The flags will fly half-staff today. Our governor issued that order in honor of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Granted, it’s a fairly small percentage of our population that was alive on that Sunday morning in 1941, who even remember the actual attack, but that’s not the issue. I’ve often said that no soldier who fought in World War 1 survived. The last veteran was Florence Green, aged 110 at her death in 2012. They are all gone.
So it is for us, the living, as Abraham Lincoln said at the Gettysburg address, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work… that is, it is critically important that we not have amnesia when it comes to caring for our national memory.
It’s Hawaiian name was Wa-Momi, and it meant “pearl waters,” since at one time it was such a great place to harvest pearl oysters. Pearl Harbor was originally just a deep lagoon with a shallow entrance, but it was dredged to allow for the massive ships of the Pacific Fleet to be able to moor there, around Ford Island, which was the American name for the place that became headquarters for the Navy.
Actually, there had been tensions between Japan and the US for a number of years, especially after Japan declared war on China in 1937 (interesting fact, given where we are in relationship to China today!), and even the threat of some kind of attack had be rumored, although with Japan being over 4000 miles away from Hawaii, the assumption was that an attack would happen in Singapore, or Guam or Indochina. I won’t go into the preparation that Japan made for the attack on the Harbor, but suffice it to say it was a deliciously easy target for them – like that old saying of shooting fish in a basket, except it was really shooting battleships in a harbor.
It was Sunday morning, just before 8am Pearl Harbor time when the first wave of the attack occurred. There were 130 naval vessels moored there, almost the entire fleet, with 96 of them being warships. 8 battleships were in the count lined up on Battleship Row, including the Arizona and the Utah. The Japanese wanted to cripple the Pacific Fleet so that America would not have the power to interfere in Japan’s attempted conquest of most of eastern Asia. There were 183 Japanese bombers and fighters that made the first sweep across the island. They sent an additional 167 for the second wave. Originally they had planned a third wave of attacks, but the second wave of bombers encountered so little resistance that they believed it would be a waste of planes to fly over again.
Of course, the first battleship to sustain major damage was the Arizona. At least one of the bombs hit the powder magazine and the ship exploded. On the Arizona alone there were 1,177 military personnel killed, and over 1,000 bodies were never recovered. The Arizona remains a memorial at the bottom of Pearl Harbor today. I had the chance to visit the site back in 2011, and it is amazing how quiet the entire memorial is – it has been a 79 year long funeral. It had been loaded with 1.5 million gallons of fuel, readying it for a trip the West Coast later that month, but today, fuel and oil still leak from the wreckage, at the rate of about 9 quarts/day.
After barely more than two hours of the attack, 21 ships were sunk, including 5 of the 8 battleships, with both the Arizona and the Oklahoma battleships, never to be recovered. Along with the ships, attacks were made on the airfields at Hickam, Wheeler, and Ford Island itself. Over 300 airplanes were damaged or destroyed.
Of course, the grimmest statistic is that over 2400 military and civilians were killed, and more than 1000 were injured. In comparison, 64 Japanese were killed.
I hadn’t known before, however, that a significant dynamic had come to exist before the attack. The Arizona was launched in 1915, making it pre-WW1 and 26 years old. Actually, as important as the battleships were, the advent of aircraft carriers was far more significant in terms of “modern” warfare at the time. Fighters and bombers had become a lethal part of the military, and the ability to launch from a ship was a huge advance. All three aircraft carriers of the Pacific fleet were away from Pearl Harbor that day, due to either military assignments or bad weather. They constituted three of the seven carriers in the entire US Navy. Had they been sunk, it would have made the US far more vulnerable to a mainland attack.
Also, the attack failed to destroy the oil depots, the shipyard, the repair shops and even the submarine docks at Pearl Harbor. They were able to raise and restore a number of the ships for use later in the war, and of course, with the attack, the weapons production of World War 2 began in earnest.
Well, that’s enough of a history lesson. However, if we are going to claim responsibility for remembering and honoring, we need to know some details – I hope this helps you think about that Sunday morning. Today, we find ourselves fighting on other fronts, with enemies seen and unseen. It is not our nature, I believe, to fight, although perhaps our darker natures find us there. I continue to hope and pray that God will guide our brighter hands, to create and not destroy, and to save. This is the intentional life. May they rest in peace.
Word for the day: (two for one!) objurate and objurgate. Both pronounced with emphasis on the first syllable: OB-jur-ate/gate. It’s amazing what one little letter will make in a definition. Both words are from Latin origin, but very different in their use and meaning. “Objurate” breaks down into ob meaning “against” and jurare, meaning “to swear, or take an oath.” When one is objurgated, they are bound by an oath, whatever that promise may be. Couples in love objurate each other by saying, “I take you to be mine.” It’s really quite a powerful word, as it builds the foundation for much of our noblest activity as humans: keeping vows.
“Objurgate,” however, takes on a far different activity. Still ob, “against”, but a different Latin word: jurgare, which means “to quarrel” – actually, the word literally means “to bring to law” or to bring a lawsuit. When I objurgate, my actions will run from rebuking, or scolding someone, to actually suing them in court. Instead of making or taking a vow, this word is meant to dwell in conflict, or to strive against someone. One little letter, and the word we choose changes everything.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.