Leo Wells on Pearl Harbor

pearl-harbor-uss-arizona-memorialWhere does the time go? Between work and the holidays, the past couple of months have been extremely busy and it’s been awhile since I’ve posted to my blog. With that in mind, I have a couple of items I’d like to share before we are too far removed from the holiday season.

This past month of December marked the anniversaries of two very significant events. December 8 was the 30th anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon. As you will no doubt recall, the former Beatle was gunned down as he and his wife returned to their New York apartment that fateful evening. Although I have always preferred Elvis and Johnny Cash, the Beatles did have a tremendous influence on our popular culture. Lennon’s violent death was truly a tragedy.

That same week also marked the anniversary of another tragic event; an event which I feel has even greater significance than John Lennon’s death. And yet this event seemed to go relatively unnoticed by the news media and the public in general. I’m referring, of course, to the December 7, 1941 invasion of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of this attack in which more than 2,300 Americans lost their lives.

Contrary to what my children think, I was not yet born at the time of the attack. But I can remember my parents and their friends reminiscing about that terrible day. Men and women of their generation would often ask of one another “Where were you when you learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor?” The attack was a seminal moment in their lives, much as September 11, 2001 and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Lennon resonate with subsequent generations.

Of course, Pearl Harbor has tremendous significance for us today, even if the event no longer commands the sort of media attention and public awareness that it once did. The Japanese attack essentially propelled the United States into World War II, forever altering the course of history.

At one point, the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association boasted over 4,600 members and held an annual reunion at the site of the attack to commemorate the event and honor their fallen comrades. Due to the association’s aging membership, the last such annual reunion was held in 2006.

The exact number of Pearl Harbor survivors still alive today is unknown. Some estimate this number to be between 2,500 and 3,000 individuals, but that would include infants and children in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack. Only a few hundred servicemen and women are still alive, and their numbers are rapidly dwindling as most are now in their early nineties.

If you know someone who served in our armed forces at Pearl Harbor, please take a moment to express to them your appreciation for their service to our country. We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude for their sacrifice. (If you have personal stories of individuals who survived Pearl Harbor, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at leowells@wellsref.com.)

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