WASHINGTON — Members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack on Wednesday. Following are their statements.
• Sen. Daniel Inouye: Seventy years ago, something happened at Pearl Harbor. I shall never forget that day because it was a Sunday, and like many Americans I was preparing to go to church. I was putting on my necktie and having a good time listening to delightful Hawaiian music.
Suddenly, at about this time, 7:55, the disc jockey in charge of that program began screaming, yelling in to the mike, and he was saying, “The Japanese are bombing Pearl Harbor.” He kept on repeating that. For a moment I thought it was a repeat or replay of Orson Welles (the 1938 “War of the Worlds” broadcast) … Well, he kept on doing this for about five minutes, no music, just screaming.
So I decided to take my father out on the street and look towards Pearl Harbor. You could see these black puffs. They were anti-aircraft shells. Then you knew what was happening. Suddenly, while watching these black puffs of explosions, you could hear a rumble overhead, and there were three aircraft, they were pearl grey in color and red dots on the wings.
I knew what was happening and I thought the world had just come to an end.
Just about 2,400 American sailors and soldiers, and non-combatants, died that morning. I was a young man of 17 at that time but I was also a volunteer medical aid man. We had a little aid station, a temporary one, set up at an elementary school called Lunalilo. So I rushed there to respond to the call of duty, and I stayed there for about a week, taking care of the wounded and the dead, because we also maintained a morgue on our school premises.
I became familiar with the cost of war. Not the full cost, but I knew what was happening. The war was much more than just blood and guts …
We have an extraordinary Constitution. We have an extraordinary set of laws. But throughout the history of mankind, not just the history of the United States … war has always provided some justification to leaders to set aside these laws.
For example, just about Christmas Eve of 1941, about three weeks after Dec. 7, the United States government made a decision, and that decision was to provide a new designation to Japanese residing in the United States, citizens and non-citizens like my father. And the designation was 4C … 1A means you’re physically fit, mentally alert, ready to put on a uniform; 4F, something’s wrong with you; 4C is the designation of an enemy alien. Just imagine that, enemy alien.
This was used as one of the justifications to round up over 120,000 Japanese, most of them Americans of Japanese ancestry, and place them into these internment camps. There were 10 of them throughout the United States in very desolate areas — Arkansas, Arizona, Utah, out in the deserts. And their crime was that they were enemy aliens. None of them had committed any crime. Investigation after investigation disclosed that. No sabotage, no espionage, no assault, nothing. But they were rounded up and placed into these camps, which were described by our government as concentration camps.
Yes, it was unconstitutional, but our leaders felt that the war was a justification to set aside the Constitution, to set aside the laws.
Well, many of us, especially the young ones, were very eager to demonstrate to our neighbors and to our government that we were loyal, that we wanted to do our part in this war and if necessary, put our lives on the line. We petitioned the government.
Finally, after about a year of petitioning, President Roosevelt issued a statement saying Americanism is not a matter of blood and color, Americanism is a matter of heart and soul. And he said, okay, form a volunteer group, and that was done.
We trained in Mississippi and we did our best. The 100th Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team were assigned to do our battles in Europe. We fought in Italy and France. We started off the war with about 6,000 men. At the end, over 12,000 had gone through the ranks. So you can imagine the casualty rates. We had about 10,000 Purple Hearts for all the wounds that they received. And we were told that these two units became the most decorated in the history of the United States.
Yes, the bombing of Pearl Harbor 70 years ago began a period of my life when I became an adult and, I hope, a good American. It is something that I will never forget. It changed my life forever …
Twenty years ago when we decided to make it a national event, the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, on that morning the president was there, the secretary of defense … secretary of the Interior Department, State Department, all of the important people of the United States (government) were in attendance.
In preparation for this, we took a poll about six months before Dec. 7, and the poll was among high school seniors, well-educated young boys and girls. And the question was a very simple one: What is the significance of Dec. 7, 1941? … I’m sad to report to you that less than half could respond. Most of them thought it was the birthday of some president, or some historic day of some nature, but they couldn’t recall what it was.
