A Day That Will Live in Infamy: December 7, 1941

The day: calm and sunny. The people: going about their daily routines. The event: a pivotal moment in America’s history.

It was sunny, clear to partly cloudy skies, no different than most any other day with a calmness that rests on a Sunday. The view looking upward resembled a pastel canvas with patches of white scattered about reflective of someone dropping a paintbrush. Unbeknownst to the early risers or those still sleeping in their beds, the brightness of the morning was soon to be reduced to ashes of grey.

There was no warning…

What happened at 7:55 AM on December 7, 1941 pierced the calmness, deafening the scene with what can only be described as dastardly. Can you imagine the sound of alarms ripping through the air so earsplitting no earplug ever invented could dull the noise? What about the inability to dodge exploding bombs and incessant gunfire as fragments and bullets riveted anything, everything in sight? Can you see yourself heeding the call to abandon ship only to find you are clinging to a life preserver in the midst of burning oil with the last sounds you hear being your own screams as your eyes literally disintegrate in their sockets?


Caption: USS Arizona (BB-39) during the attack
Source: www.en.wikipedia.org

It was premeditated. There was no warning…

Imagine a scene of people running, screaming, turning this way, turning that way totally confused, completely panic stricken for no visible clue led the way of which way to turn for there was no way, no apparent way to escape the terror. Buildings offered no hope of safety for the walls were rapidly crumbling burying beneath their weight men, women, even children. For some, what began as a leisurely Sunday morning drive ended…just like that, their life ENDED! Without regard toward any living thing – plant, animal, human – life was consumed in an instance within flames of pure hell.


Caption: AP Photo/US Navy

Do you get the picture? There was no warning…

The Japanese shocked the world with the unthinkable leaving behind close to 2,400 Americans dead with another 1,100+ wounded. Recorded story after story fills page after page of book after book in an effort to preserve the memory of the lives lost, sacrificed at Pearl Harbor. A pivotal moment in America’s history led not to annihilation but to an awakening…the undaunted strength of America. Audio playbacks capture the sounds, video and film reproduce the sights but only those who survived can recall the smells. Those who survived will never forget the sights, the sounds, or the smells of the horror inflicted at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

Yet, it wasn’t the end as the Japanese had planned but the beginning of retaliation. The day after the attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his famous Infamy Speech to a Joint Session of Congress, calling for a formal declaration of war on the Empire of Japan.

Awakening the Sleeping Giant: WWII

In hopes of crippling the United States Pacific Fleet, the Combined Japanese Fleet received orders to attack Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and surrounding military targets. We never saw it coming nor did they in America’s retaliation.

The element of surprise
Was the enemy’s plan
While watches were changing
Destiny played its hand

How could this be possible?
We were center stage
Our ships were mighty forceful
Our men—strong and brave

But there was no warning…

An infamous airborne assault
Secretly designed to destroy on sight
Left a peaceful but great, nation
Awakened amid a horrible plight

Ships sank in their moorings
Capsized or were beached
Hundreds helped to save lives
Thousands were never reached

But there was no warning…

—Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 1941

Incredibly four years later
A decision was made
Retaliation was certain
Time to lift our façade

We called for surrender
Hoping peace could be made
Threat of destruction
Was the first hand played

Ignoring the ultimatum
Commanded air raid
Two acute nuclear bombings
Lifted our façade

We gave no warning…

—Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 1945

Hundreds of thousands succumbed
Leaving a country in pain
Six days after the bombing
Surrender finally came

If they had only heeded our warning…

“Fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
—Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (1884–1943)

Excepted from Awakenings from Then ’til Now ( http://goo.gl/Xtj1c) by Sharla Lee Shults. Sharla’s passion for writing is poetry: Historical and inspirational. Become acquainted with her writing by visiting http://sharlashults.com/ where links are accessible to her books and blogs. Sharla previously shared A Woodsy Morning here at The Write Room: http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=1060
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10 thoughts on “A Day That Will Live in Infamy: December 7, 1941

  1. Kenneth Weene

    When humans forget that we must share this single small world, perhaps we can have an end to war. The Japanese wanted to expand their influence and economy, and to be fair, the U.S. was trying to stop them in many ways. Today, we are great friends who cooperate economically and in other ways. Why did it take a war for use to learn how to get along?

