The Day Which Will Live in Infamy

My family has a long tradition of military service, almost all of them in the United States Army. My father, my grandfather, and my great-grandfather all spent many years in the service.

December 7th 1941 was a turning point for America’s involvement in World War II.  The Japanese Imperial Army launched an attack on the naval base at 7:48 AM Hawaiian time, with fighters, bombers and torpedo planes ripping through the air above the base in two massive waves. Eight U.S. Naval battleships were damaged, including four that sunk.  Because of the unexpected nature of the attack during negotiations with the Japanese, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared December 7th “a day which will live in infamy.” 

That day, the American people realized that as much as they wanted to keep themselves out of the war that ravaged Europe and the Pacific, they were no longer able to.  On December 8th America declared war on Japan and decided to affiliate themselves with Great Britain and the other allied forces in Europe. My own grandfather fought on the European front, and went to Japan after the war was over as part of the occupation force.  I always wondered why my father called my great-grandfather “Ojiisan” (the formal Japanese term for “grandfather”) instead of “grandpa.”  He spent so much time in Japan after the war where he became accustomed to the term that his grandchildren picked it up.

As a precaution after the Pearl Harbor attack against any future invasions, the U.S. declared that any paper currency used in Hawaii should be protected.  Notes were overprinted with “Hawaii” on the reverse and a brown seal on the obverse, so that if the currency fell into enemy hands it would be demonetized and unusable. Because the overprinted stamps were impossible to miss, it would be extremely easy to identify the bills.  Most of these bills were destroyed in a crematorium after the war, to prevent their circulation, but some service men and women saved the bills as souvenirs.

As we nestle quietly into the start of December, still surrounded by the history of a war that America stepped into as the holidays were underway, it’s important that we honor memory of our servicemen and women.  We need to be sure to remember all of our veterans; but to those who survived Pearl Harbor, and to those who fought on the European and Pacific fronts; they deserve respect today, as we remember their sacrifice, hard work, and dedication to this country.

Amanda Paulger-Foran, for

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