Sunday, December 7, 2014

Pearl Harbor Day

Seventy-three years ago, Americans relied on the assumption that an enemy would announce its intentions before it attacked. On this date in 1941, however, they were to be disabused of that notion.

Frank Dolan, 1941
On that Sunday morning, just as the flag was to be raised on my father's repair ship, USS Vestal, the Japanese attack came without warning. At 7:55 AM, the first wave of enemy aircraft began hitting the U.S. Navy ships anchored in Pearl Harbor and the army air base there. Dad's ship was one of the many that were hit.* Torpedoes also passed under his ship to strike the battleship Arizona, to which Vestal was tied alongsideSeveral other ships were destroyed along with hundreds of lives lost.

Even while Japanese envoys were negotiating in Washington, their high command had directed its fleet to launch the strike. The American people were outraged beyond the comprehension of the policy makers in Tokyo. A generation of Americans brought up on peace was going to war.

The day after the attack, the president delivered his famous speech to Congress and to the American people. About that address, author Walter Lord wrote: "The speech was over in six minutes and war was voted in less than an hour, but the real job was done in the first ten seconds. 'Infamy' was the note that struck home, the word that welded the country together until the war was won."

USS Arizona Burning

*My dad, Frank Dolan, recounted his personal experience of the attack in his narrative, Pearl Harbor: As I Remember.

Sources: Day of Infamy, Walter Lord; Frank L. Dolan's Service Records and oral account

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