(Stock photo): Plaque at Pearl Harbor Memorial site in Hawaii.
FRANKFORT, KY – On July 16, Kentucky lost its last Pearl Harbor survivor, 101-year-old Albert Patrick. Last year, the community of Salyersville celebrated Patrick’s 100th birthday, when he was one of four remaining Pearl Harbor survivors in the nation. Today there are only two, both of them 98 years old.
Seventy-nine years later, the name “Pearl Harbor” still sends chills up the spine of even people born decades after the event.
“On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service attacked Naval Station Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii Territory, without warning and without a declaration of war, killing 2,403 American servicemen and civilians, and injuring 1,178 others. The attack sank four U.S. Navy battleships and damaged four others. It also damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, and one minelayer. Aircraft losses were 188 destroyed and 159 damaged.”
It was a surprise attack on a nation then at peace. It was intended by the Japanese to be a devastating first strike, from which the U.S. could not recover.
“Canada declared war on Japan within hours of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the first Western nation to do so. On December 8, the United States declared war on Japan and entered World War II on the side of the Allies. In a speech to Congress, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the bombing of Pearl Harbor "a date which will live in infamy." “
Instead of collapsing, the U.S. rallied and rose to battle. Instead of delivering defeat, Pearl Harbor became the event that led to Allied victory in World War II and global U.S. leadership after the war.
It is a tribute to both American power and American peace-making that both Japan and Germany, the defeated Axis nations, are two of our strongest allies today.
But America did not emerge victorious just on the battlefield. For four years, Americans suffered restrictions and rationing here at home. To have to endure that, after a decade of severe privation during the Great Depression, must have seemed more than anyone could stand.
We did stand it. We gave up driving because the troops needed the tire rubber and the steel and the gasoline for cars. We grew Victory Gardens and canned everything. We saved every scrap, went without, endured Thanksgivings and Christmases without loved ones.
We did it year after hard year because every sacrifice meant saving the lives of the troops fighting overseas.
On December 7, remember Albert Patrick and his fellow survivors, remember the 2,403 fallen, remember that at our lowest point in the 20th Century, we had what it took to not just survive but emerge victorious.
In accordance with a proclamation from the White House, Gov. Andy Beshear has directed that flags at all state office buildings be lowered to half-staff on Monday, Dec.7, in observance of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. The Governor encourages individuals, businesses and organizations throughout the commonwealth to join in this tribute. Flag status information is available at https://governor.ky.gov/flag-status.