-By Lachlan Wills
December 7, 1941, was described by United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as “a date which will live in infamy.”
“The United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan,” Roosevelt told Congress.
2,403 US personnel, including 68 civilians, were killed.
That day at Pearl Harbor changed the course of American and world history.
A chain of events was set in motion.
The US declared war on Japan, then Hitler’s Nazi Germany declared war on the US.
Hitler at that stage had Europe in his death-grip, and was deep into an onslaught against the Soviet Union.
The fate of the world had hung in the balance since September 1939 when World War 2 (WW2) began.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said the US entry in to the war meant that, “We should emerge, however mauled or mutilated, safe and victorious. We should not be wiped out. Our history would not come to an end. We might not even have to die as individuals.”
The allies did emerge victorious, but not before, according to the United Nations, an estimated 60 million people had lost their lives.
After WW2, the United States and Soviet Union locked-in to a decades long power struggle, that saw the US ultimately reign supreme as the economic, military and cultural hub of the world.
Perhaps the greatest triumph of WW2 is the reconciliation of former adversaries.
The US and Japan created a close, enduring bond and remain steadfast allies today.
Modern day Pearl Harbor exemplifies this genuine connection.
The museum carries information written in both English and Japanese.
There is an artwork showing two human figures, one coloured in a Japanese flag, one in an American flag, reaching out a hand to each other.
The story of USS Missouri Captain William M. Callaghan’s act of compassion to the enemy is honoured.
Callaghan was commanding officer when a kamikaze pilot crashed into the side of his ship, on April 11, 1945.
The Japanese pilot- believed to be 19-year-old Setsuo Ishino- was killed instantly.
Callaghan then issued a surprising order that the pilot was to be given a full military burial with honours at sea the following morning.
A Japanese flag was quickly sewn together by Missouri crewmembers and draped over the pilot’s body as he was laid to rest.
Callaghan reportedly said, “When he was alive, he was our enemy. Now that he is dead, he is just a young man who was fighting for his country, and his beliefs.”
President Barack Obama honored Callaghan to a joint audience of Americans and Japanese people at Pearl Harbor in 2016, during the 75th Anniversary commemorations.
The late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also spoke that day.
“Rest in peace, precious souls of the fallen,” Abe said.
“We must never repeat the horrors of war again. This is the solemn vow we, the people of Japan, have taken,”
“It was the United States that opened up the path for Japan to return to the international community once more after the war.”
Abe said he wanted the world to remember Pearl Harbor as “a symbol of reconciliation”.
Forgiveness goes hand-in-hand with humanity. As does compassion and a desire for greater understanding of one another.
Pearl Harbor radiates a soothing peace and calm.
The tranquil waters glisten, as a living, breathing testament to the power of human unity.
Image courtesy of Lachlan Wills