On this 70th anniversary, I just wonder — if that poll were taken again, what would be the outcome? Well, I hope that we will remember Dec. 7. I hope we will remember 9/11. That was just a few years ago, but people are beginning to forget 9/11 …
If Dec. 7 is going to teach us anything, it should be that we must remain vigilant at all times, not just to avoid war, but vigilant among ourselves so that we would not use this as a justification to set aside our most honored document, the Constitution. I hope it will never happen again.
• Sen. Daniel Akaka: I rise today in observation of the surprise attack that the Empire of Japan launched on the United States military bases in Hawaii 70 years ago. The attack was concentrated on the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, where over 2,400 courageous sailors, soldiers, and Marines lost their lives.
Each year, close to one and a half million people from across the country and around the world visit the memorials at Pearl Harbor to remember the events of Dec. 7, 1941, and how the world was changed forever on that day.
As the sun rose over Pearl Harbor today, solemn prayers were offered and large crowds gathered to honor the sacrifice made by so many of our brave young men and women.
The National Park Service and the Navy Region Hawaii are hosting the 70th Anniversary Pearl Harbor Day Commemoration at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center to recognize those who bravely survived the attacks and to remember the thousands more who gave their lives in service to their country that day.
Rep. Charles William “Bill” Young from Florida will be representing Congress at the commemoration ceremony accompanied by William Muehleib, the president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, and approximately 100 survivors of the attacks, including eight who were aboard the USS Arizona, which lies enshrined at the bottom of Pearl Harbor today.
The USS Oklahoma, BB 37, Memorial Executive Committee will dedicate a rose granite memorial marker at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl to honor the memory of the approximately 355 USS Oklahoma sailors who perished, but were never individually identified.
The remains of two servicemembers will be interred at the USS Utah and the USS Arizona, so they may again join their shipmates in accordance with their wishes.
And the Hawaii Air National Guard will fly F-22 Raptors over the memorial sites at Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base in honor of the fallen.
I want to recognize and thank the National Park Service and Navy Region Hawaii for their diligent work and dedication to ensuring that the legacy of the thousands of servicemembers who perished that day lives on through the memorials that stand solemnly at Pearl Harbor. They have done an outstanding job conveying the unwavering spirit of those, who in the face of perilous odds, stood their ground and fought back against the Japanese attack to save the lives of their brothers in arms.
The efforts of these organizations have helped to make sure that our country will never forget the tragic loss that all Americans felt as news of the attack spread across the nation.
We must continue to remember the acts of heroism, bravery, and sacrifice that followed the attack. Our country fought in the name of justice to preserve our nation’s sacred freedoms. And we must also recognize and thank the courageous men and women of our armed forces today who are still fighting in the name of those same freedoms.
I urge the citizens of this nation to recall that it was the collaboration of a country and the sacrifices made by ordinary men and women who rallied in defense of freedom, liberty, and the great promise of our democracy that preserved our nation’s freedom and liberty. It is in that spirit of coming together to save our country that has always produced the strongest results and made our country great …
I ask my Senate colleagues to join me in prayer and remembrance for the men and women who died in Pearl Harbor, and those who are still fighting overseas today. May God bless all of those who have served to protect our shores and God bless America.
• Rep. Mazie Hirono: On this 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, let us remember the Americans who lost their lives, while honoring the survivors of that fateful day who are still with us. Their courage and heroism were an inspiration to our nation then and remain so today.
This greatest generation was dedicated to protecting our freedoms and our way of life. When they came home, they showed how one person can make a difference. The best way to pay tribute to their sacrifice is to reaffirm our own commitment to making lives better for those in our community and keeping our country strong.
• Rep. Colleen Hanabusa: Dec. 7, 1941, a day which will live in infamy. Words of President Roosevelt. I represent Pearl Harbor.
On this day, let us not forget the brave people who gave their lives at Pearl Harbor.
On this day, let us not forget this act of unprovoked, dastardly aggression which propelled us into war.
On this day, let us not forget how the people of this nation were unmatched in their evidence of loyalty and patriotism.
Let us remember because we need to be that people again, to continue our fight to maintain our position as the greatest nation in the world.
Let us remember because we need to show the compassion to those who are in need.