If you are lucky to know a World War II Veteran, and have an opportunity to ask them their recollections of December 7, 1941, most assuredly they will convey the shock and horror they felt when the Armed Forces of the United States of America were attacked. Although, the number of people who have firsthand memories of the attack on Pearl Harbor is dwindling, this shouldn’t diminish the importance of the events that happened in Hawaii that day. A few minutes on a beautiful morning would soon change that, just as a few minutes on another beautiful morning, half a world away and 60 years later on September 11 would change the way we look at the world.
The attack on the huge naval base at Pearl Harbor and the Army Air Force bases scattered around Oahu would plunge the nation into a massive mobilized war effort that would circle the world and last four years. Prior to December 7, I bet most Americans would have had a hard time locating Hawaii on a map. We felt safe, protected by the two oceans along our coasts. After that, we would become a global nation. But that globalization would come at a cost of the lives of almost a half-million Americans and up to almost 78 million dead worldwide.
Let us pause today and remember those Americans who served and fought at Pearl Harbor. Imagine being 19 years old, just having graduated from high school and making plans to attend college or possibly to marry your sweetheart. As the shock waves rocked our nation, these brave young men and women instead immediately enlisted to serve and protect our nation. Their service touched a nation 71 years ago, and it touches us today. Southwest Airlines is proud to be the official commercial airline of the Honor Flight Network and have the opportunity to send World War II Veterans like those who defended at Pearl Harbor to D.C. to visit their memorial.
It almost seems loath to talk about any good coming out of such a horrible conflict, but the shrinking of the world perhaps has made it more difficult to have such large scale conflicts in the future. One tool helping to shrink the world is the airplane. Prior to the Pearl Harbor attacks, Pan American had begun commercial service between San Francisco and Honolulu with its Clipper flying boats. Often times, the westbound flights would reach their “point of no return” and would be lacking fuel to continue the trip, forcing a return to California. Long-range land-based transports developed during the war, would bring almost every point of the globe and the inhabitants of those locations in reach of each other.
If you know a World War II Vet, thank him or her for their service. Those who followed their comrades in arms at Pearl Harbor would know desperate times because victory was far from assured, but even though their backs were against the wall, the tide of battle slowly, but unfailingly, began to turn. We owe them so much.