The courage and sacrifice of America’s Greatest Generation — those who grew up during the Great Depression and then fought in the world war that followed the War to End All Wars — found its first expression of incredible heroism during the unprovoked attack at Pearl Harbor.
The Japanese attack took place 70 years ago this week, and we lose more and more aging veterans who were there every year.
Before we know it, they will all be gone.
We cannot and will not forget these brave men and women, and we proudly honor all who served that day in that never to be forgotten place.
According to the statistics, 2,402 were killed in action and another 1,178 were wounded that day.
Baseball Hall of Famer, the late Bob Feller, enlisted in the U.S. Navy and volunteered for combat service Dec. 8, 1941 — the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Arguably the best pitcher of his or perhaps any generation,
Feller gave up four years of his professional baseball career to join the war effort. Despite his distinguished service as a Chief Petty Officer and a gun captain aboard the U.S.S. Alabama, Feller bristled at the suggestion he was a war hero.
He said the real heroes were those who didn’t return home from the war.
More than 3,500 Americans were killed or wounded during the dastardly attack that destroyed or damaged 350 aircraft.
All eight of the battleships in the U.S. Pacific Fleet were sunk or badly damaged, including the supposedly invincible battleship, the U.S.S. Arizona.
Survivors aboard the U.S.S. Nevada reported the U.S.S. Arizona was blown 10 feet in the air, broke in half and sank in minutes during the attack.
An estimated 1,170 sailors on the U.S.S. Arizona died when a bomb blew through the deck and set off more than a million pounds of explosives.
Another one of those heroes by Feller’s definition is Doris (Dorie) Miller, a cook aboard the U.S.S.
Virginia who was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack.
He manned a 50-caliber Browning anti-aircraft gun for 15 minutes until he ran out of ammunition.
He was killed in November 1943 when a Japanese submarine sank his ship, the U.S.S. Liscome Bay.
The Navy named the U.S.S. Miller in his honor in 1973.
Given these stories from Pearl Harbor, it’s not hard to understand Feller’s self-defacing reluctance to be called a war hero, especially in light of these brave souls who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country that infamous day.
But when one considers the horrific nature of the attack on Pearl Harbor, it’s impossible not to recognize every one of those men and women — those aboard ships and those on the ground — rightly deserve to be called heroes.
As long as there is an America, the people of this great land always will remember and cherish the sacrifice of those who died that day and the courage of those who survived that unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor.
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