On December 7 each year flags are flown at half-mast. This helps us remember a historic moment in our nation's history. We've recognized this day since Congress designated it as a national day of remembrance in 1994.
It was December 7, 1941. The Japanese orchestrated a surprise attack on the U.S. at the Pearl Harbor Naval base in Hawaii. Soon after, we declared war on Japan and officially entered World War II.
It was a Sunday morning and all was calm at Naval Station Pearl Harbor near Honolulu. After the attack, 2,403 Americans died, another 1,178 were injured, four battleships were sunk, and four others were heavily damaged. They were also successful in damaging three cruisers, three destroyers, and a minelayer. They also destroyed 188 and damaged another 159 aircraft.
Growing up in relatively quiet Branson, Missouri is probably the last place you would expect to come in contact with a survivor of this horrific event. Wendell Barber worked at the small college where my parents were both professors. He and his wife were my brother's God-parents.
He was working in the engine room on the USS Missouri docked at Pearl Harbor when the attack happened. Over the years he didn't speak much about his time in the Navy. We do know he was sad for all those who lost their lives that day. He carried survivor's guilt as well as he could until he passed at the age of 96.
The other survivors of this attack that I've met over the years expressed similar sentiments. This assault on American soil, while disastrous, eventually led to the development of one of our strongest diplomatic allies in Japan.
As part of our National Park Service, the Pearl Harbor National Memorial stands as a stalwart dedication to that day in 1941. The USS Arizona is still leaking fluid today as if those who lost their lives are still speaking to us.
See how they are honoring this day in 2023 HERE.
Thanks to Uncle Wendell and all those who served during those critical years during WW II. Your courage, humility, and selfless service helped us rise to the occasion in the best way we could. You are the greatest generation!