Remembering the Heroes of Pearl Harbor
On December 7th, 1941, Japan launched its infamous surprise attack on the United States Naval Base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In just ninety minutes, the attack decimated American forces, killing over 2,000 servicemen and destroying or damaging 300 aircraft and 19 warships. The next day, the United States declared war on Japan, and officially entered World War II.
Today, on the 82nd anniversary of the attack, we want to take a moment to honor the heroes of Pearl Harbor. Below, you’ll hear first-hand accounts of servicemen and civilians who were there that tragic day.
Joseph Lockard was serving as a radar operator on the day of the attack. He spotted the incoming Japanese forces an hour before their surprise attack, but his warnings were dismissed.
SF3 James Wire was serving on the USS Tennessee when the Japanese attacked. In this interview, he describes putting out fires on the ship, the destruction he witnessed that day, as well as the Battle of Tarawa.
A 17 year old Japanese-American, Daniel Inouye was in his home in Honolulu when the attack began. He heard someone come on the radio and say “This is not a test. The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor”. He stepped outside, and he could see the smoke rising from the Harbor. He was a volunteer for the American Red Cross at the time, so he spent the next week evacuating the bodies of deceased civilians.
Despite facing discrimination after the attack for his Japanese ancestry, Inouye was determined to serve his country. He joined the US Army a year later as soon as the government reversed its policy on Japanese Americans serving. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery in Northern Italy, and he became a Senator after returning home.
Although he didn’t serve in Hawaii, we’d also like to mention this interview with Sgt. Pearsall. Many Americans don’t know that the Japanese attacked several U.S. bases across the Pacific that week, not just Pearl Harbor. One of these bases was on Wake island, a small atoll about 2,500 miles west of Hawaii. Sgt. Pearsall was one of the American servicemen who defended the island from a Japanese invasion. Despite being severely outgunned and outmanned, the Americans were able to hold Wake Island for two weeks and inflict severe damage to the Japanese invaders. After being captured, Pearsal was taken as a prisoner of war. He spent 3 ½ years in a brutal Japanese prison camp in China.
By sharing these stories, we hope to commemorate both the tragic loss and inspiring bravery that took place on December 7th, 1941, in Pearl Harbor. First-hand accounts are crucial to better understanding our nation’s history. Without them, we risk letting the sacrifices made by our brave veterans become data figures in a history book.
To hear more first-hand accounts of World War II, and every American conflict since, listen to Warriors In Their Own Words.