  2. Clayton Bye

    The dropping of the Atomic Bombs on Japan is a travesty second only to Hitler’s attempts to eradicate the Jewish Race. Pearl Harbor is nothing on this scale of horror. Yes it brought the Americans into a war that was not winnable without them, but the attention this disaster gets compared to the horror unleashed on Japan is unfathomable to me.

  3. Salvatore Buttaci

    All Americans should be aware of this historical event which the author of this article has mapped out so clearly and succinctly. It was not just a surprise attack against us but a provocation for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Attacks on both sides show the futility of war, something we pray in time will be considered too barbarous for one nation to declare on another.

  4. Linda hales

    World war II war was declared ended just weeks before my birth in 1945. I knew nothing of war until I was five in my first year of school, observing Remembrance Day for the first time and what the Royal Canadian Legion veterans came to our classrooms to teach. It would be much later before I would be able to put some timing and context to the numerous tragedies that were suffered in the needless World Wars, including Pearl Harbor, Nagasaki and the attempted annihilation of the Jewish population. In this information age, all generations are more informed than ever and will draw their own conclusions and hopefully the tide will turn. But…and there is always a but…a whole new reign of terror has come up from behind and reared its ugly head to set the world clock back to more primitive times. It will be the 911’s of this world that future generations of our children will remember.

    1. Linda hales

      Shala – your tribute is touching and so clearly expressed. Pictures of this monument conjure up tremendous emotion. It’s as though this monument has frozen history in time .

      1. Louise Malbon-Reddix

        Sharla thaks for remebering and in so doing honoring all, who lost their life at this unthinkable time in our history. And especially to our veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice in suport of our country!!!

  5. Emily Hill

    Pearl Harbor Day: My family ties to 07 December 1941 are so tangled that when I saw your blog, Bryan, I was compelled to comment. We have an adopted uncle who is now 78 ‘God Pops’ because he is the children’s god-father. ‘God Pops’ was at Pearl Harbor — as a Navy Brat! His father was stationed at Pearl Harbor and was only home with the family and not on his ship because married men were allowed to sleep off the base — ‘God Pops’ many times told of the deafening noise and the dust clouds from the strafing of the baseball field he was playing on as a six year old. He noted that the older boys thought the fly-overs were an ‘exercise’ and pantomimed shooting at the incoming hive of planes from behind the ‘shield’ of metal garbage can lids. ON THE OTHER hand: my sister-in-law’s family was rounded up, as were all West Coast Japanese families and spent the war in Montana at an internment camp. She, Akemi Dawn Ehrlich, was honored to have HER haiku chosen for the Washington D.C. memorial to interned U.S. citizens. Her father – a U.S. Navy intelligence officer, was reunited with HIS brother, a Japanese POW at a prison camp after the way Brother-Victor meeting Brother-Vanquished for the first time in twenty years.

  6. Rosemary "Mamie" Adkins

    Years ago when we visited this memorial, we both cried all the way the tour. To think of such a travesty in our own back yard and yet again with 911. Life seems to bring these sad times to our lives where we do stop to remember the good parts we can share. The events of Pearl will live on in generations but will forever be a part of all humans.

    Thank you Sharla for reminding us of what we do have and about the loss we have all suffered. We will always be grateful the government left this memorial where it is so our lost souls will remain in peace.

  7. Yves Johnson

    Great article. Hopefully we will learn from the past! War changes a person. Families are sometime destroyed because of the stress of war. Cynthia said it best, “Cherish life.”


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