VFW: U.S. must always be prepared to defend freedoms

By Pat Sunderland

Seventy-six years ago, at 7:53 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, the U.S. was shocked by the Japanese attack on the U.S. Naval base in Pearl Harbor. The first wave targeted airfields and battleships. The second wave targeted other ships and shipyard facilities. The air raid lasted until 9:45 a.m. Eight battleships were damaged, with five sunk. Three light cruisers, three destroyers, and three smaller vessels were lost along with 188 aircraft. The Japanese lost 27 airplanes and five midget submarines which attempted to enter the harbor and launch torpedoes.

The casualty list at Pearl Harbor included 2,335 service members 68 civilians killed and 1,178 wounded. Over a thousand crew members aboard the USS Arizona battleship were killed after a 1,760-pound aerial bomb penetrated the forward magazine causing a catastrophic explosion.

The news of the attack sent a shock wave across the nation resulting in a tremendous influx of young volunteers into the U.S Armed Forces. The attack also effectively ended the American isolationist movement.

With these words, District 11 Commander Mike Stahly opened the annual Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony at Confluence Park.

The "day which will live in infamy" imparted a valuable lesson, he said -- the United States must always be prepared to defend its freedom.

"A little over 15 years ago we were caught off guard again by a new force of terrorism," he said. "Our servicemen and women must remain trained and ready to ensure we can respond to any crisis. We must be prepared to reconstitute our forces in the violent and changing world it requires us to meet. Any signal that we are not ready to defend ourselves will invite aggressors to act."