I’m taking a bit of a departure in this week’s Basic Training to talk about Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Dec. 7, the day that would “live on in infamy,” was designated as a memorial day by Congress in 1994.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese surprise attacked Naval Station Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii Territory. The attack was performed without a declaration of war, killing 2,403 American servicemen and injuring 1,178 more people. Four Navy battleships were sunk, four others damaged. Three cruisers were destroyed along with three destroyers and a minelayer. Aircraft were also damaged; 188 planes were destroyed with another 159 damaged.
The following day, Dec. 8, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared war on Japan and thus, the United States entered World War II.
As part of the celebration of Fort Bragg’s 100 years of history, I feel it’s important to remember the day and event that would catapult Fort Bragg’s Soldiers into a war overseas that would last another four years.
On a personal note, it was the single event that would alter the landscape of my Family as well. Because of the events at Pearl Harbor, my grandfather lied about his age, joined the Navy, and spent the following four years stationed around Guam, writing love letters to the woman he had hastily married before departing. My grandparents will celebrate their 76th wedding anniversary this year.
Throughout the war, the 9th Infantry Division, 2nd Armored Division, 100th Infantry Division and the 82nd Airborne Division all trained at Fort Bragg. The installation grew from a population of around 5,400 in 1940 to 67,000 in 1941 due to the draft and finally to 159,000 during the war.
Congress had decided before the attack on Pearl Harbor that Fort Bragg would be the largest military installation in the United States, but the attack helped to quickly accomplish that goal.
Bragg had made some pretty impressive strides in artillery technology between the end of WWI and 1940, and it was through Bragg that Soldiers were filtered to the European continent.
The units at Bragg revel in this World War II history. Soldiers with the 82nd Abn. Div. have had the opportunity to jump into Normandy, France to remember those who stormed the beaches 70 plus years before them. Various overseas operations have had the double duty of training troops and serving as a reminder of an Allied past.
On Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, flags are flown at half mast. Special services are held in various locations around the country. In North Carolina, Wilmington is home to a beautiful memorial to those who lost their lives 76 years ago today.
“December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy ... no matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”
— President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Dec. 8, 1941