December 7, 1941. For many Americans, the date needs no explanation. Like 9/11, it has come to mean much more than the event that it signifies. For the “greatest generation” it is not only the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, it was rightfully called “the date that will live in infamy” by President Roosevelt. The attack catapulted the United States into the conflict that had already turned the world upside down. Within hours of the attack, the Axis and the Allied nations formally announced their alliances—and for the next four years the world was at war.
Seventy-five years later, Pearl Harbor is an enduring symbol of the resilience of our democracy. This week we honor those whose dedication to the defense of our nation rightly represents the resolve of the American people. The resourcefulness, courage, and “can-do” spirit that were prompted by the attack on December 7, 1941 galvanized the country. It changed America and the world forever.
But endless animosity is not the fruit of this conflict. Our enemies then are our allies now. The past is prologue. Seventy years of peace and prosperity between former adversaries are the basis for our future together. We have demonstrated that healing and peace can emerge even from a conflict as devastating as World War II. Seven decades of peace between us now represents our best hope that war need not ever envelop our world again.
The lessons of Pearl Harbor and the events that followed are still being learned and are still impacting our world. This week Prime Minister Shinzō Abe of Japan announced that he will visit Pearl Harbor later this month—the first such visit by a Japanese Prime Minister. This follows on the heels of President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima earlier this year. Commenting on the announcement of the Prime Minister’s visit, the spokesperson for the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Joe Davis (Major, USAF, Retired), spoke simply yet eloquently about the enduring reality in which we now live. “The war is long over,” said Mr. Davis. “Japan and the United States are now the strongest of allies.”
On December 7 we remember and honor the bravery and sacrifice of those lives that were lost or changed forever 75 years ago. And we recognize that their legacy is peace, not conflict. Prosperity, not destruction. Good will towards one another, and not animosity.