WASHINGTON — Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) gave the following statement on Oct. 19 before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
I was 17 years old on Dec. 7, 1941 and I remember getting dressed for Sunday church services when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
Nearly 2,400 American military personnel and civilians died that morning.
The attack signaled the start of World War II and began a period of my life when I fought and bled alongside thousands of my brave brothers who served in Europe.
Pearl Harbor became a monument to a day when the world changed forever.
On Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, 2001, I was preparing to deliver a speech to a group in a Washington D.C. hotel when my office called to tell me that a plane had crashed into a tower at the World Trade Center.
Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives that day in the terrorist attacks on New York City, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa.
The staggering loss of life sent us once again to war, and again the world changed.
This past May, I had the privilege to tour the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the former World Trade Center site.
It is a solemn structure, a worthy tribute to the victims and their families that will help educate future generations about the global circumstances that led to that tragic attack.
A few days before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, I introduced legislation (S.1537) to provide for a permanent authorization of funds to support the operations and maintenance of the memorial and museum.
I did this out a strong sense of recognition — born from my experiences as a medical aid man on Dec. 7, 1941 and later as an Army infantryman — that it is our duty to help perpetuate this seminal moment in American history.
I am also very familiar with the logistical, financial, and emotional difficulty that arises from working to build a memorial, having worked to establish the USS Arizona Memorial at the start of my career in public service.
Calls for a memorial began in 1943 but it was not until 1949, when the Territory of Hawaii established the Pacific War Memorial Commission, that serious planning began.
The public sentiment, stoked by wartime emotions, demanded a monument to honor the nearly 2,400 sailors, Marines, soldiers and civilians who died at Pearl Harbor.
After much planning and significant discussion, President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized the construction of the memorial in 1958, the same year I was elected to serve in the Territorial Senate.
I remember the discussions that took place in the Territorial Legislature between the victims’ families, the federal government and the State of Hawaii as we all worked to make the memorial a reality.
It was finally completed in 1961, paid for with a mix of public funds appropriated by the Congress and capital raised through private fundraising efforts.
Part of those private efforts included a 1961 concert by Elvis Presley, who played to a crowd of more than 4,000 that bought tickets ranging from $4 to $100 to watch the show.
I was serving my first term in the U.S. House of Representatives in the fall of 1961 when I helped to secure $150,000 for the memorial’s construction.
Finally, more than two decades after the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial opened to visitors in 1962. Today more than 1.5 million people visit the memorial every year.
Mr. Chairman, today in New York City we have a stunning new memorial and the soon to be opened museum that has been completed through the efforts of the elected leadership of New York and New Jersey, spearheaded by the mayor of New York City and a private board.
It is a magnificent achievement that deserves the administration’s full support.
My legislation will allow the United States, through the secretary of the interior, to take ownership of the memorial and the museum if it is ever deemed suitable and after the appropriate approvals are secured from the memorial and museum board (which includes a number of family members of those who died on Sept. 11), the governor of the State of New York, the governor of the State of New Jersey, and the mayor of New York City.
The legislation would authorize appropriations of $20 million in FY 2013, the first full fiscal year after which the museum is scheduled to open to the public, and in subsequent years. All funds appropriated must be matched by non-federal sources, with the resulting federal share being about 33% or less of the overall budget of the memorial and museum.
In the decade since the terrorist attacks in lower Manhattan, the United States has spent $2 trillion on defense and homeland security. I believe we can find federal funds for this memorial.
Mr. Chairman, my intention is to establish a federal presence that ensures reliable support and funding for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum for generations to come.
The details of the federal government’s role will continue to be discussed and revised as circumstances change and the years pass.
But like the actions initiated by Adm. Arthur Radford, then commander in chief, Pacific (CINCPAC), did in 1950 when he ordered that a flagpole be erected over the sunken hull of the USS Arizona, the federal government must establish their role in supporting the mission of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
It is our duty to honor those who died, pay tribute to their families, and teach the lessons of Sept. 11 so that those born into the world that began after the towers fell never witness a similar tragedy.
Mr. Chairman, 50 years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a national survey of high school seniors was conducted and the students were asked about the significance of the date, Dec. 7, 1941.
Sadly, less than half of the recipients recognized the magnitude of that Sunday morning attack.
I am compelled to do all I can to ensure that future generations do not forget what happened on Sept. 11, 2001 …
Mr. Chairman, I humbly ask for the members of the committee to support S.1537.