way of the Mutual Broadcasting System from Los Angeles and from Washington. A 45 minute snippet of an event that radio networks and news media covered without stop for days after.

At the time, terrifying.

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