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Editorial: Never forget the lessons of Pearl Harbor, World War II

Dec. 6, 2017 at 10:49 p.m.
Updated Dec. 7, 2017 at 10:26 a.m.

FILE - In this May 24, 1943 file photo, the capsized battleship USS Oklahoma is lifted out of the water at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. The military says it has identified 100 sailors and Marines killed when the USS Oklahoma capsized during the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor 76 years ago. The milestone comes two years after the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency dug up nearly 400 sets of remains from a Hawaii to identify the men who have been classified as missing since the war. (AP Photo, File)

Collective memory appears to obey the same laws of deterioration as the individual one: Time makes us forget things.

As the population of those who lived through Dec. 7, 1941, dwindles, the rest of us tend to forget the world as it was that Sunday morning when Japanese bombs and bullets began raining on the U.S. fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor.

Time has eroded the real memories of the horror of that day 76 years ago when the United States was rudely awakened from its isolationist slumber and thrust into the conflict that had engulfed the rest of the world for the previous two years.

That is why it is so important to remember the lessons learned in blood and sacrifice by brave American men and women.

It was a terrible and tragic morning on Dec. 7, 1941, when the surprise attack left more than 2,400 military and civilians dead. Nearly 1,200 more Americans were wounded.

Of the many lessons learned, foremost was that the U.S. can never afford military tranquility. The nation must staff an adequate and vigilant military force. Next is that America must be aggressive in identifying threats to national security — whether military, economic or political — and act decisively against them.

A most enduring lesson was the display of the American spirit that followed the attack. Military recruiting stations were packed with volunteers, rationing began, production was shifted to war materiel and the nation came together in common cause against tyranny.

America from that day forward took up the cause of world peace and established its identity as the protector of freedom. That is a path the United States must continue to follow.

Of course the meaning of this day is etched into the memories of those dwindling few who survived the attack, the remaining veterans of World War II and those who lived through the era. The first day of World War II shaped both industrial and cultural changes in this nation — changes that deeply affect our way of life to this day.

While it is heartening to note an average of 4,000 people tour the site of the Pearl Harbor attack each day and 1.5 million visit the USS Arizona memorial annually, the attack strays further from our national consciousness. It has become an event present generations are aware of only via movies and TV.

Today, as people converge in Honolulu and other sites to mark the anniversary of what has become known as Pearl Harbor Day, it is important to remember the impact and legacy of this epic event. President Franklin Roosevelt's description of it as "a date that will live in infamy" remains apt.

It is appropriate and necessary that Americans recall this history and pass to the next generation the values and ideals that were forged on that day of infamy.

Flags at half-staff

The U.S. and Texas flags at the News-Journal are at half-staff today in observance of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Please join us as we remember and honor the lives lost in the 1941 attack and to remember we enjoy freedom thanks to their sacrifice.

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