Located in the middle of Pearl Harbor is an island 335 acres in size. In Hawaii’s early days, it was known as Mokuumeume, meaning Island of Strife. It amazes me just how close that name is to the reality that is the island that is now known as Ford Island. I don’t think that strife is a constant companion of the island, but on this day, December 7, 1941…the date that will live in infamy, Ford Island was at center stage as one of the worst attacks in history took place on American soil. The participants, from the American side anyway, would have most certainly have chosen not to be there…if they had been given a choice. The island had changed hands several times, before finally ending up as a part of the military installation that was Pearl Harbor.
Every year, as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day comes around, I try to write a story about that dreadful day, and this year, while looking at Pearl Harbor on Google Earth, my thoughts turned to that little island that was at the center of the attack. How must those men have felt? Everything happened so fast. There wasn’t even time to get the planes in the air. While the ships were being bombed around them, the pilots, mechanics, and airfield crew could only stand around watching…and dodging bullets. Of course, for most of them, that was impossible. The death toll that horrific day was 2403. In addition, there were 1178 people wounded. The emotional toll was beyond the imagination. This was the event that finally brought the United States into World War II.
I began to wonder what the people who were there were thinking as the events of the attack unfolded. There was no way to get off the island. If they had tried, they would surely have been killed. There were bombs going off on all sides of the island. Ships were sinking, airplanes were destroyed, and buildings were on fire or blown up. It was as if the world was coming to an end…or in reality, it was like waking up and finding yourself literally in Hell. My mind struggled to imagine how they must have felt…wishing and praying that all this was a dream and that they could be somewhere else…anywhere else. Still, they knew that it was real, and they were there, and nothing would ever be the same again. They knew that the world as they had known it, had vanished…never to exist again. Of course, our country would come back from this attack, because we are a resilient people, but we would never be the same. We were less trusting of our enemies, something I see again in this day and age of terrorism, and something I think is important.
Being too trusting of our enemies in December of 1941, was exactly what paved the way for a surprise attack on December 7, 1941, and being too trusting today could do the same thing. It is imperative that we protect our people at all costs…even if it makes us seem heartless now. As in the case of the attack on Pearl Harbor, second chances at protecting our people don’t usually come. By the time we realize that we have made a mistake, it is too late, because it has become a fatal mistake. The men and women who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor knew first hand that our enemies hate us and want nothing less that death for America. That, I believe is the valuable lesson the people who survived that horrific attack took away that fateful day, and one we all need to seriously consider today.