Seventy-eight years ago today, the sailors at Pearl Harbor probably didn’t feel in danger when they woke up that morning. It was just another day in the United States Navy, after all. But by the end of the day, 2,403 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice.
Sailors who expected their most exciting activity that day to be swabbing the deck suddenly were overwhelmed by bombs and kamikaze attacks from 353 Imperial Japanese aircraft roaring overhead, seemingly coming from all directions and giving them nowhere to run.
Many of those sailors were very young, their whole lives ahead of them. Experts estimate that about half the fatalities were from the explosion of the USS Arizona’s forward magazine, and most of those victims were probably junior enlisted personnel who were just teenagers at the time.
As a direct result of that day, many, many more Americans would lose their lives fighting against a global conquest of evil. Their fight would prove to be successful, although it came at a tremendous cost.
Today’s date — a date which will live in infamy — is a good reminder that even on a routine day in the United States Navy, a day in which it seems there is no pressing danger, sailors around the world are still putting their lives on the line in service of their country.
Those dangers continue today. No one aboard the USS Cole expected anything but a routine day back on Dec. 3, 2000, nor did anyone on the USS McCain on Aug. 21, 2017.
So as we reflect on what this day meant in 1941, it’s also good to ponder what it means to sailors in 2019 and beyond.