Wednesday, November 15, 2017
On December 7, it will have been 76 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor, and I still have a dislike for the Japanese people. For more than a decade before the Japanese government made this cowardly surprise attack, the United States had been coping with the Great Depression. The Japanese were well aware that America had very few weapons to fight a war, and the military was too small to defend what we did have.
During the 1930s, the Japanese prepared for war. They occupied North China to obtain additional resources. While all of this was happening, many nations around the world were asleep at the wheel. We were too busy trying to survive the Great Depression.
To refresh your memory, this is what happened in Hawaii beginning at 7:55 a.m. (Hawaii Time) on December 7, 1941. I was a teenager at the time.
A Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appeared out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 380 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.
Much of the Pacific fleet was rendered useless: Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded, many while valiantly attempting to repulse the attack.
With diplomatic negotiations with Japan breaking down, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers knew that an imminent Japanese attack was probable, but nothing had been done to increase security at the important naval base at Pearl Harbor. It was Sunday morning, and many military personnel had been given passes to attend religious services off base.
The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and declared, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941-a date which will live in infamy-the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.??? After a brief and forceful speech, he asked Congress to approve a resolution recognizing the state of war between the United States and Japan. The Senate voted for war against Japan by 82 to 0, and the House of Representatives approved the resolution by a vote of 388 to 1. The sole dissenter was Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a devout pacifist who had also cast a dissenting vote against the U.S. entrance into World War I.
Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war against the United States, and the U.S. government responded in kind. The American contribution to the successful Allied war effort would span four long years and cost more than 400,000 American lives.
The Great Depression was over. Those who were in good health and at the right age joined the military. My age was 16. My three older brothers joined the armed forces, each in a different branch, and were on the battlefields after a short period of training. I chose the United States Marine Corps, and became a member of the First Marine Division. We fought Japanese soldiers from island to island and took no prisoners. All four Belew brothers from the Volunteer State of Lawrence County, Tennessee survived.
World War II was a war we had to win. The United States has not won a major war since.